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Future Europe features a podcast episode from each of the EU’s 28 Member States. Each episode tells the story of a project that illuminates the way Europeans will live in the future. All the stories are told through the voices of people involved in the projects.
Banking on food waste factory
Alain Cracau is a man with a mission. “Instead of having a big debate on cultivating more land, let’s use what we have.”
He’s not an environmentalist or a food specialist. Cracau is a representative of Rabobank, a Dutch financial services company that has invested in this new food production facility in the city of Veghel.
“Everything here is reused, even the building,” he says of ‘360’, which was converted from an old shipping depot. “This center connects and creates solutions of food waste for entrepreneurs, for scientists, for students and for other companies. We need to rethink how we produce food, how we distribute food and how we consume food”.
Founded three years ago by Bob Hutten, a local entrepreneur, the 360 complex is primarily home to Verspillingsfabriek, a factory that transforms rejected or surplus food into fresh new products, such as soup and sauces.
Cut food waste in half
“We have two things”, Bob says, “first the food waste factory and second the food waste system, where we can help every company, every supplier, every retailer and educate people to get rid of food waste. Our belief is that when we work together we can get rid of 50% of food waste by 2030.”
Cracau uses an example of wastage incurred by high-street fast food chains to demonstrate the purpose of Verspillingsfabriek’s work. “Only the middle parts of the tomato are being used in the burgers”, he explains. “What do they do with the other parts of the tomato? Nothing. By rethinking the system, we can make something better for consumers, for producers and for farmers.”
Changing an entrenched system of food production is not cheap. The Verspillingsfabriek was able to take advantage of a special “impact loan” developed by the European Investment Bank in association with local partner Rabobank. The loan programme is aimed at small and medium-sized entreprises that specialize in sustainability and social impact.
Everybody is invited to the food waste factory
The Rabobank/EIB Impact Loan assisted the Verspillingsfabriek to:
- Build the ‘360’ Waste Hub to serve as both the HQ for food production and a collaborative work space for food experts
- Pioneer a revolutionary new system for tackling food waste, which helps other companies address their own surplus issues and finds fresh uses for formerly excess produce
- Make a range of products from food waste, including soups, sauces and beer, while also creating jobs for people who have had difficulty finding work
Alexander Smits, an EIB loan officer, says that joining up with a Dutch financial institution has helped the project succeed. “Rabobank is an excellent partner for us. They are well known in the Netherlands and can connect with small companies.”
Food waste factory makes social impact with disabled workers
Verspillingsfabriek is also concerned with providing more than just good food. It has also created jobs for people who have struggled to secure employment.
“Seventy percent of the people working here have disabilities”, explains Cracau, “but they still can cook, they can make food, they can package food. They are proud that they can make these products here.”
The factory hums with activity, churning out a range of products. Output has grown 150% in the past year alone to meet growing demand.
Founder Hutten believes his enterprise brings good food—and important social change, “This is an open system. I ask all the biggest companies, the smartest people to give time to think about food waste and to reconsider the system. For me, I can do something about it through this factory. It’s a small solution but I think it can grow.