Hands of brewer in rubber gloves holding milled malt grains

Food champions: 8 companies underpinning Vancouver’s circular food system

Circular food systems make the most of the food we have while regenerating natural systems

An important element of these circular economy of food systems is ensuring that waste does not exist – that all by-products or surplus become feedstock for another cycle. There is much work to be done, with 35.5 million megatonnes of food wasted in Canada each year, and one in eight Canadian households experiencing food insecurity (for more, read our Guide to a Just Circular Economy of Food in Vancouver).

Thankfully, there are several food heroes building a path towards a circular economy of food in Vancouver. These businesses support food or nutrient recovery while helping to address household hunger and food insecurity and reducing food going to landfill. Keep reading to meet seven local businesses that are championing sustainable food systems in Vancouver.

Upcycled food (for consumption in a circular economy food system)

Upcycled foods are made from ingredients that would otherwise have ended up in a food waste destination. By avoiding these destinations, upcycled food makes better use of the energy expended in growing, transporting, and preparing that food.

Goodly Foods logo

Goodly Foods makes food using surplus produce that would have otherwise gone to waste while creating accessible living-wage jobs. CEO and co-founder Aart Schuurman Hess started Goodly Foods when the food bank he was working at received 9,000 kilograms of donated bananas. Given how quickly bananas spoil, he and his team used part of the donation to bake banana bread – and the idea of Goodly was born. Since then, the company has become a certified Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) food processor, launched a lineup of soups and expanded distribution across Canada.

Trendi logo
Trendi uses robotics to help the farm and food industry rescue and upcycle food waste into convenient and healthy food products. The company was started by a professional chef and restaurateur and a cold-pressed juice and smoothie entrepreneur who are determined to reduce the 58 percent of food that is wasted or loss in Canada every year. Recently, Trendi launched a rescued ingredients line at SXSW 2023 that features nutritious, sustainable and shelf-stable powders and purees made from rescued fruits and vegetables.

Susgrainable logo
Susgrainable creates upcycled baking mixes and barley flour from leftover spent grain used to make beer at local breweries. The company was started by a duo who first shared their new product at a Vancouver farmers’ market in 2018. Today, Susgrainable is stocked in 47 stores with spent grain baking mixes spanning chocolate chip cookies, pancakes and waffles, and banana bread.

Ono Vancouver logo
Ono Vancouver is the brainchild of TJ Conwi, whose culinary curiosity led him to kitchens around the world, including in Taiwan, Chile and Vancouver. Applying his passion for West Coast and Asian cuisine to organic, local and sustainably sourced meals, TJ supports small- to medium-size business food programs with clients ranging from breweries to local chain restaurants, to startups and charities. Ono’s community endeavours are plentiful. For example, at the onset of the pandemic the organization used surplus food to craft thousands of meals for the Vancouver community; the initiative has evolved into ReRoot, the city’s first chef-run surplus food hub. Consider contacting TJ for your next catered event!

Nutrient recovery (for feedstocks in a circular economy of food system)

Nutrient recovery refers to diversion practices applied to food or organic material that is no longer edible by people or animals, but which still holds nutritional value as feedstocks for agricultural purposes.

ReFeed logo
ReFeed, a Langley-based centre of excellence and innovation in food waste recovery, transforms unused food and food industry waste into nutrition for people, livestock, and the soil. In 2022, the company diverted more than 4.5 million kilograms of food waste from landfill. It also introduced a range of products – made from its proprietary worm farm – to help growers and farmers improve the health of their soil crops. ReFeed is featured in the new documentary Rethinking Food, which highlights the company’s efforts to redirect excess and unused product to community members facing food insecurity.

West Coast Reduction logo
West Coast Reduction provides safe, environmentally friendly recycling solutions for farms, feedlots, restaurants, butcher shops and supermarkets with by-products that have nowhere else to go. The family-owned operation was founded over 50 years ago as a single butcher shop; since then, it has evolved into Western Canada’s largest independent rendering company. Every year, West Coast Reduction recycles one billion pounds of raw material and 62 million pounds of used cooking oil; rendering these materials has the same effect on greenhouse gas emissions as removing 150,000 cars from the road annually.

Terraforma Systems logo
Terraforma Systems designs and develops an odor-free, closed-loop, on-site food composter machine to help organizations streamline and simplify value recovery. The company was founded by passionate environmentalists who are also engineers and scientists; they are keenly cognizant that the quickest way to transition organizations from a linear economic model to a circular one is to boost their balance sheet. Whether its T-Rex Composters, which transform organic waste to immature compost onsite, or TFS IQ, a data analytics and climate reporting platform that measures and quantifies organic waste data, Terraforma promotes cost-savings and efficiencies as key complementary benefits to environmental protection.

Takachar logo
Takachar is on a mission to reduce emissions by transforming agricultural and forestry waste biomass into marketable products such as solid fuel, fertilizer, and other specialty chemicals. The company patented the design of small-scale, low-cost, portable equipment to convert waste biomass – a system that is more profitable than sending waste biomass to centralized conversion facilities. In 2021, the company was presented with the Earthshot Prize in the Clean Air category, worth £1 million, as well as the Carbon Dioxide Removal Demonstration student category, worth CA$1.9 million, presented by Elon Musk’s XPrize and Musk Foundation.

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