Crossing the Atlantic – to make a point

Last week I got a chance to meet Baptiste Dubanchet, a fellow food waste activist, whom I had known virtually for three years.

Back in 2014, Baptiste was making a name for himself having just pedaled from Paris to Warsaw eating only food from the dumpster. His goal was to highlight that we all throw away food, and that this problem stretches across all borders.

To be honest, the circumstances in which I met him this time were similarly unreal. He had just spent about three months in the Atlantic Ocean, having pedaled from Paris to Morocco, and then left Africa for the Caribbean. He is now continuing the journey by cycling from Miami to New York City, with a stopover in DC.

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His arrival fell on the Halloween weekend, a time when the capital is a bit more crazy than usual. There were little monsters and princesses ringing doorbells, masked youth riding the streets, and countless homes with decorations, that kept the street sparkling.

New frontiers

During the layover, we made time for dumpster diving, conducting a small interview session, presenting to a group of students about the voyage, exploring the landmarks of the city, and of course, cooking and eating lots of food.

The most interesting moments were captured on camera to be shared with you. Specifically, we have the interview session, the presentation at the elementary school, and the footage of his search for edible goods.

The interview 

After giving Baptiste a few days to recuperate his bearings, I sat down with him to pick his brain about what it takes to embark on such a journey. As well as, the mission that energized and kept him going, despite the difficulties and hardships he encountered.

1| How do you choose what to eat?

2| Why did you cross the Atlantic?

3| When did you notice the problem?

4| How can freeze-drying stop waste?

5| How does this work?

6| What were your fears for the road?

7| How will this impact the food waste movement?

8| How have you changed?

9| What’s next?

And a little bit extra, for laughs and entertainment:

 

School presentation

One bright morning, we had to wake up super early to make it to an 8am morning meeting, where Baptiste got to present his story to the students at the Friendship Tech Prep Academy. The students had a lot of interesting questions!

We covered topics such as:

– How he pedaled across the ocean.
– The parts of the world he traveled.
– The thoughts he had on the journey.
– What he consumed.
– The moment that sparked his idea.
– The economy of food waste.
– Stakeholders of the food supply chain.
– A highlight from his travels.
– And the next stops on his trip.

Many thanks to Coy McKinney who helped arrange this! Coy teaches urban farming at this school. He also runs a community garden, where kids can grow and try fresh food.

Looking through dumpsters 

On the night we chose to go dumpster diving, it was raining. We didn’t stay long, max 15 min., but we found a good amount of food without searching too much.

Baptiste now has fruits and baked goods to fuel his journey to New York.

Best of luck!
Hokuma

How to use eggshells: 7 exceptional ideas

Boiled, fried, scrambled – there’s no doubt Britain loves eggs. But, are we showing egg shells the same amount of appreciation? Often overlooked, eggshells are surprisingly nutritious and strong, which makes them useful for a variety of things you may never have considered.

On a mission to stop shells from going to waste, Stephanie from Expert Home Tips is here to share 7 useful uses for eggshells.

1. Bird feed

Although humans may not enjoy the addition of eggshells to their meal, there are some fluffy creatures that will.

Eggshells are full of nutrients, specifically, calcium – an important mineral for birds, especially during the Spring when they lay eggs of their own.

Next time you’re cooking eggs, be sure to save the shells. When you have several, pop them on a lined baking tray next time you use the oven. This will soften the eggs shells so that they break more easily. Place the shells in a sealable bag, roll a glass over them to crush, and scatter on your bird table for your feathery friends to enjoy.

2. Mosaic frame

eggs3Smashed and broken with bit of egg remnants left inside – egg shells as we know them aren’t exactly the prettiest things in the world.

I’m challenging you to change the way you see eggshells by getting a little creative.

Egg shells make the most perfect mosaics – this Instructables mosaic frame is proof of that. All you need to make your very own mosaic frame is some cardboard, paint and eggshells –projects don’t come more eco-friendly than this!

3. Drain cleaner

If you live in a house, you’re almost guaranteed to have experienced blocked drains during your time. A free, natural solution can be made using leftover egg shells.

Next time you have a fry up, sprinkle some leftover egg shells into your sink strainer. They will help catch food, preventing it from blocking your drain. If the shells do break down and fall into the drain, their rough edges will actually help to flush out the pipes.

