Business management

Proud to Be: Ifeyinwa Kanu, founder of IntelliDigest

Dr Ifeyinwa Kanu, founder and CEO of IntelliDigest, tells us how she’s pioneering the elimination of food waste through the promotion of a circular economy in the food system.

Tell us about your business and what it does.

IntelliDigest works with businesses in the food system, from farm to fork, providing innovative technologies and helping them to understand next steps to address their sustainability gaps. We’ve seen from Covid-19 that we can’t maintain security within the food system. We want to see a future where the system can sustain shocks – to get food to most people in a sustainable way. 

“We know over 30% of greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to agri-food production because of the way we produce and distribute food. IntelliDigest harnesses digital technologies to measure, track and locate food, sustainably. This enables better management of resources and reduces waste. It also has a greater focus on the local production of food.” 

What motivated you to start?

“I’ve grown up loving nature and engineering and wanted to combine my curiosity for those things to help the natural ecosystem. Part of my PhD was looking at using advanced technologies to improve anaerobic processes for a more efficient waste treatment. That gave me a lot of insight into the issues and challenges in the sector. 

A shift in mindset about local food, nutrient consumption, and valuing food more is something I find exciting 

Dr Ifeyinwa Kanu
Founder and CEO, IntelliDigest

“I set up IntelliDigest in 2016 with the support of Heriot-Watt University. The key driver for me, through the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur, is the impact we can make in society on a global scale.” 

What have been the key challenges and opportunities so far?

“There is an opportunity to enable people and businesses to do more by thinking and acting on food-system sustainability. Preventing edible food waste, upcycling more inedible food waste into bio-nutrients and biochemicals for improved local food production means more people will have access to nutritious food and a healthy body. 

“Ultimately, we’re not just talking about an environmental issue, we’re talking about a public health issue as well. We want more people to be conscious of the quality of the food they eat. 

“The pandemic has been tough. We started off focusing on hotels and restaurants. When the Covid crisis started it gave us an opportunity to rethink what we were doing and how we were doing it. We established the Global Food Loss & Waste Tracker, an online platform designed to help households and businesses track food waste, prevent surplus (edible) food waste, and manage inedible food waste. Think of it as an online circular food system.”

Why are you proud to be a business owner?

“When I walk into my kitchen and experience the smell from decaying food waste in my caddy, I imagine the value that’s in the waste and am saddened by the health impact of doing nothing with such a valuable resource before it starts degrading. 

“It gladdens my heart that I am working with an amazing team to produce a solution that helps solve the problem that many households and businesses face. That we can end up feeding more people with less impact on the environment – the food we produce today is enough to feed people if only we can stop wasting it. A shift in mindset about local food, nutrient consumption, and valuing food more is something I find exciting.

“It’s time to measure, track and prevent edible and inedible food waste, end hunger and improve access to nutritious food for all.”

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