Humans waste around 1.3 billion tonnes of food each year – that’s enough to fill around two-thirds of Lake Eerie. Agriculture contributes almost a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and over a quarter of humans suffer from food insecurity.
These are huge, epic problems – and the wheelhouse of Californian food-tech startup Treasure8. Its co-leaders, Timothy Childs and Derk Hendriksen, are used to massive challenges – whether helping build NASA’s space shuttle or leading sustainability at a behemoth like The Coca-Cola Company.
Treasure8’s patented SAUNA dehydration technology turns potential waste into nutritious, healthy food and ingredients for humans and animals. SAUNA doesn’t just fight food waste: it’s a revolution against modern food lacking nutrients, abundant in empty calories and promoting what the company calls “diabesity.”
Treasure8’s GroundRules chips use a variety of waste and virgin food streams, while its pet food uses the so-called “pomace” left over from the vegetable juicing process. More recently the firm did a run for COVID-19 relief, producing nutrient-rich powders from excess produce.
“When we process virgin sources, we still reduce environmental impact given our systems are lower energy as well as take less time than other main solutions in the industry,” says co-CEO Childs.
“The point is, our purpose as a company is and has always been to deploy nutrition to humanity and one of the key pillars in cracking the code for delivering more nutrition per dollar is to utilize as much food waste as possible to bring down costs.”
It’s been eight years since Treasure8 began in San Francisco. This year the company has decided to take its food revolution abroad, partnering with London-based PA Consulting. The startup already has an office in Amsterdam. Now, it is eyeing markets far further afield.
“Regenerative agriculture, prioritizing nutrition over calories, and purpose-driven businesses that focus on the triple bottom line—people, planet and profit—have a long history in Europe, and that’s what we have taken much inspiration from for our business,” says Childs, echoing the ‘triple bottom line’ coined by John Elkington in 1994.
Europe is a chief culprit when it comes to food waste. The 27 EU states contribute 88 million tonnes to the problem annually, weighing in at a cost of around $167bn – around the same as the union’s annual revenue. Around 10% of the bloc’s population is food-insecure. Germany, its largest nation, has pledged to halve its own food waste deficit by 2030, as the European Green Deal lurches up its list of priorities.
But Treasure8 isn’t setting its sights on one particular market. “Each European nation has too much food waste as it is now, so it’s not about going where the largest mountains of food waste are: they are everywhere,” says Childs.
“Where we will go is determined by which corporate and governmental partnerships are most motivated to move quickly and scale up with us as fast as possible. This is all part of our mission to lead a resource revolution – we know this won’t be done overnight as there are billions of kilos of food wasted annually around the world, and luckily now there are many companies working on specific solutions.
“However, the time for incrementalism is over and we need large scale, step-function changes to ensure we can deliver more tasty nutrition to those who need and want it -especially during this time of COVID-19 crisis,” adds Childs. “It is only going to get worse so we all must accelerate the efforts we make.”
PA Consulting has a long track record of scaling businesses globally. Working across several verticals, the British company has assisted brands as diverse as the UK’s National Crime Agency, US additive producer Milliken and the City of Calgary. As soon as Treasure8 visited PA’s Global Innovation and Technology Centre in Cambridge, a partnership was on the cards.
“It quickly became clear that Treasure8’s transformational food technology platform was highly effective and eminently scalable, able to preserve more nutritional value of dried food products than conventional methods, and also able to upcycle surplus produce and food into highly nutritious products and ingredients,” says PA Consulting’s Wil Schoenmaker.
“A mutually beneficial partnership ensued, to realize our joint ambitions in sustainability and nutrition, combining Treasure8’s technology and PA’s global network of CPGs (consumer packaged goods) and end-to-end innovation skills.”
Childs and Hendriksen are well-prepared to launch a successful food revolution in Europe. They will first target countries that are “mission-aligned…where we are collaborating with the CPG industry, governments and other stakeholders to bring significant amounts of nutrition to people in affordable ways, including through national food reserves.
“This is why a strong partnership with a leading global scale-up company like PA Consulting is a great accelerator for this effort,” he adds. “They know what they are doing in areas we don’t, and are mission-aligned. That’s a recipe for success in the making.”