Social enterprises share innovative solutions to tackle food waste

In Singapore, food waste has increased by 30 per cent over the last decade. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A local company has found a way to recycle food that is thrown away, turning it into animal feed and compost that it supplies to local farms.

Biotechnology firm Ento Industries, a subsidiary of Tiong Lam Supplies, uses a special species of flies that feasts on food waste, producing biological matter that farmers consider black gold.

In Singapore, food waste has increased by 30 per cent over the last decade.

The National Environment Agency reported 763,000 tonnes of food waste was generated in 2018, the equivalent of 54,000 double decker buses.

Ento Industries' approach was among three ideas tackling food waste discussed at a virtual panel discussion on Thursday (Nov 12), as part of the virtual FestivalForGood initiative organised by the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise.

Moderated by DBS Bank's Sustainability & Partnerships Lead for Group Strategic Marketing and Communication Monica Datta, the hour-long session included speakers from social enterprises in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore sharing the challenges they faced setting up and successfully running their enterprises.

Noting the unpredictable nature of working with live insects, Ento's founder and chief executive, Mr Nathaniel Phua, said: "When working with insects, we have to remind ourselves that they are living things, not robots.

"We cannot type in a command and expect them to follow it. We realised it is a partnership between us and the insects.

"We are really learning new things every day about their biology and their behaviour."

The company allows the larvae of black soldier flies to consume food waste, later harvesting the insects for use as high-value feed ingredients in the agriculture industry.

The faeces produced by the flies, which is packed with nutrients, is used as fertiliser for plant growth.

Another panellist, Mr Terence Hon, co-founder of Hong Kong-based retail chain Greenprice, shared his experience setting up a company that facilitates the reselling of clearance lines or stock that has passed its best before date.

"From the customer's perspective, it is really hard for them to accept the concept (of purchasing food past the sell-by date)," he said.

"We try to put up tasting displays for them to try out, to prove that items past their best before date can still be tasty and edible."

Mr Yu-De Lee who heads Taiwan-based platform Tsaitung Agriculture, highlighted the potential of applying technological solutions to minimise food waste.

Mr Lee, whose platform helps restaurants buy produce directly from farmers, noted that data collected from supply chain operations could help sellers fine-tune their demand-supply ratio and offer more predictability.

More information on the festival's upcoming sessions is available here.

Correction note: An earlier version of this article said 736,000 tonnes of food waste was generated in 2018. It should be 763,000. We are sorry for the error.

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