Two Irish outfits that want to fix our food-wasting habits are going global

FoodCloud and Grow It Yourself are growing their offerings into the UK.

By Killian Woods Reporter, Fora

THE SCRAP FOR funding is a fight a lot of social entrepreneurs enter at a significant disadvantage.

Without the ability to guarantee a significant return on investment, raising a funding round as a social enterprise can be a major challenge.

Two companies who seem to have cracked the code to building a social enterprise using sustainable financing models, as opposed to rattling buckets, are FoodCloud and Grow It Yourself (GIY).

FoodCloud is a service for supermarkets that allows them to donate surplus food by matching them with local charities.

Put simply, it results in less usable food going in the bin and instead puts it in the hands of those who need it. To date 1.9 million meals have been saved from the rubbish due to FoodCloud.

With FoodCloud’s technology now a feature in 149 Tesco stores nationwide, its co-founder and chief executive Iseult Ward said the focus had now shifted to pastures further from home.

“One of the opportunities we have this year is understanding how we can scale this solution and the UK is a chance for us to prove that we can scale,” Ward said.

“By the end of the year our aim is to have integrated our technology with 900 Tesco stores in the UK.”

Another social enterprise making waves abroad is GIY, an initiative that educates people how to grow their own food.

GIY are also making a lot of progress in the UK through projects to educate school children and adults about the benefits of homegrown produce.

“We’re doing two major campaigns one in schools with Innocent (smoothies) and the other in the workplace with Cully and Sully over there,” Kelly said.

“We’ll be reaching 150,000 people and showing them how to grow their own food.”

Key to success

Both FoodCloud and GIY are alumni of the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI) awards programme.

GIY founder Michael Kelly said developing the company’s financially sustainable approach came as a result of connections they made with SEI.

“We got involved initially looking for funding, to me that was what it was about. There’s a grant up for grabs let’s go for it. In hindsight that was only part of the story,” Kelly said.

“I worked with mentors to map out a plan that would mean GIY was around long enough as an organisation and have financial sustainability. It’s not quite as sexy as the ideas phase, but that’s why six years later we are here.”

FoodCloud’s approach is similarly about thinking outside the box when it comes to evaluating how their company can ensure its long-term future.

Ward said FoodCloud’s success came from focusing on what it can offer supermarkets and then perfecting the technology, while also providing a useful service that contributes to a worthy cause.

“In our experience, you don’t need to force the hands of retailers. There has been a lot of receptiveness from them to our idea,” Ward said.

“They simply see it as good practice because no one likes to see food go into the bin, this is a moral case.”

download A visualisation of Grow HQ in Waterford
Source: GIY

Expanding in Ireland

Despite big plans from both companies to stretch into the UK this year, FoodCloud and GIY are also looking to build on their offerings closer to home.

Kelly said plans for Ireland are focused on the final push of a fundraising drive that will help complete the construction of its headquarters called Grow HQ in Waterford.

The success of FoodCloud has seen the company gain a lot of interest from supermarket chains and charities even further afield than the UK. For now, FoodCloud’s Irish plans are geared at rolling out with 70 Aldi stores later this year.

Social Entrepreneurs Ireland has launched its 2016 awards programme. Entries close on Thursday, 7 April.