As we gear up for our Circular Value Program, [designed to support entrepreneurs across regional NSW, combating food waste within the agrifood sector]. We sat down with like minded partner Refresh:Food to learn all about their new digital marketplace; which launched only last month! We explore the inspiration behind their innovation, the connection the marketplace fosters for producers and consumers and their vision to reduce excess produce.
What inspired the creation of the Refresh:Food marketplace, and how does it address the need for sustainable food systems?
Chris Cramond, Managing Director of Refresh:Food: “Our number one motivation for starting Refresh:Food is to reduce on-farm food waste by giving growers another avenue to sell excess produce - it’s sustainability with commercial purpose.
We want to help broaden growers’ network of potential buyers to tap into demand that they wouldn’t otherwise have visibility of.
Farmers obviously never want to see the food they grow ploughed back into the ground, and Refresh:Food is about creating another channel that they can turn to at a moment's notice to find the right buyers for different grades of produce.
We’ve had great feedback from our test users. It’s only early days, and we’re expecting to see more buyers and sellers come onboard in the next few months which will help fuel our marketplace supply and demand.”
From a producer's perspective, how does Refresh:Food provide solutions or opportunities that were previously unavailable in the market?
We’ve been working closely with the Produce Growing community as we built out our initial versions of the app, as we wanted to ensure it was a platform that made selling frictionless and added real value to their businesses.
One of those Growers is Flavorite, a family-run Victorian fruit and vegetable producer which has been part of the initial test group for Refresh:Food. It grows tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicums, eggplants and blueberries - almost exclusively in glasshouses across four regional locations - Warragul, Mansfield, Tatura and Katunga. Less than two percent of Flavorite's produce goes to waste, however it is continuing to work towards zero food waste.
Flavorite has conducted 11 transactions on the app, selling truss tomatoes, saucing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and eggplant. For Flavorite, not only has the marketplace helped them move more surplus volume and generate revenue from it, it has also given them greater control over the volumes flowing through traditional market channels to avoid oversupply that could be detrimental to their return.
Sam Kisvarda, Flavorite Chief Marketing Officer said: “We already have really established sales channels - we supply to supermarkets and greengrocers around Australia and to the Melbourne wholesale markets. However, when it comes to cutting our food waste, every little bit helps, and Refresh:Food has allowed us to diversify our markets for lower-grade produce. The app is very user-friendly and the Refresh:Food team has welcomed feedback to continue improving it and help form a closer connection between buyers and sellers. It’s given Flavorite the ability to connect with buyers we mightn’t have considered previously and improved the value of what would have otherwise been unsought produce.”
From a consumer's perspective, particularly for those who are food innovators and dedicated to reducing food waste, how does Refresh:Food’s marketplace provide value?
Creating our app as a two sided marketplace, it was really important to create a platform that has equal value for Buyers who are looking for innovative means to solve for supply, value and their sustainability goals.
One of our founding Buyers, VegPro4 is a fresh-cut vegetable supplier based in Boonah, Queensland whose customers are food manufacturers and food service businesses. It purchases a wide range of vegetables and is often on the lookout for seasonal specials to offer its customers additional value. The business has used Refresh:Food to purchase sweet potatoes.
Sally Brent, General Manager of VegPro4, said: “We’re always looking for seasonal specials to offer our customers extra value and variety that they can add to their menus in hospitality and food service. The Refresh:Food app can help us spot those one-off excess produce opportunities, and it has the potential to be a really handy resource when our regular supply is interrupted. You can see the quality of produce from the listing details, and we’re always happy to take veggies with minor imperfections because we’ll be processing them anyway - the freshness and taste is what matters most.”
In addition to the core functionalities, the app features the ability to donate produce to a hunger relief charity, should there be no relevant buyers for it at the time. To save produce going to waste, growers can list it on the app as a donation so that charities only need to cover the cost of transportation.
OzHarvest is one of the charities testing the app to help boost food rescue volume in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. Tracy Bialek, Head of Operations, said: “We’ve been able to test the Refresh:Food platform by purchasing pallets of good quality vegetables to help meet the current increase in demand for food. Innovation is a crucial part of addressing two national issues of food waste and food insecurity in Australia and OzHarvest is always looking for new ways to get good food to those who need it most.”
Can you discuss the significance of collaborations across the food value chain in the effort to combat food waste, and how does the Refresh:Food’s marketplace foster and facilitate these essential partnerships?
Refresh:Food’s core purpose is to reduce food waste by enabling farmers to market their excess produce to customers in channels currently unavailable. The marketplace limits risks, is easy to use, and will supply valuable data and insights to the industry. Australia has targeted to halve food waste by 2030, Refresh:Food is a part of the ecosystem needed to achieve this.
Partnerships and collaborations are significantly vital for Refresh:Food to be successful in achieving their purpose, be it with Growers and Buyers, the food charity organisations they are working with, such as OzHarvest; Fareshare and Foodbank, as well as key industry experts such as End Food Waste Australia, to target key horticultural segments where we can make a material impact.
Refresh:Food with their innovative marketplace provides a channel to connect growers with buyers, reducing food waste and contributing to sustainable food and agricultural practices.
If you, someone you know or a business, share the passion for creating innovative value+ solutions to reduce food waste, utilise upcycled ingredients, byproducts and waste streams from the agrifood sector, consider joining our Circular Value Program.