We look at the start-ups with radical solutions for the big environmental challenges ahead. By Nick Hughes.
Here at Footprint, we talk a lot about the environmental challenges facing the food industry. But with every challenge comes an opportunity for an enterprising business to create a solution.
From a supplier of edible packaging to a German firm revolutionising the working lunch, here are three industry disruptors to look out for in 2018 and beyond.
The devastating impact on biodiversity of growing crops – especially soy – for animal feed has been well documented this past year. That’s why London-based Entocycle is looking to dramatically increase land efficiency by creating a closed loop system that uses insects, rather than crops, as feed. The insects in question are black soldier flies, whose larvae are high in protein. The larvae are raised in modular feeding chambers and fed on spent grain, a byproduct from local breweries which would otherwise be thrown away. Other organic waste, such as vegetable peelings, can also be used to feed the larvae, which leave behind a soil that can be sold separately as fertiliser, and are themselves processed into pellets and sold as feed for fish and livestock farming. Entocycle already has its own production facility in London and plans to work directly with food businesses serving the end consumer to incorporate its system at their own feed suppliers.
The damage that single-use plastic is causing to the marine environment shot up the public agenda in 2017, culminating in a call to action from David Attenborough in the final episode of the BBC’s “Blue Planet”. Deposit return schemes may provide a short-term sticking plaster but the really big wins are likely to come from the commercialisation of naturally biodegradable packaging that can replace the plastic bottle. Ooho is one such novel packaging solution for beverages – an edible water bottle whose proprietary material is made from seaweed extract, which biodegrades in just four to six weeks as opposed to plastic which takes hundreds of years to decompose. The brand owner, Skipping Rocks Lab, whose scientific team is based at Imperial College London, says the material is so natural that it can be consumed along with the liquid inside and can hold any beverage including water, soft drinks, spirits and cosmetics. Ooho’s aim is to disrupt the hydration-on-the-go market with its own range of flavoured waters and health shots, which currently come in three sizes – 20ml, 55ml and 150ml – and a range of flavours including minty fresh, elderflower, blackcurrant, orange and ginger. It spent last summer selling its products at festivals and running events in advance of a full commercial launch in 2018.
Delivery services such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo have had a hugely disruptive influence on the out-of-home sector and now a Berlin based start-up is looking to take the model a stage further by feeding whole teams of workers. Smunch is pitched as an office lunch programme for businesses that either don’t have or don’t want a staff canteen but still want the benefits of communal eating. Clients receive food from one new hand-picked local restaurant every day, with each individual able to select their favourite dish. The meals are delivered all at once, allowing the team to eat together, while Smunch’s nutrition experts ensure the food meets the client’s dietary needs. Smunch says it plans to expand beyond Berlin to other cities in 2018 with London on its list of targets.