4. Banish slugs & snails

eggs1They may not mean any harm, but slugs and snails can be a nightmare for gardeners. There’s no need to turn to nasty, expensive pesticides – you can use leftover egg shells to tackle this problem.

Slugs and snails can happily slide over soft soil, but the sharp edges of broken egg shells will make it much more difficult – and unpleasant – for them.

To deter slugs and snails from your garden naturally, crush and sprinkle broken egg shells across soil.

5. Egg shell brownie

eggs2Eggs are one of the key ingredients in cake – why not try something new and try making egg-shaped cakes?

One of my favorite recipes using egg shells is La Receta De La Felicidad’s Brownies. The recipe itself is relatively simple, meaning you can concentrate on getting the egg shell part just right.

There’s no denying these would be perfect for Easter, but the results are so cute that they wouldn’t look amiss at any occasion.

6. Pot cleaner

It’s in the kitchen that the strong, sharpness of egg shells come in handy once more. Those tough, burnt on food stains on pots and pans are no match for egg shells.

Be sure to pop your gloves on in order to protect your hands, before taking a handful of broken eggshells and using them to scrub metal and glass pans clean.

7. Fertilizer

Among other nutrients, egg shells are very rich in calcium. This makes them highly beneficial for plants and a great, all-natural, DIY fertilizer you can use both outdoors and in.

To infuse water with these eggcellent benefits, boil a liter of water, then add 10 clean eggshells to it. Let it soak overnight, then strain the water. Pour directly onto soil to give your plants a boost of nutrients.

By Steph Cvetkovic

Contributor to http://www.experthometips.com

Food Rescue US: This is their story

1.    Summarize your business in one sentence. 

Food Rescue US, a technology driven platform, is committed to ending American food insecurity through direct-transfer food rescue.

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2. How long have you been in business? 

Since 2011.

3. Why did you decide to start the company?

After seeing all the food waste in the restaurant industry, and realizing hunger could be alleviated using logistical software to capture that surplus, we developed an app and started rescuing and delivering food.

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4. What has been your biggest achievement so far? 

Rescuing and delivering 19 million meals to those in need.

5. How do you measure success?

Our technology allows us to capture and really quantify our work data so we know those 19 million meals also means 28.2 million pounds of food, at an estimated value of $48 million, has not gone into landfill. The real success though is that we have been able to provide fresh food to those in need and save a little bit of the planet as well. 

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6. What have you learned in the process? 

That this senseless problem of food insecurity in the US can and will be fixed on the grass roots level. When we all get together and help our neighbors our communities become stronger and everyone benefits.

7. What advice would you give to someone trying to start a sustainable food company?

Well they can certainly contact us if they are looking to start a food rescue program. We are expanding, we currently operate 13 sites and anticipate 25 locations by the end of 2017. We give our app to new partners, train them in best practices, etc., and help them get up and running.

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8. What’s next? Anything else you want to add?

We will continue our national expansion and work until hunger has been eradicated and all of us at Food Rescue US no longer have a job.

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9. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

Salmon and vegetables grilled and consumed lakeside at a friend’s cottage.


by Alison Sherman, Director of 
Communications at Food Rescue US 

BAKEYS: This is their story

1.    Summarize your business in one sentence. 

BAKEYS is a revolutionary and sustainable innovation, that is a change maker.

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2. How long have you been in business? 

Since 2006, when I first innovated and manufactured edible spoons.

3. Why did you decide to start the company?

I was a researcher on ground water and power sector reforms and had a background in research on agriculture, horticulture, water management, all sorts of farming techniques, crops, land and soil use and misuse, rain patterns and its impacts on farming in India. This led me to think about how I could help save millet that is slowly declining in farming, as farmers go for fast buck cash crops.

The losses, debt traps, increased suicide of farmers, and the migration of farmers to cities in search of work, never to return to farming again, was a very disturbing trend.

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I wanted to create a product that would help the soil, preserve millet production for my products and most importantly drive away plastic from food eating, so I created cutlery.

Our mission and vision is to protect the soil, ground water, promote millets and stop plastic invasion.

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far? 

