Making Upcycling Trendi - Uplifting Upcycling #7

Peek in to the future of upcycling infrastructure being created by Trendi.

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Happy Tuesday Market Shakers. Today we bring you our penultimate post about food waste and upcycling. We’re going global to talk with a Canada-based startup, Trendi, who develop robotic upcycling solutions for the food and beverage industry. Hold on to your phones, tablets and laptops, this is an exciting ride.

About Trendi

Trendi was founded in 2019 by co-founders Carissa Campeotto and Craig McIntosh. Their vision is to reduce food waste at the source and upcycle it into nutritious, shelf-stable products so people can easily enjoy healthy, sustainable foods. They produce high-tech solutions including a smoothie machine and also BioTrim, a technology that upcycles producers' waste products into freeze-chilled, nutritious BioFlakes. Excitingly, they have plans to blend the two business arms together. (More on this below). 

Last year they raised CAD$2.25 million in seed funding to develop their BioTrim technology. We sat down with Carissa Campeotto, co-founder and CMO, to find out more about Trendi’s business and its vision to transform our food system.

Trendi’s Journey: From vending machines to trucks that upcycle

Carissa Campeotto and Craig McIntosh have a shared background in upcycling. Craig had spent seventeen years building waste reduction programs for commercial kitchens. Carissa has seen great success reducing over 40,000 kilos of food waste while operating a juice bar. Several years ago, they got together to start a venture called Trendi. 

When the pair started out, their vision was all about delivering fast, affordable nutrition to consumers using the power of vending machines. High tech machines that vend delicious smoothies and ensure that none of the nutritious raw ingredients goes to waste. They built their product and were all set to launch, but things didn’t go as smoothly as planned.

We launched The Smoothie Machine in Febrary 2020. Two weeks in, the whole world is shutting down because of COVID-19. So, our smoothie machine business wasn’t going to work for the foreseeable future, and we had to pivot. We sat down, started talking and, having a shared background in it, upcycling came up of course. We asked ourselves: what if we took the automation concept of the smoothie machine and used it to rescue and capture food that would otherwise be wasted? Like those misfit carrots on the farm? And what if we could build a mobile application that would allow us to go directly to the source, saving farmers transport costs and reducing associated pollution? We went on like this for a while and at the end, we had our idea for BioTrim, a mobile robotic upcycling unit.  

Carissa sees the pandemic as a blessing in disguise. While it delayed the launch of their smoothie vending machines, it helped Trendi more deeply connect with their core values: fighting food waste and building a more equitable food system. 

Over the coming months, Carissa and Craig were able to secure funding to develop a prototype of their BioTrim mobile upcycling truck.

BioTrim: supporting upcycling of food waste at the source of production

Trendi’s BioTrim is a mobile unit kitted out with machinery and technology that upcycles waste into freeze-dried flakes and powders. The BioFlakes can be used by companies in new products, for example, by upcycling “ugly” tomatoes into soups.  

We take BioTrim units to a farm or a manufacturing facility where they have a lot of waste. The waste is fed into our upcycling machines where it is cleaned and sanitized, diced, and then dried for up to 24 hours. The result is flakes that have had all the water extracted, so they weigh 1/10th of their original weight and have an extended shelf life, between 2 to 30 years. This means the BioFlakes are easy to store and transport in large quantities. 

At the moment, Trendi’s BioTrim tech can process up to a tonne of waste per day. Carissa emphasises that BioTrim is completely customizable to a customer's needs because waste tends to be unique depending on the organization. 

If a customer needs to process 300kg or 800kg of waste, we can tailor BioTrim to their needs. 

Trendi has seen great success with the BioTrim concept, which is still in pilot stage, with a prototype set for summer 2022. Trendi already has orders on the books for the technology, as well as requests to make it even more scalable.

It’s a sad fact that many farms and plants generate high volumes of waste each day. Some of our prospects generate 20,000 - 50,000 kilos a day. So now we’re working on developing microprocessors that can be built into farms and plants to process higher volumes of waste. This is the extraordinary thing about our solution, it’s reducing waste right at the source!

BioTrim trims costs while creating a lot of value

With Trendi’s drive to put a stop to food waste with BioTrim trucks, they price their solution in a way that can be accessible to food producers and food makers of all shapes and sizes. 

BioTrim is subscription-based, just like Netflix, but not quite as cheap. Organizations pay a monthly fee to use BioTrim, in addition to an initial installation fee. 

Trendi’s service is a marriage between technology and people. In addition to upcycling and preserving products, their subscription includes technical analysis and expert advice to help customers profit from their upcycled materials.

