The robust startups community in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are the new source of hope for the region to tackle its massive food waste issue. Wamda, a platform for entrepreneurs, has identified several leading startups – from Morocco to the UAE – that are addressing the inefficiencies in the local food system using innovative solutions.
The Wamda report cited that up to 250 kilograms of food per capita are discarded annually in the MENA region, adding that in Saudi Arabia about 427kg of food are wasted by an average person annually, while the UAE trails at 197kg per year. These two countries have now committed to reduce 50 per cent of their food waste and loss by 2030, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Jordan-based Decapolis, a startup which taps the latest technologies such as data analytics and blockchain, has taken the lead to tackle food waste issue at the farming stage. Through its system, farmers can enhance its produce of fruit and vegetables that meet global standards, and thereby cut on produce for export that is rendered non-compliant.
Another startup identified by Wamda is the EreoGo, a company based in the UAE which focuses on saving ‘ugly’, soon-to-expire, and surplus produce to get a makeover and be appreciated by consumers, and thereby saving them from being discarded. It aims to change the perception around ugly produce and offer a transparent platform for consumers to better understand their purchases and its impact on the environment.
In Saudi Arabia, a food preservation startup called Uvera offers a technology solution which uses ultraviolet rays to extend the shelf life of food. According to Wamda, the company targets to market an in-house built-in device for food providers, as well as a household version for individual users. Uvera looks to officially launch to the market in 2022.
Meanwhile, redistributing excess or rescued food is the focus of TeKeya, a social enterprise in Egypt which offers restaurants two ways to redistribute surplus food. One form is to sell the imperfect, untouched, yet healthy food on TeKeya’s application for half the original price, while another option is to subscribe to the startup’s model where they donate the food instead of selling it. In this approach, TeKeya supports restaurants in increasing their customer base as well as profits, while reducing food loss.
In Morocco, newly launched startup Foodeals operates similar to TeKeya by providing two food waste solutions through its app. Founded in 2020, it seeks to attract local food providers to offer discounted surplus food in Foodeals platform as well as connect with corporate, supermarkets, and food retailers through its B2B Foodeals Donate service.
While the journey is not always smooth for these entrepreneurs, Wamda noted that “effective steps to fight food waste require heavier partnerships between foodtech businesses, regulatory authorities, and every participant in the food supply chain”.