1. Creating Edible cutlery- we are the  change makers and the world has recognized the product, its need and its urgency for sustainability.
2. Creating an automatic machine between May 2016 to February 2017, first of its kind custom designed locally by us in Hyderabad-India, totally a Made in India product.
3. Creating a buzz all over the world, 130 countries know about us and have placed orders for cutlery when we are ready to supply them. All of them want to throw away plastic from their food/ cutlery usage and turn to eco friendly modes/ products. We have been fairly successful in creating mass awareness on ills of plastic in food consumption and made the world stand and think about what we have all been doing to our planet and eco system. If a child is awakened at a young age on how each of them can change their habits, the world and how to protect self, then it’s a big job done for the world to help trigger future protectors of the Earth.

4. Several universities from several countries are taking up our product as part of  their sustainability programme and researching them for studies. Students from at least 20 countries contacted us for details on our product and how they can create awareness/ manufacture/ make more such products to create alternatives to disposable and harmful plastic.

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Painting of Mr. Peesapatya made by Faith Jelks, a first grader at Calavera Hills Elementary in Carlsbad, CA.

5. How do you measure success?

The above mentioned biggest achievements are a success for us. Particularly #4, as this will lead to several innovations, creative thinking, out of the box thinking and experimentation. Going beyond academics.

Edible cutlery being manufactured with local ingredients in each continent followed by each country will be a real time answer and mission completion of our vision and provide a spoon full of contribution to a sustainable world.

6. What have you learned in the process? 

Innovation is a process of meditation- seeking God through research, patience, persistence, hard work, not ever giving up and being 100% focused.

I have learnt all these by experiencing it since I ventured in 2006 to make my first spoon in my kitchen. Coming this far has been a test of rigor, endurance, losses, ridicule, rejections, apathy, being ignored to becoming a hero.

Making an automatic machine that never existed for such an innovative product (concept) was a big challenge for my imagination as am not an engineer by training or academics. Learning about metallurgy, electrical, mechanical engineering and blending it to make an efficient system has taken my life out and am now a different person than what my family knew me as. I’m evolving with my spoons each day.

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7. What advice would you give to someone trying to start a sustainable food company?

Stay tuned to your inner call. Never give up, keep dreaming and try to act on dreams. Seek help, use intuition, try, fail (several times if needed), but eventually you will walk tall one day. Spend quality time with self, and the idea that lead to your sleepless nights (so you day dream), disturbed your family, angered them, frustrated you (and them), caused you to be ridiculed, but will bring you happiness, as it is your original idea. So, stay focused and don’t ever say I can’t.

8. What’s next? Anything else you want to add?

1. Seeking funds to expand technology.
2. Once funds come in, we will create more machines, all shapes of cutlery, get everything in process mode and systems, ISO standards and logistics world wide. Employ professional and mentor all.
3. Sell technology once perfected so that manufacturing and local distribution happens faster, smoother, cut expenses and time on shipping and breakages.

4. Get the next innovation (still a secret) into action – another one for sustainability.

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It’s a tough job to be an innovator, if you also wish to sell what you manufacture. It is a big challenge if you don’t have the mental, emotional capacity to get into unknown zones of your being where you may need to learn/ unlearn and tear yourself apart to become a new person.

9. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

We had our Vedic Hindu new year on 29th March (UGADI) and I ate 3 spoons for breakfast as cooking at home got delayed for a big lunch, with several dishes getting prepared. My won innovation saved my hunger pangs till my wife gave me a delicious meal later. I proved that survival really is a mother of  all invention- even my own.

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by Narayana Peesapaty and Pradnya Keskar, Founders of BAKEYS 

La Faim du Monde: This is their story

1.    Summarize your business in one sentence. 

La Faim du Monde is a project that aims to reduce food waste by raising awareness around the issue, as well as, by finding solutions that businesses can implement in practice.

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2. How long have you been in business? 

Our first website was launched in 2012, and the first trip where 100% of all the food consumed came from dumpster diving, was completed in 2014.

Currently, the plan is to travel from Paris to New York, only consuming food  that is destined for the dustbin. This journey will invovled bicycyling and paddle boating across the ocean.

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To bring global attention to this issue we started a petition urging the best before dates on food to be removed in Europe. We are also researching the freeze drying process on food, to see if it’s a better option that sending it to the landfill. The process of freeze drying food, where the water is removed (not by heating the product but by freezing it),  enables the food to last as long as needed. It’s a bit like putting it in the freezer, only you don’t need more energy for it, and the food regains its original taste when water is added again.

