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Founders of FoodCloud Have Broken New Ground in the Redistribution of Surplus Food

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Founders of FoodCloud Have Broken New Ground in the Redistribution of Surplus Food

February 26
11:25 2014

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, world food production will need to increase by 60 per cent in the coming decades if it is to cope with an expanding global population which by 2050 is estimated to surpass nine billion.

Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O’Brien, a pair of young Irish entrepreneurs, find this frustrating. That’s because already a third of all food produced globally for human consumption goes to waste. In Europe alone we waste 90 million tonnes of food a year.

The two women believe the redistribution of surplus food can go some way to tackling the issue.

The problem with Ireland is it is very poorly served by food banks (large depots that store surplus food for redistribution). For years the country has only had one, and a relatively small one at that, operated by Crosscare in Dublin, although efforts are under way to set up a national network of food banks (more of which later).

So Ward and O’Brien, who met at Trinity College Dublin, looked at other ways to get food that would otherwise be discarded into the hands of the people who need it, i.e. the one in 10 people in Ireland who suffer from food poverty.

The pair estimates Irish retailers produce about 87,000 tonnes of surplus food a year, most of which is dumped at a cost of €8.5 million. In the absence of any redistribution infrastructure they set up FoodCloud, a company that uses technology to link retailers holding excess food with charities.

“We have a smartphone app and a website that allows businesses to put up details of what’s left at the end of the day and the time for collection,” says Ward. The app then generates a text message which it sends to local charities.

“The charities have their own profile and they can choose what type of food they want and what times they want to collect it at. Then the system chooses the most appropriate charity or charities.”

At the moment 35 charities have registered with the company, most of them small operations such as youth and homeless organisations in and around Dublin city centre. FoodCloud’s revenue model involves charging retailers an annual subscription fee which works out cheaper than the cost of dumping excess food.

Landfill dumping
The company has been on the go since last summer, and has already attracted significant interest from retailers. And well they might. In 2010 the introduction of stringent food waste management regulations put an end to landfill dumping of large amounts of biodegradable material. As a result retailers had to start working with specialist companies to get rid of their waste, which saw a knock-on increase in costs.

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