January 16, 2019

#thefutureoffood: What is the food industry doing to fight the world's dumbest problem?

Leftovers parties, zero waste apps, food sharing initiatives, short and long documentary movies, endless media and social media campaigns - the world seems to finally woken up. While almost 1 bln people suffer from hunger everyday, over 30% of globally produced food is being wasted, which is not only an obvious misuse of resources, but has also a severe impact on climate change. Food waste is the world’s dumbest problem and having realized that, more and more people change their daily habits to contribute to solving it. Every good choice of every person has an impact, the bottom-up initiatives should not be undermined. Yet, fair questions to ask are where the most of food waste comes from and how can that be prevented or changed? If you have ever wondered what the food industry is doing to fight the food waste problem, read further. The Upcycling Food Waste Project is an initiative to follow.

"Why is a product only worthy if it’s perfect? Doesn’t a vibrant product or a dynamic service have much more value?"

- asked Bob Hutten, General Manager of Hutten, a catering company from the Netherlands. The questions led him to a concept of putting food industry surpluses to good use and eventually, the concept became a realization. That is how De Verspillingsfabriek was born - the Surplus Food Factory, which produces perfectly good food products (for instance, soups) out of perfectly good food ingredients. A key factor - the latter would be otherwise thrown away.

“What surprised me mostly is that those ingredients are not even ugly. Being involved in the food industry I’ve been fully aware of the scale of the food waste problem, but I had no idea that so much of even perfectly good food is being wasted. Only due to miscalculations and hard rules of a profit-driven food industry.” says Nina Hoff from byFlow, referring to the surplus ingredients used by De Verspillingsfabriek. “We love the idea of producing food out of ingredients that otherwise would be wasted and we immediately knew that there is a space for 3D Food Printing in this project” - she continues.

Indeed, the vision of byFlow, a fastly growing company from the Netherlands which develops and sells 3D Food Printing technology, is “to enable professionals to create customized shapes, textures and flavors, by using fresh ingredients or ingredients that otherwise would have been thrown away”. The Focus 3D Food Printer of byFlow uses an “open cartridge system”, meaning that almost every food ingredient can be used for printing (when prepared upfront as a smooth paste) and turn, thanks to the printer, into a beautiful or personalized dish or product.

Together with our customers we are constantly researching how our 3D Food Printing technology can contribute to solving global food challenges, and in this case the problem of food waste. However, De Verspillingsfabriek has opened for us new possibilities to do something together on our local Dutch market - and to do it immediately.” - says Hoff.

Sharing the similar vision, byFlow and De Verspillingsfabriek might not have met and started their collaboration so quickly, if it wasn’t for the facilitator of the Food Waste Upcycling Project - HAS Hogeschool. Antien Zuidberg, Lector Design Methods in Food within the Food Innovation program at HAS, guides the students -  Jelle van Gestel and Joran Holtes - in their research on possibilities of upcycling food waste by using the Focus 3D Food Printer.

When we started 2 years ago with 3D food printing at HAS Hogeschool, I was wondering about where we could have a large societal impact with this new technology, and the first idea was: can we upcycle food waste? I would be thrilled if we can develop an application which can become a viable business case, and which can help this new technology forwardas well as upcycle food waste to beautiful new products!

- says Zuidberg, explaining the idea behind the project.

She further highlights that byFlow and De Verspillingsfabriek are involved in the consultations of the concepts from the very beginning, which guarantees that the prototypes and business cases that the students develop will meet the needs of both partners and could be implemented as soon as the research is finished. The Focus 3D Food Printer, co-sponsored for the project by all the three parties involved, is therefore being used as a tool which transforms surplus food ingredients, into ready-to-eat products and gives them a second life this way. What kind of products are going to be made, for whom and where they are going to be sold and used cannot be revealed yet.  

The Food Waste Upcycling Project brings up new possibilities, plans and hopes. Thanks to the 3D Food Printing technology, De Verspillingsfabriek can diversify its products range (for now limited to soups and sauces) and innovate its production methods. Thanks to this application of their technology, byFlow can get closer to realizing their company’s vision. Thanks to this successful collaboration Dutch food industry can contribute more to the fight of food waste - the dumbest problem the world currently has.


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Team byFlow