3. Why did you decide to start the company?

I realized that we were wasting a big amount of food when working, while completing my studies, and I felt the need to do something about it. I couldn’t continue working at the same place when I saw that we were in some ways responsible for the starvation of people, without talking or raising awareness about agriculture and the environment.

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4. What has been your biggest achievement so far? 

I’m not sure we achieved anything yet. There have been many conferences around Europe, but how can we know if it’s useful? This takes time.

5. How do you measure success?

As we are dealing with a global issue it’s quite difficult. We will know this once we have reached a goal of creating a world where no person goes hungry. On a smaller scale, people give us feedback on how they realized the importance of this issue and decided to take actions as well, starting from their home (for instance, by wasting less food).

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6. What have you learned in the process? 

Lots of things about nutrition. About how our body works, how to work with others, how to share knowledge, and other useful things like that.

7. What advice would you give to someone trying to start a sustainable food company?

Anyone who wants to reduce food waste as well. I suppose the best thing they can do is to join us!  :D haha. No, just be happy about what you do!

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8. What’s next? Anything else you want to add?

Well, if we convince the European Parliament to remove the best before dates and get all supermarkets to freeze dry their food rather than throwing it away, I’m not sure what we would do. If every one had enough to eat I think we would want to bring peace, try to ask people to create globally a universal anthem, and show everyone that the most important human values are shared by all of us. It would be an anthem to life, love, empathy, fraternity, joy, etc., and it would probably help people stop considering every problem as being caused by someone else. We are dreamers, but we work hard on making our dreams come true, and we are not alone, maybe someday you’ll join us … If you are on Facebook, you can find us here.

And if you do want to join us, then please sign the petition to ask the European Parliament to remove the best before dates.

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9. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

Alice, who is part of the team made me a really good vegan and organic breakfast. Fresh fruits, oranges, banana, apple, kiwi and soy yogurt. Also, some avocado on black bread, cereals, and to drink, a british tea. It was really good for me, especially because I can never eat really good things when I am in Paris.

by Dubanchet Baptiste

Food as health or death

Dear Readers,

Today, I’d like to share with you my personal thoughts on two new studies. Both are about the effects of food consumption on the body, yet they focus on very different aspects. While one study highlights the benefits of consuming diverse foods, the other instills a sense of fear, which may damage the food waste movement (but only if we let it).

The reason this is important is because the studies highlight once again that we are what we eat. And being very intellectual creatures, who don’t just rely on word of mouth to make decisions, these findings can present some important facts on which to build sound and logical conclusions.

Ok, enough with the introduction, let’s leap into the research.

The Good News

Those of you who already love vegetables and fruits, you are well positioned for a long and healthy life. A new study shows that we need to uptake our fresh produce intake from five (as originally thought) to 10 fruits and veggies a day.

The study completed by Imperial College London demonstrates that such a diet can lead to “24% reduced risk of heart disease, a 33% reduced risk of stroke, a 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a 13% reduced risk of total cancer, and a 31% reduction in premature deaths.” Wow…that’s a handful!

So what does 10 portions, or 800 g, of fruit and veggie intake look like? Here’s a nice visual for you by The Guardian. This article also mentions that some fruits and veggies are better at increasing certain health factors than others.

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Specifically: “Apples and pears, citrus fruits, salads and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and chicory, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower were found to be best at preventing heart disease and stroke”.

Those who worry about cancer risks (which is very understandable, as any symptom search on Google will likely suggest possibilities of cancer), you can focus on “green vegetables (beans), yellow and orange vegetables (peppers and carrots), and cruciferous vegetables”.

Unfortunately, these benefits are mainly found when biting into real food, and less so through supplements and other pills. So those who are short on time, consider replacing your breakfast with a green smoothie (or if that’s not filling enough), at least try to make that your first drink of the day, before switching to coffee (or anything else that strikes your fancy).

 
The Bad News

Now, onto the bad news. Another study, completed by a researcher from Harvard University, demonstrated that because food makes up the building blocks of our cells, “eating older organisms (or food) – which have more molecular damage themselves- might cause an animal to age faster than one that eats younger organisms with less molecular damage”.

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Specifically, “the old diet shortened lifespan by 18% in yeast and 13% in flies. In the mice, the old diet shortened lifespan by 13% in female mice, but there was no significant effect among males”, (lucky males!).

