Working as an engineer at the ART hotel in Denver, Marsh witnessed how much water was being used to thaw frozen foods.
"Every time I would walk to the kitchen, I would see water being run over frozen food in order for it to be thawed," says Marsh. "It really put a lasting image in my head, just of the massive amount of water waste that I witnessed in the kitchen."
"Most of the time, it's fresh food coming in and restaurants will thaw it to preserve the food and then cook it at a later time," says Marsh. "Every kind of commercial kitchen does it in this manner."
But time is the tradeoff: In the fridge, frozen food thaws in three to four days. Under running water, that's three to four hours. "There's a lot of water and money going down the drain," says Marsh. "Across the United States, it's close to half a billion gallons of fresh water wasted just in the restaurant industry every year -- and that doesn't tap into all the other commercial kitchens that thaw food in this manner."
"I was determined to figure out a more sustainable solution," he says. "It's kind of that skeleton in the closet. Unless you work in the back of the kitchen, you don't know what's really going on behind the scenes."
Marsh invented Boss Defrost to combat the half-billion gallons of water that's annually wasted at restaurants in the U.S., leaving Metropolitan State University of Denver a semester before he graduated in order to start the company. He brought 3D-printed prototypes to the chef at the ART's restaurant for testing.
"We went through seven or eight iterations of Boss Defrost before we were really comfortable bringing it to market," says Marsh.
Priced at $439.99, the patented, National Sanitation Foundation-certified final product consists of five components that are imported and assembled in Denver. The portable unit is essentially a faucet atop a pump that's placed in a full sink and can circulate up to 1,000 liters an hour.
"It reduces the water waste 98.5 percent, and it does so by recirculating the water within a held system," says Marsh. "It's a portable device, so there's no installation necessary. It's pretty much plug-and-play."
Marsh says most customers see a return on their investment in the short term. "The ROI on Boss Defrost is anywhere from one to three months, depending on your use," says Marsh, pointing potential customers to the H2O Calculator on the company's website that estimates water and cost savings.
Boss Defrosts are now in operation in 27 states as the company has partnered with two national distributors, Tundra Restaurant Supply and Edward Don & Company. "We're co-exclusive with both companies," says Marsh. "We're really expecting a big year as far as Boss Defrost goes. Our ultimate goal as Boss Defrost is really to transform the food industry standard for thawing food, because it's such an outdated practice. I get this all the time: 'How come nobody's ever thought of that before?'"
Challenges: Market education. "Really bringing water awareness to the forefront, and highlighting the problem but also presenting a solution," says Marsh. "As the droughts are getting worse and water's such a finite resource, it's imperative we use our resources wisely."
Opportunities: Marsh says he sees a path to 7X growth in 2021 with national -- and international -- distribution. "We're first to market," he notes. "Exposure is key to the business right now."
Needs: Space. Boss Defrost now operates out of 700 square feet in Denver, but Marsh says the company really needs about 1,200. He also says he sees a need to double the number of employees in the near term. "We want to grow into a bigger warehouse and assembly/distribution center, and have more employees as we scale up," he says.
Marsh also plans to reshore the manufacturing of injection-molded parts and other components. "We are looking to move everything into the United States," he says. "That's our ultimate goal: to be totally manufactured and assembled in the United States."
The company has taken a bootstrapped approach thus far, but that could soon change. "We're currently looking for financing," says Marsh.