BC company, Trendi, is using robotics and innovation to help drive a global food rescue movement
By Jessica Brill
Can you imagine a world where food is not wasted, where it’s sustainably produced and accessible to everyone? Craig McIntosh and Carissa Campeotto sure can. They’re walking the walk, tapping into their over 45 years of combined food and hospitality experience to make change.
Their company, Trendi, located in British Columbia, is using robotics and innovation to start a global food rescue movement. And with over 40 Canadians on their team (and growing), they’re on their way to tackling this global crisis.
With 2.5 billion tonnes of food going to waste each year and 800 million people food-deprived, waste is not a new problem for the foodservice industry. But for McIntosh and Campeotto, it’s time to address it head-on.
Craig and Carissa
Craig grew up in kitchens as a chef, experiencing the culinary industry “from top to bottom and left to right.” Always the innovator, he left Montreal and ventured to British Columbia, looking for his next challenge and a way to make a difference. “I met Carissa and everything seemed to become clear,” Craig said of finding his true calling.
Carissa started in hospitality at 14 years old, working her way up and going to college for hospitality management, followed by an internship in Spain. In her mid 20s, she went from cold juice to cannabis to digital marketing, eventually taking some time off to re-assess her path. Zeroing in on what she wanted, she embarked on a partnership with McIntosh.
Trendi is an upcycling company using revolutionary technology to rescue food before it’s wasted and to make that food accessible. In 2019, McIntosh and Campeotto joined forces, combining their ingenuity with their vision for change, and Trendi was born.
Launching about two weeks before the pandemic hit, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. “Much like our fruit, we were crushed by COVID-19,” joked McIntosh. “But it was then we realized we were on to something.” And they weathered the storm, embracing the adventure and continuing to innovate through it all.
In the beginning
The two recognized early on that there was an opportunity to use technology to bring consumers fresh, convenient, healthy options using rescued produce. To address this need, they created The Smoothie Machine, a robotic vending machine serving made-to-order products from upcycled fruits and veggies.
Next came the BioTrim, a first-of-its-kind mobile processing system using robotics right at the site to freeze-dry rescued foods while they’re at their freshest. It even has an application for upcycling inedible organics, like eggshells, so nothing is wasted.
This process creates unique ingredients, such as a a freeze-dried, shelf-stable version of produce at one-tenth its original weight and size. These ingredients can be used for drinks, packaged food, pet food, and even textiles, so they lend themselves well to companies interested in rescuing food and making a hefty profit at the same time. This technology extends food life from days to years, retaining up to 97 per cent of the food’s nutrients and flavour, and decreasing up to 90 per cent of transportation and storage cost of food.
Trendi has lofty goals, but they are making progress, securing over 11 million dollars in investment to help scale their company. They’ve built a team to be proud of, too. “We are super proud and motivated every day by the amazing people on our team who go after what they believe is right, in their personal lives and their work. It’s pretty magical,” said McIntosh.
A global approach
Trendi is thinking big, with plans in the works right now to close the gap on food shortage, and they’re gaining traction with producers and governments globally. “We should all be ashamed of the number of starving children there are in the world. We’re starting with Vancouver because we believe that it’s the perfect launching ground and we are working with our global brothers and sisters to help with relief programs all over the world,” said McIntosh.
It starts with the farmers. Right now, $370 billion worth of food is wasted globally at the farm stage alone. “We all need to be far more responsible and work with our farmers to find solutions. While some farms are indeed rescuing food, they are still shipping them miles and miles to get that done. Our technology can be used right on-site at the farm, with farmers providing the inputs, where it’s transformed right on-site to be sold to all kinds of industries,” explained Campeotto.
What do they want to see? A ‘rescue solution’ for farmers, restaurants, and consumers, celebrating upcycling with food labels like ‘40 per cent of these ingredients were rescued’. And they’re hoping this encourages chefs and kitchens to accept a way of life where they use freeze-dried products in place of fresh produce for things like soups, smoothies, cocktail applications, and more.
Campeotto described the flavours of these products as really tasty for the consumer, providing that extra bit of texture, explaining that chef and culinary adoption is a very important part of the process. For the kind of future that Trendi imagines, kitchens need to see the value of using dried ingredients to extend food life, and save storage space and transportation costs, without sacrificing taste.
The future of Trendi
Sales are important, of course, but Trendi is not just after a profit. These forward-thinkers have combined their passion for change with revolutionary technology. A rescued market is coming to the foodservice industry, according to McIntosh and Campeotto, and they are at the forefront.
“We want to change the story to one where we rescue, recapture, and redistribute that food,” said Campeotto. By working with all levels of foodservice, including distributors, they could keep track of the fruits and vegetables being rescued, know how many people are being fed, and gain enough data to build a large team to model these sustainability opportunities.
Solutions like Trendi’s are the way of the future, changing the foodservice industry for farmers, chefs, and consumers. As the food rescue movement grows, Trendi is leading the charge to see a world with less waste, sustainably produced food, and accessibility for everyone.
What does Trendi’s future mission look like? McIntosh summed it up succinctly. “Change is coming. Our mission is clear: we are working towards creating a world where we feed people, stop food waste, and close the gap on disparity forever.”
Photos courtesy of Trendi