Our food scientists and technologists work with farms and makers to analyze their sidestreams at the start - breaking down the component parts of waste that can be upcycled, evaluating their stability and shelf life, and advising on their prime applications, and the best sales channels for these. 

Take a tomato as an example, you have the flesh, the skin, the seeds. Each of these parts can be upcycled and applied in a range of products; the flesh can be powdered and used in soup, and the seeds can be pressed into an oil and used in cosmetics. 

Waste disposal is a big cost to businesses. With Trendi’s technology, companies can cut these costs, while also creating brand new ingredients from their waste that they can use to make new, value-added products.

Players around the world see potential in BioTrim

So far we’re seeing a lot of demand to upcycle products like fish (the skins), fruits and vegetables, and okara, a byproduct of tofu production. At the moment our focus is on the Canadian market, where we have a lot of fruit producers, but we have plans to go global by 2023.

Trendi has received interest in BioTrim from customers around the world, including ones in the UK as well as Europe, North America, and the Middle East.

We’re having a lot of exciting conversations with companies who are starting to realize that food waste’s time is up. It’s a sentiment we’re seeing around the world, from companies and governments. 

As a growing company, Trendi’s first decision when planning its expansion is to find a partner who shares their same vision for a world without waste.

We look for partners who show a strong commitment to reducing food waste. Then it’s a case of working together to test products to process with BioTrim.

Is BioTrim making a stop by Japan?

Japan is definitely on our road map. We know there are a lot of hardworking companies that understand the value of reducing waste, so we see demand for BioTrim. Right now we’re seeking a partner we can trust and work together with.

Japan appeals to Trendi as a market for BioTrim and also their smoothie machine.

There’s also great potential for our smoothie machines in Japan. It is the country with the largest number of vending machines in the world after all!

After COVID lumps and bumps, it’s smoothie going for Trendi’s Smoothie Machine

The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t enough to stand in the way of the world’s thirst for smoothies, and Trendi’s Smoothie Machine has grown globally since launching in 2020.

BioTrim is smart tech, so our Smoothie Machine, which inspired it, is really smart too. It doesn’t waste anything. It makes use of shelf-stable purees, rather than fresh ingredients. This means our smoothies have a longer shelf life, around 20 days compared to the 2 - 5 days for fresh produce. In addition, the machine is fitted with smart sensors to detect whether the smoothie is the correct consistency, and it is also self-cleaning.

The Smoothie Machine is already being used by customers around the world who rent it on subscription, the same model used for BioTrim. Carissa explains an automatic smoothie machine became an especially attractive prospect during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We saw demand increase from convenience stores, cafes, and public institutions that wanted to provide customers with healthy products without the risk of human interaction posed by COVID-19. There are also advantages in cost savings to businesses and consumers with our smoothie machine as it requires 90% less of the human operating costs compared to a smoothie bar.

As automation of our daily lives increased exponentially during the pandemic, demand for the Smoothie Machine looks set to keep soaring. In fact, Trendi already has plans for how to blend their machine with BioTrim.

We’re soon launching version 2 of our smoothie machine. It will be compatible with the BioFlakes produced by BioTrim, so it will vend smoothies made with upcycled produce from our partner's byproducts.

With Trendi’s business coming full circle, we asked Carissa about her aim over the next couple of years.

The only way for upcycling is up!

For Carissa, Trendi’s game-plan over the coming year is tied heavily to UN global goal to cut food waste in half by 2030.

Without solutions like BioTrim, achieving the UN SDGs is going to be very difficult. Upcycling will be key to meeting the goal of halving waste so I believe companies like Trendi are going to keep growing over the next several years. 

Alongside driving the market for upcycled food and beverages themselves, Trendi is also banking on more and more players investing in upcycling.

It’s going to be really exciting to see larger producers, big brands, launching upcycled products. This will drive consumer awareness and really push the upcycling movement.

Trendi is also active in promoting food waste reduction in people’s homes as well as commercially. Earlier this year they launched The Pledge to Stop Food Waste campaign which aims to rally businesses and consumers behind the UN Sustainable Development Targets for waste reduction. The pledge involves a 21 Day Food Waste Challenge that asks participants to track their food waste over 21 days and record it. Campaign materials provide tips and knowledge on each day to help educate participants on how to reduce daily food waste.

1.3 billion tons of food is wasted annually. Roughly 50% of this comes from households. We are launching our Pledge to Stop Food Waste so we can do our bit to promote food waste reduction to our partners and also to consumers.

That’s a wrap!

There you have it folks. We hope this interview left you feeling inspired and full of anticipation for the future like it did for us. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to Carissa and the Trendi team for arranging and supporting this interview.

We’ll see you next Tuesday when we’ll be exploring a brand new type of plant-based product powered by upcycling.

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