Dublin Startup Stories: FoodCloud

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Dublin startups tell their stories, powered by DCU Ryan Academy.

Meet Iseult Ward, Co-Founder of FoodCloud…

Tell us about your service…
The FoodCloud system is built around an innovative technological platform which effectively matches businesses with surplus food to charities in their areas. Using our app or website, businesses upload details of their surplus food and a time for collection. An SMS notification is then sent out to a local charity and they can reply to accept the offer. The business is then notified through the app that the charity will be coming to collect the food.

All of the food that is donated is tracked through our system allowing both businesses and charities to view and track their donations. Businesses can also review the positive impact they are making through the amount of meals they have donated or the GHG emissions savings by diverting the food from landfill. (Pictured above: Aoibheann O’Brien and Iseult Ward, Co-Founders of FoodCloud)

What inspired you to start FoodCloud?
FoodCloud was inspired by the realisation that within a community, a business can pay to throw away perfectly good food while a local charity is struggling to raise the funding to feed those in need in the community.

On a global scale, 30% of food produced for human consumption is wasted across the food supply chain and 805 million people around the world suffer from hunger. Food redistribution to charitable groups has been put forward as one of the best win-win solutions for reducing food waste.

What market are FoodCloud targeting and how big is it?
In Ireland, 1 million tonnes of food is waste every year whilst one in ten people are suffering from food poverty. In the UK, 12 million tonnes of food is wasted annually while 5.8 million people live in ‘deep poverty’.

FoodCloud targets the retail market. After conducting an extensive assessment of charity needs, we recognized that the food types and quantities that could potentially be available from retail level were the most valuable for charities. At the same time, a solution for retailers to donate good food did not exist. FoodCloud is the first scalable technological solution in the EU that targets retail level waste.

What’s your business model?
FoodCloud is a not-for-profit social enterprise and funds its operations by charging retailers for the service it delivers. Over the last two years with a lot of drive, passion, enthusiasm and hard work, we have created a financially sustainable enterprise that is now creating real positive social impact in local communities with huge potential.

Who are your competitors and potential partners?
We are a collaborative organisation and work in partnership with the other organisations involved in the food redistribution sector both in Ireland and internationally.

We have a strategic partnership with Bia Food Initiative, a traditional food redistribution charity in Ireland who opened Ireland’s first surplus food redistribution depot in November 2014. Our partnership represents a powerful growth tool used to expand community impact, cut costs through shared resources, improve skills across the combined organization, and contribute to operational performance and stability. FareShare are our UK partner; they are working with us to enable more charities and community organisations in the UK to access surplus food in order to provide nutritious meals for vulnerable individuals and families.

What are the biggest challenges that FoodCloud faces today?
We are the first retail-level solution for surplus food in Ireland and one of the first in the UK. We have been inundated with calls from across the food industry and also from other countries internationally. We are currently working hard to meet this growing demand, but we need to scale in a sustainable way and continue to provide the best service possible for our partners.

What do you think motivated your partners to come on board?
We have turned an environmental problem into a social solution. Food is a basic need and everyone hates to see good food going to waste. At the same time, we see people in our communities who do not have enough food. With FoodCloud’s technology there is a simple solution.

To date, we have partnered with over 330 charities across 26 counties in the Republic of Ireland and redistributed 667 tonnes of food which is the equivalent of over 1.4 million meals and a carbon saving of 2,136 tonnes. We grew from moving 4 tonnes of food in 2014 to 210 tonnes in 2015 to over 453 so far in 2015.

What milestones do FoodCloud plan to achieve in the next six months?
FoodCloud has grown from working with less than 30 businesses in July 2014 to currently working with 150. We have big plans to continue growing fast and aim of bringing on another 100 stores in Ireland over the 6 months.

We recently launched a pilot in the UK in partnership with FareShare, in 11 Tesco stores across London, Liverpool, Glasgow and Belfast and will launch in 400 Tesco stores across the UK in the next 6 months.

What advice can you offer companies in Dublin who are just starting out?
Passion: you are going to be investing a lot of time and resources in trying to get your company up and running, you have to have enthusiasm and energy for what you are doing.

Tell us one (or more) things you love about Dublin as a startup community and as a city?
It’s an incredibly inviting community. There are so many events and opportunities to meet new people and to reach out for help and advice. Even beyond the startups, the large multi-national companies are also normally more than willing to share their expertise and knowledge.

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