In New Zealand, it is estimated that we throw away over $870million in food waste every year. This is enough food to feed 250,000 people for an entire year, or the entire population of Dunedin more than twice over.
The Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme students from Kaikorai Valley College are doing their part to improve the food waste management here in New Zealand, starting locally in Dunedin. These year 13 students have established Kaika Energy, a biotechnology company that turns local food waste into biofuel and fertiliser. The company aims to support Dunedin in becoming a sustainable city, through providing a means to dispose food waste in the city, an obvious absence in many New Zealand towns. These clever students are working towards transforming their future, one apple at a time.
The Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) offers the opportunity for students aged 15-18 to participate in a national programme, where they set up and run an innovative and sustainable business. This provides students with the opportunity to form a company with fellow students, research and write a business plan, raise funds to use as start-up capital, produce a new product/service and market this product/service to the public. Students are supported by their teachers, and local business mentors. An estimated 60,000 students have taken part in YES since it was first rolled out nationwide in 1981. Some of these alumni, such as Rod Drury and Seeby Woodhouse, have gone on to enjoy multi-million dollar success as an entrepreneur. This year there are over 3000 students involved in the YES programme all around the country, including Kaika Energy.
Kaika Energy is starting small, with an initial goal of producing enough biofuel to run the equipment on the schools Urban Farm, and to produce a liquid fertiliser to use on the crops. Once this is achieved they plan to expand, locally and then nationally. As there is no current service for disposing non-edible food waste in Dunedin, the team are focusing on managing the disposal of food waste unable to be consumed by using their Anaerobic Digestor. Their service will include going through a process of collecting food waste and turning this into a product of bio fuel and by-product fertilizer.
Kaika Energy have already made many strong connections with community organisations, including Keep Dunedin Beautiful, the Fonterra Grass Roots Fund, Food Share and the Dunedin City Council, all of which enthusiastically support the project. Kaika Energy managing director Sophia Taing says, “Through each connection we make we are offered names of other companies who may be of help and from there it has been connection after connection, with businesses who are very generously willing to help us achieve our goals.” The support and expertise business mentors in the local community can offer these young entrepreneurs is invaluable and crucial to the future success of the company.
Kaika Energy are working on a partnership with FoodShare, a local company that collects unwanted but edible food from grocery stores, restaurants and cafes and delivers it to service agencies who run food banks and distribute to the hungry. FoodShare have rescued over 100,000 kilograms of food and from this have provided over 297,000 meals for the Dunedin community. Kaika Energy plans to utilise this network and take the remaining, inedible food to put into their machine and transform it into BioFuel and Fertiliser.
Being located in Otago, the team have a large target market of gardeners, farmers and people who want their food, crops, plants and grass to grow. As their business expands they hope to push the liquid fertiliser towards these ventures to enhance customer’s grounds and crops. This subsequently helps the economy and produces more opportunities for food that will create food waste which then can be either put into a digestor.
Future plans extend to reducing food waste throughout New Zealand, and Pacific Islands. The team plans on taking their Urban Digestor idea to the Pacific Islands to help overcome their food waste issue, by integrating a food waste management system. Kaika Energy managing director Sophia Taing has already made contact with the Chamber of Commerce in the Cook Islands who has made contacts with local business owners to assess the amount of food waste available for use in a bio digestor.
These students need all the help they can get to develop their business into a fully functioning sustainable movement in Dunedin. If you would like to help through donating food waste, offering business wisdom, or a way to promote their idea throughout New Zealand please get in touch with the team at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Written by Victoria Crawford-Flett and originally published in Pure Advantage)