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But as these experiments were done on animals, (not humans), we do not know exactly what effect this would have on humans, so let’s not jump the gun, but, let’s think a bit more about what we put into our mouths (and subsequently our bodies). And if you are unsure whether the food is safe to eat, please use your smell and visual senses before tossing aging produce into the bin.

My Conclusion 

It’s time we see food as more than something we consume to quiet our hunger (the sounds and feelings of an empty stomach are real). And let’s not just see it as a source of energy and fuel. Instead, let’s see food as a living and breathing ‘thing’ that interacts with our body, provides materials for our building blocks, and sends instructions to our brain.

“Food contains methyl groups (a carbon atom attached to three hydrogen atoms (CH3)) capable of methylating (silencing) genes, [which] brought into focus the capability of food to profoundly affect disease risk as well phennotypal expression. If folate, B12, or Betaine– 3common food components — can literally ‘shut off’ gene expression with high specificity, food becomes a powerful information vector. One which may actually supervene over the DNA within our body by determining which sequences find expression”.

Phew, that’s a lot of scientific terms and chemistry in one paragraph, but the bottom line is this: food not only gives you fuel, or activates your taste buds (which in itself is lovely), but it is a very powerful tool, one that can determine your health and longevity.

This means that when you are hungry and looking for something to eat, what you reach for will not just satisfy your hunger, it will also determine your near future. Therefore, we should consider the idea of ‘real food’ vs. ‘food like’ items. Things that have been processed, filled with chemicals and created in a lab (mainly junk food). These foods not only lead to obesity, but they also wreak havoc on your health and beauty.

The best example of this are the Nenets and Khanty tribes in northern Siberia who now have cases of obesity thanks to the introduction of instant noodles, pasta, bread and sugar.

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And since not many of us live on a farm (or even close to one), and definitely don’t have time or money to go shopping at farmers markets (and those who do sometimes lack the time to cook what they haul until it’s on the verge of decomposing in the fridge or shelf),  I would like to urge all of us to think more about frozen food!

Frozen foods can have as much nutritional value (if not more) as their fresh counterparts. How? Well, they are packaged at the peak of their ripeness (so all the good vitamins stay where they are). Also, as they are frozen, they can be the quick and easy go to option for those short on time and money (admit it, our lives are stressful and hectic). On top of all that, as our years continually get warmer, keeping your food in the freezer can ensure that it stays crisp and delicious, without going to waste.

Here’s a nice video to summarize the above paragraph:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=99&v=zjsOOT347cA


Final Words

I hope this post widens your understanding of food, and peaks your interest in seeing fruits and veggies as more than a ‘side dish’ around the protein on your plate. Hopefully, they can slowly become the staple of your diet, the one that helps you live a healthy life.

If you have any thoughts or comments, please share them below.

Happy eating friends!
Hokuma 

Ovtene: This is their story

1.    Summarize your business in one sentence. 

Ovtene is a packaging technology company that was inspired by the protection provided by an eggshell, which extends the shelf life of food products while maintaining their sensory characteristics and freshness.

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2. How long have you been in business? 

Ovtene products were launched in Italy in 2008, and extended their reach into most of Europe by 2015. These products became available in North America in 2016. 

3. Why did you decide to start the company?

In 2005, Alberto Tomasini was troubled by how swiftly certain foods became less palatable, dried out, deteriorated, and eventually became inedible. Inspired by the functions of the egg he began researching at the University of Udine Food Sciences in Italy, and eventually developed the material known as Ovtene. This material has the capacity to keep nearly any perishable food item fresh for much longer by retarding bacterial and mold growth.

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After being highly successful in Italy, the product moved into other European countries for grocery and food production packaging. In 2012, we began thinking of North America, the next largest producer of fine foods and its consumption. In 2016, after much positive exploratory research of the North American market, the FDA approved the product, at which point we launched six of our products into the grocery and food procure markets in the USA.

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far? 

Providing a sensible alternative to paper and plastic packaging, that extend the shelf life naturally with a much lower environmental footprint. Ovtene utilizes 60% less plastic than traditional packaging and neither water nor trees are consumed in its construction.

For a bit more information, take a look at their feature on Deli Market TVsaynotofoodwaste-ovtene-cheese-fresh-nofoodwaste-4

5. How do you measure success?

Initially we look for successful independent testing evaluations followed by positive customer feedback and retention. When our grocery accounts customers begin asking for Ovtene by name and when food producers tell us that their products get to market fresher than before, we know we are onto something.

