We start our series about our Green Alley Award 2022 finalists with Agree from Italy, who was the winner of our public voting and therefore the first startup to enter the finals. They developed a plant-based edible coating from agricultural by-products to help supermarkets, wholesalers, and farmers to increase shelf life of fruits and vegetables to avoid rapid degeneration. A great innovation to reduce food waste! And let us just briefly go back to another great thing: the exceptional result of this year’s voting: a total of 6,663 people participated and Agree got 2,078 votes – what a success!
First of all, wow! What a result, it seems like you have quite a large base of supporters already. How did you establish this, or do you think your innovation just perfectly meets current consumer needs?
To be honest, it was a wonderful surprise to see so many people interested in our project. Initially, we only counted on the energy of friends and colleagues that have already known and believed in our project. However, after a couple of days, we noticed a growing interest in our project, far beyond our expectations. At some point, we even captured the attention of Italian journals reaching out to us, wanting to learn more about Agree and our solution.
We didn’t expect such an interest in our project, but we do know that nowadays people, in general, are more aware of the different eco-friendly alternatives for a more sustainable world. We believe that the interest in a project like ours is also driven by the latest legislation about banning single-use plastics in Europe. France and Spain have already banned them, and we believe that more countries will be adopting similar measures soon.
Our proposal is presented as an alternative to plastic wraps for fruits and vegetables, which at the same time aims at reducing the food waste problem. Like us, many of the Green Alley Award participants proposed solutions and alternatives to tackle the single-use plastic and plastic waste problem. We saw amazing projects and we’re glad to be among such innovative and impactful ideas!
How likely do you think are producers or farmers to adopt your innovation instead of keep using plastic packaging? Did you receive feedback already and can estimate the market acceptance?
We did get in contact with local producers and farmers and learned that they are open to adopting solutions like ours. We are still talking to them and the rest of the stakeholders of the supply chain to hear about their experiences and problems to get a better idea of how to face the food and plastic waste issues as good as possible according to their current needs. In general, we are not proposing merely coatings, but more an eco-friendly solution for our customers. The goal is to reduce the food waste within their processing and packaging steps and to avoid the excessive use of plastic or expensive alternatives, which means a saving in economic and environmental terms for them.
By collaborating with our customers and stakeholders, we can develop customised solutions for them and face the food waste problem together as well as reduce single-use plastics. That’s our main mission.
You are Italy-based. A country that is quite at the forefront when it comes to circularity and the number of startups there is constantly increasing. How did your location affect your business idea and now the development of your startup Agree? Do you think that it’s likely that Italy will become the new circular innovation hotspot?
Being based in Italy strongly influenced the origin of our idea. In our team, we all have a strong connection with food and its culture, and that’s why for us, understanding the food waste problem and trying to tackle it was a necessity. We live in Piedmont, a region famous for its food culture and tradition. Piedmont is also rich in high-quality agricultural products, but also in by-products that we can use as raw materials. Hence, we decided to embed this circular approach in our business solution.
Even if we are only just starting with our project, our goal is to contribute to the Italian innovation ecosystem for the circular economy, which is currently growing and inspiring more and more students and researchers from various countries to innovate in Italy. Many people including investors are now understanding the power of innovation and where it can lead us here in Italy. We are looking forward to seeing how the Italian ecosystem will continue to grow.
You are planning to get a patent on your technology from April 2022 on, what are your next steps?
In the upcoming months, we would like to go more in-depth regarding the food and packaging systems and gain a better understanding of the different mechanisms that are responsible for food waste in the vegetable supply chain. We also aim at getting a comprehensive overview of the problems related to the excessive use of plastics and of what alternatives might be.
Currently, we trying to establish more partnerships with local farmers and fruits dealers to launch our first pilot project soon. The idea is to start to test our solution and model as soon as possible, we are aiming for the second half of 2022. In the meantime, we are promoting activities of food waste awareness on social media and in particular events looking to create a solid community of food activists that believe in a more sustainable and circular economy.
Please complete the following sentence: Our solution helps to save the world because…?”
It can increase the availability of food
It can reduce food loss and waste problems
And it can improve the use of natural resources (water, energy, and soil) and avoid more CO2 emissions
Source Green Alley Award