The Mesh Food Exchange (a Venture Acceleration Program company) is turning food waste into a win-win situation. Canadians currently waste over $31 billion in food each year; 40% of which occurs along the supply chain. This is often because it’s easier and cheaper to discard imperfect food than to manually coordinate finding the right end user. Mesh is quickly changing that. Using an online B2B platform, this new food tech startup is finding an alternative destination for surplus food outside of landfills.
CEO Jessica Pautsch describes Mesh as a marriage between well-known apps Tinder and Priceline, but for surplus food that needs to move fast. “My background is in sustainable business development and I enjoy solving social problems by building business models around them to make them sustainable. Opportunities exist wherever there are inefficiencies.”
Her first company, EcoTrek, connected people with green initiatives in their own backyards via tourism. Much later, Pautsch was stunned to learn that over one-third of all food produced is thrown out. “Discovering we had that scale of waste really got a fire started in my belly. After spending six months researching and understanding the root causes of commercial waste, we created Mesh. It uses technology to simplify the food re-distribution process, so companies can waste less and feed more.”
The platform is designed to optimize how food moves. Many groups can use the platform, including food manufacturers, grocery chains, farmers, liquidators and distributors, charities, and finally, compost companies. The initial analytics are more than promising. The first month of her pilot program moved over 8,000 kilograms of food, resulting in 12,000 meals provided, and saved $120,000 for local food charities.
Pautsch turned to technology to combat food waste because she believes it has the scalability to solve the large problems facing society today. And that’s where her partner, Francisco McDougall, comes in. McDougall creates the tech that powers this social enterprise.
Mesh is in beta and is piloting with food businesses in Vancouver. The company will publicly launch in Spring 2017. The platform will incorporate artificial intelligence to do the match-making, which predicts purchasing behaviour so companies can save money, mitigate risk, and reduce waste. Since food becomes less viable over time, Mesh works to ensure that businesses or charities serving people get the first chance to buy. If that doesn’t happen, food can be purchased for animal feed or eventually for compost. The platform effectively operates as a safety net, which rescues food from the landfill and redirects it to higher uses.
The system is safe, fresh, fast, and above all, efficient. With more meals on tables and less waste in the landfill, it’s a win-win!
Food businesses and non-profits can join Mesh’s pilot program wait list at: beta.foodmesh.ca