By Anna Lardinois
Each year, 12 million Americans don blaze orange and head into the wilderness in search of game. An estimated six million deer are harvested annually, and a majority of those deer are professionally processed into individual cuts of meat, sausage and jerky.
Even when cold weather and long waits in tree stands are considered, meat processing might be the most frustrating part of the hunting experience. In states like Wisconsin, where the gun hunting season is relatively short, hunters can wait in line for up to an hour to drop off their harvest at a meat processing facility. Adding to the frustration for some hunters is the difficulty of predicting their yield. It is not uncommon for hunters to expect to pick up far more meat than they receive and leave the facility feeling cheated.
Matt McCoy created a solution for all of these problems. His company, Field to Freezer, is a Software as a Service (SaaS) product that connects hunters and farmers to meat processors.
Founded in 2018, Field to Freezer is a new company, but McCoy and his team are well-known in the startup ecosystem. They are graduates of Scale Up Milwaukee, gBETA, The Food and Finance Institutes FaBcap Accelerator and recipients of a 2021 WEDC Workforce Innovation Grant. Additionally, McCoy is president of Lanex, a website and software development firm founded in 1999.
The technology the company is using to serve the meat processing sector is so innovative it was granted a patent on December 7, 2021- a feat McCoy calls “a career highlight.” Using an app, hunters can locate a nearby meat processor, calculate the anticipated meat yield based on factors like the size of the animal and how it was harvested, and select how they would like their meat processed.
Processors receive the order, all the paperwork needed to track the meat, and an automated way to contact the customer when their order has been completed.
According to McCoy, the demographics of the meat processing industry is changing. Increasingly, longtime business owners are retiring, and their companies are being taken over by tech-savvy operators who are looking to modernize the operation of the business. Field to Freezer provides processors an easy way to take the leap from a manual entry, paper-based business into electronic data and automated customer contacts.
The hunters are also ready to take the leap. The company uses QR codes generated from the app to streamline the process. McCoy notes that COVID helped people accelerate the use of technology.
“QR codes, they’re pervasive, but we were ahead of the game with it,” McCoy said. “Somebody can go out to a processor, they scan the QR code on the sign, and then jump right into their ordering process. These processors have huge lines, and sometimes you could wait a half an hour or an hour in line. Now somebody can go and place an order right off their phone and drop their animal off. The hunters are embracing it every bit as much as the meat processors.”
Despite running two businesses, mentoring is essential to McCoy. The serial entrepreneur provides guidance to newly emerging businesses through Milwaukee Tech Hub Collation’s FOR-M Tech Startup Incubator. On Feb. 21 he is speaking at the Startup Basics: Getting It Built event.
This desire to mentor stems from his own experience. “I’ve had some really wonderful, important people in my life that have taken time to mentor me,” he said.
He started his career in technology in high school, working for computer science professor Dr. Leonard Levine. He fondly recalls the time Levine spent teaching him the skills that would eventually allow him to open his own business.
He prides himself on creating a “learning environment” in the workplace, and this philosophy extends to his work with students at Shepherds College in Union Grove. According to the school, it provides post-secondary education to students with a variety of “intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
McCoy works with the school to provide hands-on technology experiences to their students. The school’s field students were instrumental in creating the original Field to Freezer database, and one graduate from the program is now employed with the company.
McCoy advises those launching a startup business to connect directly with the intended clients when developing a new business. He states customer response “is the true predictor of success” for a new business. McCoy put more than 10,000 miles on his car traveling from Alabama to Wyoming and everywhere in between to connect with meat processors around the country. The visits provided an education in regional hunting practices and how his product could save time and eliminate frustration for both hunters and meat processors.
The Field to Freezer business model relies on processors paying a setup fee to enter into the program, and per transaction charges. The company rolled out nationally in 2020 with 1500 meat processors in their database, and those numbers continue to grow. McCoy reports that the sport of hunting grew during the pandemic, creating more potential users for the app. Field to Freezer anticipates the coming hunting season will be their busiest to date.