AG TECH – Ugly fruit and vegetable waste solution

A new Sydney based Agtech startup business has created a platform to reduce the waste of ‘ugly,’ or oddly shaped fruit and vegetables discarded by growers and rejected by supermarkets. 

The CEO of ‘Imperfect Market’ will present the solution to a group of investors, government representatives and academics during the Everything IoT Food and Agriculture Forum 2019 in Sydney on Thursday.

Convener of the Agtech panel Eitan Bienstock, an Internet of Things and AI expert, said that the new company is one of eight finalists to win the opportunity to present to the highly-skilled panel.

Agtech is the marrying of agriculture with technology.

“Australia has a terrific opportunity to become the food bowl to Asia, particularly China,” said Bienstock. “But the way we are going to increase our produce is through investing in innovation and startup businesses,” he said.

Agtech finalist Charmaine Sam, the CEO of Imperfect Market, has told NE that she was appalled to learn that Australia discards about half of its precious, home grown produce.

Ugly produce

Sam and her partner, who ran a restaurant and struggled with the expense of produce, were inspired to create an e-commerce platform to buy ‘ugly’ produce direct from growers. They will sell it to commercial buyers including hotels, aged-care facilities and restaurants.

“We learned that 40 per cent of produce never leaves the farm gates because of its ugly appearance,” she added. “It’s a terrible waste.”

“Supermarkets reject the fruit or vegetables because consumers don’t want to buy a funny looking banana or apple, even though it may be of top quality and taste great,” she said.  “In one instance a grower had to throw out 90 per cent of his crop when 70 per cent was still useable.”

Bangalow Farmer Mark Coles, a happy participant in Imperfect Market.

Sam said growers were delighted with the initiative.

Another startup company Agronoeye has developed drones that generate 3D models of farms.

“A digital farm enables landowners to assess factors that might be limiting their efficiency,” said Sam. “We can also integrate any live sensor data and create fully digitized businesses.”

Agroneye drone. Credit: Agroneye

Other finalists have addressed issues such as early disease detection, supply chain tracking, livestock breeding and autonomous harvesting.

Bienstock said all the finalists will all receive support to grow their businesses. Tickets for the event are still available.