Maggots, mulch and meals: Meet four Aussie businesses committed to eliminating food waste
Friday, September 20, 2019/
Today is the day that thousands of small businesses are closing early and taking to the streets alongside striking school children, to demand action on climate change.
In Australia, more than 2,700 businesses, large and small — including Who Gives a Crap, Stone & Wood and Koala — have now signed up to participate in the strike.
And, while the message sent is expected to be strong, there are also businesses tackling climate change, bit by bit, every day.
According to food rescue organisation OzHarvest, more than five million tonnes of Australian food ends up in landfill every year, biodegrading and releasing C02 into the atmosphere.
Globally, almost half of all fruit and vegetables produced go to waste.
It’s wasteful, sure. But it’s also having a marked effect on global warming. About 8% of greenhouse gasses are thought to be caused by food waste. If it was eliminated entirely, we would save 4.4 million tonnes of C02, which is the equivalent of taking 25% of cars off the road.
And if that’s not enough, as well as damaging the environment, throwing food away is costly. According to OzHarvest, food waste is estimated to cost the Aussie economy about $20 billion, annually.
But, there are startups and small businesses right on our doorstep that have made it their mission not only to reduce food waste, but to do it in a way that solves other problems, supports communities and spreads happy vibes.
Here are four Aussie businesses making their mark.
Bring Me Home
Melbourne startup Bring Me Home allows restaurants and cafes to list leftover food at discounted prices, while app users reserve the meals to pick up at an allotted time.
According to founder Jane Kou, when the business launched in August last year, it saved 100 meals from the bin within its first week, and more than 200 in its second. Now the app has saved more than 3,220 meals from landfill, equating to 7,000 lbs of food, and 6,440kgs of carbon emissions avoided.
Now, having completed the StartMate accelerator program, Kou has launched an equity crowdfunding campaign, reaching her minimum investment target of $200,000 in a matter of hours.
Kou has been working on expanding the app’s reach in Melbourne suburbs, and has plans to expand into Sydney as well.
In two to three years, the plan is “to saturate the whole Australian market,” she told StartupSmart, with “people actively buying every day”.
Reground works with small businesses to keep coffee grounds and soft plastics from landfill, while also spreading awareness of waste resources.
Founder Ninna Larson provides cafes with a Reground Bin for baristas to knock their used grinds into. The bin is collected on a regular basis, and distributed to community gardens, passionate green-fingered homeowners, or to anyone else who might want them for composting.
Having started out with just one wheelie bin, Larson is now working with more than 70 cafes across Melbourne and has saved more than 268 tonnes of coffee grinds from landfill.
Yume is another startup focused on saving food from landfill, but, having already founded food-rescue startup SecondBite, founder Katy Barfield is specifically targeting commercial consumables.
The startup allows farmers and manufacturers to offer surplus stock that is going to go to waste for reduced pricing. That means businesses looking to purchase large quantities of products, such as restaurants, market stalls or caterers, can get their hands on good-quality produce for significantly reduced rates.
Speaking to StartupSmart last year, Barfield said clients purchasing the foods range from the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and the Victorian government to Qantas and local pubs.
“It’s about commercialising the opportunity for Australian farmers and manufacturers by giving them the opportunity to put a product onto a platform,” Barfield explained at the time.
Even if they sell it for considerably less, it would “still incentivise them not to dump it”.
Finally, Canberra startup Goterra is taking on the food-waste crisis through robot insect farms.
Founded in 2016 by former sheep farmer and entrepreneur Olympia Yarger, Goterra takes food waste and feeds it to a specific breed of maggot, before turning those maggots into a protein-rich feed for livestock.
Speaking to StartupSmart earlier this year, Yarger explained she has a vision of seeing robotically-run insect farms running in the basements of shopping malls, quietly converting food-court waste into something useful.
“It’s now about showing that not only is the act of insects eating food waste an important, cool thing, but also that our decentralised model goes out into the world, does its job and does it meaningfully,” she said.
She also hopes to take the solution to remote and regional communities, “bringing organic waste solutions to clients who haven’t been able to leverage that yet, because of cost”.
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