Calgary connections help innovative company tackle problem of food waste

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An innovative food technology company based in Dartmouth, N.S., has received an investment of $10 million thanks to its Calgary contacts.

Outcast Foods was co-founded by Nova Scotian serial entrepreneur Darren Burke and Calgarian and former NHL hockey player T J Galiardi, who met with Alex Morley, principal of District Venture Capital at its Kensington Road head office, and came away with $5 million. That amount was matched by BDC Capital through Cheri Corbett, director of its Cleantech Practice in Calgary.

Burke is a former professor at St. Xavier University with a Ph.D. in exercise physiology, and a scientific expert in the development and testing of supplements for human clinical trials.

Performance-enhancing supplements was among his interests and he broke into the sports nutrition market by launching Rivalus Inc., which he later sold to a U.S. Company.

Once his non-compete was over he looked for another venture, and after meeting Galiardi and becoming good friends — both with a passion for fitness and plant-based diets coupled with their dedication to creating a more sustainable world — they decided to take on the huge and embarrassing problem of food waste.

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According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, nearly one-third of food globally is wasted or lost.

Galiardi says that in Canada, that related to nearly a billion tonnes of food thrown out every year.

With an initial funding of $3 million from high net-worth individuals they knew and 15 NHL investors, the company was launched with a mission to divert food waste from landfills and turn discarded fruits and vegetables into clean, nutrient-dense, sustainable food products.

The process begins by working with socially conscious farmers, producers and grocers, scooping up the “unsaleable” misfit produce that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

Galiardi gives as an example a sweet potato farmer who knows no grocer wants oversized or odd-looking crops, and has to get rid of them either in a landfill, tilled back into the earth or transported elsewhere to be used as animal feed.

Another would be a grocery store that has to get rid of produce that is just not pleasing to the eye — brown bananas, for example. In fact, food warehouses would reject a truckload of bananas that are yellow on arrival — they want green that will have a decent shelf life. Guess where the rejects go?

One of Outcast’s first relationships was with Sobeys stores in Nova Scotia with a contract to take all rejects off their hands, saving the company money by not having to pay waste management firms to get rid of the unsellable.

Outcast uses only pre-consumer waste that is put through a patent-pending three-stage process. The result is a product either in dehydrated or powder form, taking the main life-giving nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fibres and introducing them back into the food chain. And unlike those bananas, the products have a shelf life of two to three years.

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Currently, production is more than 5,000 pounds per day but that is quickly increasing to 100,000, shipped out in sizes ranging from small packages up to 2,000-pound super sacks.

Burke says the magnitude of the situation motivates Outcast Foods, and with no other company reacting to the problem of waste with a proven process using only upscale ingredients, he is bullish about the future.

“We are pleased to support a company that not only addresses the problems of food waste but is creating a future world rooted in sustainable food production,” said Arlene Dickinson, general partner of District Venture Capital.

The $10 million will be used primarily for more research and development, hiring additional senior staff and to move across the country to be closer to local waste.

In musing that Sobeys has a warehouse here five times the size of the one in the Maritimes, it would be nice to one day see a plant here in Calgary.

Notes:

KPMG is growing its legal practice in Calgary. Currently with seven lawyers, they are adding to its tax law and litigation advice with offerings of business law, employment and labour law, and immigration law. KPMG lawyers are busy with both private and public companies and not-for-profit clients, helping support them with employment challenges and government subsidy applications, audits and tax disputes throughout the pandemic.

David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at info@davidparker.ca.

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