The next level of success is measured by actual sales and penetration into the many other uses of Ovtene. As well as, when the end user realizes the nutritional value of color, smell and taste of their food that is preserved with our product, unlike any other packaging.

6. What have you learned in the process? 

We learned from food producers and customers that Ovtene can keep products fresh that we hadn’t even thought to test before, such as citrus, floral and herbs. We also learned that Ovtene could be used to overcome the Van der Waals forces of clumping in powders when packaged. Cheese producers we discovered use Ovtene in the aging process as well as the final packaging for market. We also learned that many opportunities exist from Ovtene as it can be placed into stiff containers. In addition, we learned that OTR or the oxygen transmission rate was perfect for packaging fish as recommended by the FDA.

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The pouches are more popular in the US than in Europe. And people like to see the product, so windows need to be an option in many packaging applications. Most of all, people like to do what is easiest and change is difficult, and is viewed as a personal risk for users to initiate. But, they implement the product if they see that significant savings can be attained.

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7. What advice would you give to someone trying to start a sustainable food company?

With great products comes the adrenaline of trying to do too much all at once. Stay focused and tackle the markets that you know work. The rest will fall into place. FDA and USDA approvals were important recognitions, but were an extensive process. 

8. What’s next? Anything else you want to add?

Thermoforming and injection molding, and the introduction of the next generation of Ovtene, which we call OvteneActive. EU patents are approved for this even more protective form of Ovtene.

We believe that Ovtene packaging will increase the shelf life throughout the production and distribution chain. Ovtene can help bring fresh food to under served communities and decrease food waste due to spoilage. Ovtene can decrease the risk of bacterial contamination in food and beyond.

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9. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

Appetizer: Fresh Ccup Carpaccio, cooked in lemon, pepper and olive oil.
Dinner: Barramundi, Australian Sea Bass, grilled plain served with a Sicilian Caponata.
Dessert: Almond Biscotti and Vin Santo (aged 10 or more years).

Salvatore Giglia, representative of Ovtene in North America

This is their story

1. Summarize your project/business in one sentence.

Wonky is a new juice brand that lives by the motto ‘give wonky fruit a chance’. We aim to be the most sustainable juice brand in Europe.

2. How long have you been in business/running your project?

It has been almost two years now, since we became entrepreneurs. Wonky Drinks start-up idea was developed by the University of South Wales students, along with co-founders Karina Sudenyte and Maciek Kacprzyk.

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3. Why did you decide to start the company/project?

Maciek had huge interest in business since he was fifteen. His business ventures started from stock trading, these were the first steps when he began developing business skills. However, throughout his educational development he decided to follow a career in Law instead.

Now, after accomplishing my studies, I ditched my law career for a healthy food start-up called Wonky Drinks, with absolutely no regret. I am passionate about the food industry and positive causes for the environment. Of course, starting your own business as an entrepreneur is a lifestyle change. It is hard work, requires a lot of commitment and learning, but what is really important is that I converted my passions into my own business and met a second co-founder, Karina, with whom I linked over a great love for food, who helps to revive my ideas.

P.S. “She is a geek of sustainability! We both enjoy and are proud to be young entrepreneurs”. – Maciek Kacprzyk (Co-founder of Wonky)

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4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?

The first breakthrough occurred during our samplings at the Universities, where we managed to outsell Innocent drinks 11 to 1 at USW, and Bensons juices 8 to 1 in the BS managed canteens. These great results validated that our idea was not at all impossible! It gave us confidence and courage to believe in our concept and pursue impossible goals.

5. How do you measure success?

I consider all obstacles as positive challenge for improvement and success. Any business, sooner or later, is confronted with all kinds of problems, but it is natural, just like in life! A famous philosopher once said: “The man who has no more problems to solve, is out of the game.” This phrase should help you mentally in the approach to solving business problems with courage and give you a positive perception to succeed in your business venture.

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7. What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the _(retail)_ industry/get involved in _(entrepeneurial)_ work & start a _(company)_?

Believing in your idea is extremely important when you start your own business. Are you ready to have your own business? It is important to take into consideration every difficulty that is associated when becoming a new entrepreneur. You must be ready to devote yourself to the work, face new challenges and simply live the idea and breathe it – if so, then this is when you are ready to go.

