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Turning waste into valuable ingredients and commercial gains—podcast

Audio-Turning waste into valuable ingredients and commercial gains—podcast

Exploring how sustainable practices can lead the nutraceutical industry to leverage food waste by-products into profitable ingredients and products.

For this sustainability series podcast episode, Debora Campos, founder and CEO of AgroGrIN Tech startup, joined us to share more about how sustainability practices and action points can lead the industry to partake into and drive a circular economy.   

Tune in to hear about:

  • The importance for nutraceutical industries to consider new solutions for a more sustainable future
  • AgroGrIN Tech new technologies and processes’ benefits
  • AgroGrIN Tech’s first case study helping a company to become more sustainable
  • The steps to consider when implementing a circular economy through the supply chain
  • Industry’s whitespaces and the focus of startups to help the industry help to tackle these and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)


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Debora Campos
Founder and CEO of AgroGrIN Tech

If you like the show, make sure to subscribe and follow the Vitafoods Insights podcast. Feel free also to recommend the show to a friend that you think would enjoy it.


Vitafoods Insights Podcast

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Podcast transcript:

Vitafoods Insights 00:05
Welcome to the Vitafoods Insights podcast. Join us as we explore the latest science innovation, helping the global health and nutrition industry connect, develop and progress. Today's host is Natalia Franca Rocha, content producer.

Natalia 00:23
Hello, and welcome to another Vitafoods Insights sustainability series podcast episode. Today we'll be talking about sustainable solutions for the nutraceutical industry to consider for a better future. I'm delighted to be joined today by Debora Campos, who is the founder and CEO of AgroGrIN Tech startup. Thanks for joining me today, Debora.

Debora 00:41
Thank you so much for the invitation to be here, is a great pleasure for me.

Natalia 00:47
So, Debora, could you kick things off by explaining to our listeners why is it important for nutraceutical industries to consider new solutions for a more sustainable future?

Debora 00:57
From our view, new solutions in this area of the industry are very important because the ingredients commercialization, generally they are coming from more traditional processes, traditional industries, which general involves the application of several of chemical processes; sometimes that they are toxic for the environment. So, the processes until we get these ingredients that the industries might be using are not the correct ones or the best practice in the market. So, the new trends reaching now in the market is the search for more clean label ingredients. And nutraceutical area is one of the biggest trends, which directly means that the companies in the industry have to transform their processes to bring to their end product more environmentally friendly ingredients. So, there are these search for these new clean label ingredients that will substitute the place of the old ones. These are the huge concerns of the market and one of the biggest strengths of our generations. So, the nutraceutical industries, they have to comply with these trends, they have to offer new products and new solution to the consumers, which will directly impact the production and these processes. Of course, we want to tell that we, AgroGrIN Tech, was born to bring these green new solutions to the market. And we are actually producing these new clean label ingredients that intends to substitute the old ones in the market. So these are the main goal to why the industry have to look for new solutions in the market.

Natalia 02:40
In your website, it says that AgroGrIN Tech applies new technologies and processes to develop new bio-based compounds to generate new revenue streams for businesses and decrease the environmental pollution and economical losses, also making these businesses more sustainable. So, I was gonna ask you if you could explain further the benefits of this approach for our listeners?

Debora 03:04
So, our intake takes the fruit and vegetable by-products that are produced within the beginning of the food supply chain. And by these we are identifying the farmers, the processing companies, the distribution channels, and we are using these sources of waste to generate new clean level ingredients. Through my PhD on biotechnology, I developed a patented technology that enables to separate specific molecules from complex mixtures. This technology is totally green, is environmentally friendly and sustainable. And the main idea is from a complex mixture to separate specifically enzymes or vitamins. So, with this process, we understand the value that this brings to the market, so we develop the business above this idea. So, with our technology which separates these enzymes and vitamins, we are able also to produce other ingredients such as gluten free flours, and flavouring powders. So, from each fruit by-product or each vegetable by-product, we can transform these in three new marketable products. So, the approach of AgroGrIN Tech it is to processing facilities throughout different places in the market, to take these byproducts from the beginning of food supply chain, put our process and technology working and transform these wastes in new clean label ingredients. So, the idea is to help these types of industries to be more sustainable and to enter, finally, at the circular economy, to transform their way of doing business and from our side, we are helping these companies to make this transition and to promote food upcycling.

Natalia 04:51
Thanks Debora, that's so interesting to hear how you went from your PhD to now AgroGrIN Tech company. Can you actually share a case study story of when you've helped a company to become more sustainable? And consider the key obstacles and lessons learned as well?

