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IntelliDigest explain why startups should join EIT Food's Accelerator Network

IntelliDigest is addressing food system sustainability by combining innovative research with advanced engineering to reduce food waste from farm-to-fork. Learn more about their revolutionary idea and how the EIT Food Accelerator Network supported their journey.

20 Jan 2022
EIT Food North-West

The idea: Upcycling food waste solve food system environmental and nutritional challenges

IntelliDigest leverages nature to address the food waste crisis. Enzymes can turn food waste into new, valuable food products. As a biological process, enzymes build some substances and break others down. IntelliDigest combines this natural process with artificial intelligence to repurpose enzymes to recover bionutrients from food waste. These nutrients can then be used in fertiliser to produce food. By combining technology with natural processes, IntelliDigest addresses the environmental and nutrition-based crises of the food system in a holistic way.

Who is behind the idea?

Dr Ifeyinwa Kanu is the Founder and CEO of IntelliDigest with a passion for nature and creating things. Ifeyinwa holds a PhD in environmental engineering.. According to Ifeyinwa, “food, health and environment go hand in hand.”  These societal issues are key factors driving her mission to empower global food sustainability through eliminating food waste, ending malnutrition and achieving zero hunger.

Ifeyinwa is a great advocate for promoting “food system sustainability awareness”. Education is a key route to improve agrifood sustainability and health outcomes. If people are aware of the impact of their relationship with food on the environment and their health, they can make more informed choices, thereby becoming part of the solution. This is a driving motivation for Ifeyinwa.

What are the benefits of upcycling food waste?

Ifeyinwa points out that malnutrition is now the leading cause of death worldwide, with one fifth of deaths involving malnutrition as a contributing factor. Yet at the same time, our food system is incredibly wasteful, with around one third of food being wasted. IntelliDigest’s main aim is to close this gap by repurposing food waste to produce bio-nutrients for local food production. This enables more nutrient dense food to be produced locally and sustainably. By upcycling food waste into new food products, food distribution can be enhanced to feed those with limited access to food.

IntelliDigest achieves this aim with their product - ‘iDigest’- a nature inspired robot that upcycles food waste into a sustainable chemical that can be fed back into the first step of food production as fertiliser. iDigest will be available for households and businesses from April 2022, providing data insights that will help to give greater purpose to inedible food waste, ultimately enabling them to adopt more circular practices.

Support from the EIT Food Accelerator Network

Ifeyinwa described the EIT Food Accelerator Network (EIT FAN) as a “useful and eye-opening experience” and picked out specific advantages gained from the project that she believes other businesses could benefit from. The access to funding for businesses looking to make a positive impact is a particularly valuable element of EIT FAN, especially for businesses in their early stages.

Secondly, the EIT FAN network was invaluable because it provided access to a wide variety of organisations and stakeholders whose visions aligned with IntelliDigest on evolving a more sustainable food system. It also allowed IntelliDigest to build lasting strategic relationships, including one with PepsiCo which has been proved fruitful. The cooperation and new business opportunities afforded by the EIT FAN network are a key advantage of the programme.

Another advantage is the wide variety of people working on different areas in the food system that participated in the EIT FAN  programme, which Ifeyinwa believes helped “connect the dots” on the broader food system challenge and why there is need for the stakeholders in the food system from farm to fork to sit round the table and have an open conversation. Finally, Ifeyinwa mentions the “fantastic mentoring” that helped her personally and IntelliDigest generally grow and improve. The close support from a wide variety of experts is another invaluable element of the FAN project that enables businesses to grow and improve.

What is next for IntelliDigest?

Ifeyinwa is looking forward to 2022 as a big year for IntelliDigest with the launch of the Global Agrifood Techpreneur Club. This programme will  support young graduates to address food system challenges in their countries as well as create awareness about food system sustainability amongst children in  in primary and secondary education. When we ask Ifeyinwa why this project is so important, she answers, “Young people are the future. The future belongs to young people.”  Without educating and empowering the young people to lead the food system transformation, we are unlikely to address the food systems crisis. Ifey says “it is amazing to be able to give back to young people what I have learned through the EIT FAN and my experience at founding and scaling IntelliDigest through the AgriFood TechPreneur programme.”

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