8. What’s next?

Our key challenge at the moment is to convince at least 2 medium sized distributors that it is smart idea to give Wonky a chance. What is more our aim is to introduce Wonky drinks to 200 catering venues within two years time. Currently we have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £13,000. Our mission is to raise some funding to save 300 tones of wonky produce by April 2017, by implementing and making small bottled wonkies!

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9. Anything else you want to add?

If you like to give Wonky a chance, then click here to support this project. For more information visit www.wonkydrinks.co.uk or say hello at hello@wonkydrinks.co.uk

10. Fun question: What was the best meal you ate this week? 

We spent our lunch last week at the Tiny Leaf London – organic, zerowaste, vegetarian restaurant. Our choice was Tartine du Jour – it was a large slice of toasted bread covered with roasted tomato, pepper and courgette. Classic flavour combination and simply delicious!

This is their story

1.    Summarize your project/business in one sentence. 

The Urban Worm harnesses the power of vermicomposting, utilizing the humble earthworm to provide solutions in sustainable waste management and sustainable agriculture.


2. How long have you been in business/running your project?
 

Since December 2013 after being selected for the Women in Social and Environmental Enterprise program (WISEE) which provided me with a small start up grant and business model support.

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3. Why did you decide to start the company/project?

After completing my MA studies in Human Security and Environmental Change, specializing in Urban Food Security and Urban Agriculture I had to make the decision to either leave my native city (Nottingham) to find employment in my field or create an opportunity for myself and for my city, so The Urban Worm began.

Everybody of course has to eat and  building sustainable food systems will be at the heart of our ability to thrive in the face of adversity. Climate change, desertification and natural resource depletion are undermining global food security and the current corporate driven, energy intensive, unjust and chemical ridden model is neither sustainable or successfully meeting the nutritional needs of the world. We need to empower a different model that is local, organic and community driven and vermiculture provides the foundations for this movement by producing a superior organic fertilizer and compost. Worm castings are teeming with beneficial microbes essential for healthy plant growth and disease suppression with exceptional water holding capacity, perfect for urban gardens and extreme weather events which we are experiencing more of as a consequence of climate change.  The process of vermicomposting not only provides a high value by product, but the process is an efficient, low tech and cost effective system for a sustainable management of organic waste, as opposed to diverting the waste to landfill which further contribute to climate change as gases emitted from food waste are 31 times stronger than carbon dioxide.

By managing our waste at home we can make a positive contribution to building the foundations for sustainable societies and vermicomposting can be done on a very small scale, even if you live in a flat you can keep worms in your cupboard, the process is odorless and perfect for indoors.

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4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?
 

Having the opportunity to travel to learn has by far been my greatest achievement. I was awarded the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT)  travel Fellowship to research vermiculture in the USA and Cuba, and this opportunity to learn has been inspiring and is wonderful to make international connections with like minded people, building a wider community of vermicomposting enthusiasts, sharing knowledge and passion. As I  I write this I am in New York preparing for the next Cuban leg of my research. Whilst traveling the west coast I saw vermicomposting in prisons, zoos, schools, colleges, universities as well as successful businesses,  it has been incredibly inspiring and presents a blueprint for developing institutional sustainable organic waste management in the UK. This will be the next achievement, so watch this space. From Cuba the learning will be vast as Cuba is considered to be the global leader in vermicomposting as after the breakdown of the soviet union they lost 80 % of their imports of synthetic fertilizers over night and so a sustainable alternative was called for, and the organic movement began, with worms.


5. How do you measure success?

Tricky one! I guess on a personal level success is to receive love, which I never feel in short supply of! On a professional level success is having influence to make positive change, locally and globally.

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6. What have you learned in the process? 

That  worms  definitely don’t like too many apples- I had a massacre situation a few years ago after a community apple pressing day. Sad, sad day, too much acid, a lesson learned the hard way.


7. What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the worm farming industry or  simply starting a wormery at home.

Just do it, the earth needs you.  We need more worm farmers, rural and urban and the process is very easy and can be set up for a very small cost. If not for profit we need to produce as much ‘black gold’ aka worm castings as we possibly can, even if we live in an apartment we can all make a positive contribution.  What greater contribution to the world can we make but to make earth again? Even if you don’t have a garden, a gardener or community garden would be very grateful for your gift. There is an abundance of information on the internet on how to get started and I have written a worm care guide available for download for free from our website www.theurbanworm.co.uk

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8. What’s next?
 

