Discover more from Vancouver Tech Journal
Trendi launches BioTrim: the startup’s first product to tackle food waste
The foodtech venture showcased its first product to transform on-farm food waste into fruit and vegetable powders.
$2.88 billion: that’s the value of Canadian farmers’ food loss and waste. Huge amounts of produce are discarded before they reach the shelves, whether that’s because they don’t meet customers’ specifications, an order has been changed or cancelled, or if there simply isn’t enough labour for harvest. Trendi — a Burnaby-based foodtech company — has raised CAD $8.45 million to tackle this problem. Its first product to address the issue, named BioTrim, transforms on-farm food waste into fruit and vegetable powders.
BioTrim’s upcycling capabilities were recently unveiled in a first product demonstration at SMK Farms in Surrey this month. The event showcased BioTrim’s ability to make use of farmers’ produce that would otherwise be wasted, said Jason McMillan, director of product operations at Trendi. “That's the misshapen items that don't necessarily meet the specs of whatever grocery store chain [farmers are] in relationships with — we put [the otherwise wasted produce] through our cycle here and develop powders on the back end.” According to McMillan, Trendi has recognized 13 different industries where fruit and vegetable powders could be sold, such as the food and beverage industry. “If you've got a powdered avocado, you could turn that into guacamole, and it's not going to spoil on the shelf,” he said as an example.
The trailer was designed for a one-way flow of fruits and vegetables: step through the entrance and you’ll first enter a sanitation room equipped with a hand-washing station and PPE to safely handle the produce, as well as UV- and hydrogen-peroxide-powered technology to destroy any lingering pathogens or insects.
The next room is what McMillan called a mini-kitchen. “For the chefs that are on the team such as myself, this is where we can come in and manipulate whatever ingredient to whatever we want,” he said. The room was stocked with a food processor and blender, but McMillan noted that these were only a few examples of how the produce could be further processed. “Whether we’re pureeing, shredding, grating, chopping, dicing, slicing – whatever that requirement may be – it will really, truly take place in here.”
The last room was dedicated to the final stages of freeze-drying and milling that would give rise to the fruit and vegetable powder products. Trendi has primarily experimented with fresh-picked produce and a few banana peels, but McMillan said this value-added process was best described through the company’s trials with raw celery. “Sliced celery has absolutely no flavor to it whatsoever,” he said, but freeze-drying and milling raw celery gave rise to a new and delicious product. “One of the best flavors I've ever had in my career as a chef for 30 years. It was explosive, it was delicious. Tasted like celery soup, almost, because of the dehydration, sometimes you get a little bit of a cooked aspect to it.”
McMillan highlighted that because this was only a mobile demonstration facility, the installation of a true BioTrim would look very different in terms of the size of the facility, types of commodities processed, the extent of training provided for workers, and how involved Trendi would be in selling the final powder product to market. “Without question, it depends on what that relationship is and who it's with,” said McMillan. He highlighted current partners in Ecuador, where BioTrim units in discussion won’t be mobile, but will be permanent buildings set up on farms. But he also pointed out alternatives where it could be set up as a cooperative: “An investor [could] come in and says, ‘Hey, we're gonna put the money out, but there's 15 farms within a certain area that will have access to that plant.’”
Trendi is currently researching up and down the supply chain to identify partners that are interested in upcycling food waste through a BioTrim, as well as manufacturers to build appropriate technology that will sanitize and process within the unit, meaningful commodities that can run through the facility, and industries interested in purchasing fruit and vegetable powders that are made by BioTrim.
“We come in as that bridge between the farm and the market, because it is kind of a dispersed market at the moment,” said McMillan. “So many of the conversations we have with farmers resulted in them trying to find solutions to their [food waste] problems for so long [...] But they ultimately don't have the market expertise and connections to bring a full consumer product to the market. And so that's where Trendi comes in, to be that central hub between the producer and the market.”
Subscribe or become a member to be the first to know of new product launches in Vancouver’s tech ecosystem.