Two Berkeley-Haas Food Startups Win Innovation Awards

Back to the Roots founders Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez
Back to the Roots founders Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora

Two Haas School startups were recognized in the San Francisco Business Times’ East Bay Innovation Awards. Back to the Roots won the food category award, while Revolution Foods was a finalist. (Their profiles are published in the February 14-21 issue.)

Back to the Roots founders Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez, both BS 09, won the innovation award for offering “fun, inspirating products that connect families to their food,” the Business Times wrote. The company’s two products are a mushroom growing kit and Aquafarm, a self-cleaning fish tank that also grows an herb garden.

Both products focus on environmental sustainability: the mushrooms grow in used coffee grounds while the Aquafarm is based on an ancient method of farming developed by the Aztecs that saves water by combining aquaculture (fish cultivation) with hydroponics (plant cultivation without the use of soil). More at

“With the incredible history of game-changing food companies located in the East Bay, it was a big honor to be recognized with the Food Innovation award for this region,” says Arora. “We credit a lot of Back to the Roots’ innovative spirit to the values engrained in us by Berkeley-Haas—that sense of optimism, curiosity, and always questioning the status quo!”

Revolution Foods, co-founded by Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey, both MBA 06, was a finalist “for providing high quality, healthy meals for families of all income levels.”

Their business was started with the idea of bringing healthy meals to local school children. Since then they have expanded nationwide, serving a million meals a week in nearly 1,000 schools. Revolution Foods now also produces healthy meals in grocery stores. More on Revolution Foods at

Richmond and Tobey received the Haas School’s 2013 Leading Through Innovation Award in November. View a story about them and their award in BerkeleyHaas magazine at

The East Bay Innovation Awards are sponsored by the East Bay Economic Development Alliance.