Debora 05:08
The first case study that we have helped a company was actually during PhD, because, I had to apply the assumptions that we were taking out during the PhD. So, the PhD was focused on pineapple byproducts. I'm from Portugal; we do not have a huge production of pineapple are from there. But this company was working with tropical fruits, they imported to Portugal, several tropical fruits, and they had a huge problem with pineapple by products because these represented at least 60% of total weight of the pineapple that was arriving to the company. So, the first company was Nuvi fruits, which is a fourth range factory of dehydrated fruits. So, we start working with them and at same time we were doing our process scale up with them, so it was a win-win situation: they had the by product, we had to test our solution within an industrial facility. So, we start with only one food byproduct, and we help them to generate these bromelain extract, which is an enzyme extract ever high value in the market. And then also the pineapple flower is an alternative to the flowers, which has gluten and also the juice from pineapple. So, this was the first company that we have helped. And I have some values to you that it was, this company, it's a small company, Portugal, but they have 365 tonnes of pineapple waste per year. So, we were able to help them to transform these value in 500 kilograms of bromelain extract, into 20 tonnes of gluten free flour and 21 ton of flavoured powder of pineapple. And this was a specific case study that was performed with them. And because of the success of helping a company being more sustainable, and for us to validate our assumptions after the PhD. It was difficult first time with this company because, as you said, I was in my PhD and for them, first to believe an idea and not see anything was difficult. And then we had some issues also regarding the scale up of the process. And at beginning also, this case study was performed around 2018, it was still a little bit difficult for companies to see so much value in the byproduct. So it was a change of mindset within the industry, within the the potential clients that we sent products, and also difficulties associated with the scale up of the process, which is a general thing associated with this.

Natalia 07:52
That's so interesting. Thank you so much for sharing with us today. And what would you say are the steps to consider when implementing a circular economy across the supply chain?

Debora 08:02
The main thing is to think that the food supply chain is a very complex system. It takes a lot of actors in the between. It is very difficult to say, okay, the food supply chain, it's already within the circular economy. But then when you have a complex system, you have a great amount of opportunities within. So when we start to talk about the sustainability within these systems was difficult, at least to traditional companies to accept these transition. But from our experience, I saw a difference within these companies. Throughout pandemic situation, they had time to get the knowledge about what is sustainability, what about the circular economy, about what are the next steps that we have to make to have our planet safe for the next years. And so, they changed their mindset and they accepted that things have to be done in a different way. Since that part of their mindset is already being changed, and they are looking for solutions, I think it's possible to achieve the circular economy food supply chain, but different actors we will have to interact with each other’s and accept some products and some solutions that are coming from other points. I think that it's much easier to be circular, add to the hand of the food supply chain with the consumers, with the supermarkets because the behaviour of the end user can be changed, but we are in the right path to change the other part- to change the behaviours of the farmers, to change the behaviours within the processing companies that have to change a lot of things, but also to change the way that we are transferring foods across the world and across the regions. So, I believe that it's a long path to run, but we already started. And I think that will be possible to have great advances in the next years.

Natalia 10:08
That's reassuring that you believe about these great advances coming to the industry, which actually brings to my next question. I wanted to ask: what are the industry whitespaces startups like yourself focusing on now? And how can the industry help to tackle this and the Sustainable Development Goals as well?

Debora 10:26
My experience and the knowledge of the market, there are a lot, a lot of companies that are working with the final consumer. So you have a lot of companies that are reusing foods that are coming from restaurants, for instance, apps that you can use to reuse some of the food that already is ever been produced. But I think that the main startup that I am watching in the same field that I am, it is actually to bring different ingredients and not so much to change the behaviour within the industries, because in general, that is also difficult than another's. So what I see in the market associated with the food supply chain, and the new startups are the ones that are bringing alternative foods to the market, let's say vegetable milks, let's say vegan foods. And all of these, they are targeting more the new dietary requirements, new ingredients that are being requested and not so much that is what we are doing as AgroGrIN Tech. But the main companies that I'm actually seeing in the market are to bring a new type of foods and ingredients to other requirements that population have. So, we need more companies that are bringing solutions to the products and foods that we already have and to solve several issues that we still have associated with food supply chain, such as the production, more sustainable production that's animals and plants, and everything within the production. And also, with this part of the food supply chain for them to be more sustainable and to have more appropriate, let's say behaviours, how to do it to change how they do it. I know that it's very important to have alternative type of foods, it's because the population in the world is increasing, as you know. But other things have to be done to change behaviours within the production that we already have. And still, we can have access to the foods that other people are used to. But the main trend, I believe that is the production of new type, new kinds of meals for the population.

Natalia 12:42
Before we wrap things up, do you have any final thoughts that you'd like to share with our listeners?

Debora 12:48
AgroGrIN Tech it is a startup, we are starting, but our main goal is to reach the market within great deal of clean label ingredients, which will promote the human health and wellbeing. So, if you are listening to us, I believe that you have to start to searching for more sustainable ingredients in foods. I would like to ask you to search for solutions like ours that are helping the world to have a more correct behaviour and to change the future of ourselves and our family. So, these is one of the things that I want to say. And also, to give an inspiration to all the people that are listening to us, that is, the difference. So, you can start today by helping the world be more sustainable and more green. And you can start by changing the way that you are eating today.

Natalia 13:43
Amazing, what a great way to end this show, leaving the businesses with action points to follow more sustainable practices. Thanks again, Debora for coming on the show today.

Debora 13:53
You're welcome. It was a great pleasure for me to be in here and share a little bit also about AgroGrIN Tech and current trends of the market. And thank you so much for the invitation Natalia.

Natalia 14:04
Thank you. Thank you also to our listeners for tuning in. If you are interested in learning more about AgroGrIN Tech make sure to check out their website hyperlink available in the show notes. And if you like our show, make sure to subscribe, follow the Vitafoods Insights podcast. And feel free also to recommend the show to any friends or colleagues you think would like it. Thank you for tuning in and see you soon.

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