On return from my WCMT travels, besides catching up with friends and family, and checking up on my worm culture, I will be working on a project that introduces vermicomposting into prisons in the UK. Institutions need to play a key role in practicing sustainable waste management and the USA has some incredibly successful models, notably Monroe Correctional Facility  in Washington.


9. Anything else you want to add?
 

Feed the worms, feed the soil, and feed the soul.

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10. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

Whilst visiting my family in New Jersey we went to a delicious Italian restaurant in Glen Rock called Rocca, all local and organic produce. I had a bruschetta to start and spinach gnocchi for my main, perfect!

This is their story

1. Summarize your project/business in one sentence.

MealFlour is an environmentally sustainable social enterprise that provides training to build mealworm farms, raise mealworms, and turn them into protein-rich flour that can be incorporated in local staple foods or sold to bakeries and markets.

2. How long have you been in business/running your project?

We (Elizabeth Frank, Gabrielle Wimer, and Joyce Lu) have been working on the idea of MealFlour since December of 2015. In the summer of 2016, we began our pilot in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (also known as Xela). We are based in Xela, but we work with the communities on the outskirts of the city; our first community is Candelaria.

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3. Why did you decide to start the company/project?

MealFlour started out as a thought experiment. We had all worked in community and global health and wished that more programs and social enterprises would take a holistic approach to improving health. We hoped MealFlour, with its emphasis on not only improving nutrition, but also on raising income and reducing waste, would be a more well-rounded approach to improving well-being. After we entered a few social enterprise competitions, earned enough seed funding, and confirmed local interest at our pilot site community, we realized that this thought experiment could actually become a reality, so we went for it.

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?

One of our biggest concerns was finding out where to start.  Insects are eaten in 80% of countries around the world, including parts of Guatemala, but raising mealworms in this way is something new. When we pitched the concept to the group of women from a community in Candelaria and gave them samples of the mealworm products, they were excited to learn more and wanted to try out farming themselves.

5. How do you measure success?

Each week we discuss MealFlour’s progress with the farmers to receive their continuous feedback. In order to improve the program as it evolves, we track how many families are farming mealworms, how often they are eating mealworm flour, who in the family eats mealworm flour, open ended questions about attitudes towards mealworm farming and mealworm flour, and ease of uptake of the program. Success means that the women are still farming mealworms long after we have left, so it is important that we are constantly collaborating with farmers to build a business model that works for them.

It is also important to us that the flour they are producing is both improving nutrition in communities and creating new sources of income for the farmers (mostly women with young children). To measure this, we will be analyzing anthropometric data, conducting regular focus groups and surveys, and monitoring flour production and income.

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6. What have you learned in the process?

Don’t be afraid to ‘make the ask’. This is advice we have gotten from a few different people along the way and (most of the time) it has really paid off – you’d be surprised how many people agree and want to help you.

7. What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the (nutrition) industry/get involved in (global public health) work/start a (social enterprise)?

Global health is about getting an intimate understanding of the local context, integrating insights and developments from around the world, and continuing to learn from communities. We chose Guatemala because Joyce worked there for three months in 2015 and got to know the community well. It was important to us that we didn’t integrate into the community without having a close relationship with them first. We also think carefully about each step moving forward with MealFlour. We have a plan and timeline for what we hope to achieve each month, but we are also really flexible to the changes that inevitably come with listening to what the community wants and determining what actually works in practice.

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8. What’s next?

Next is where the real work begins! We spent almost a year laying groundwork, doing research, optimizing the farming technology, raising money, and developing partnerships. Now, starting October 2016, we will begin our first official classes on farming and begin to put everything we’ve been planning into practice.

9. Anything else you want to add?

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and check out our website and sign up for newsletter for more information!

Also, while MealFlour is working in the western highlands of Guatemala, we are really part of a larger, global movement towards sustainable agriculture  and edible insects. If you want to build your own farm at home and make delicious protein packed treats, find out how on our ‘DIY‘ page.

10. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

Homemade chapati bread and macaroons, both made with mealworm flour from mealworms taken straight from our farm and grown by co-founder Gabrielle Wimer!

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