The COVID-19 virus has impacted every business, industry and sector, each in turn inspiring a domino effect onto the next, and the next. Take the food service industry. Its collapse has forced farmers across North America to throw out millions of pounds of unsold produce. The amount of food waste is staggering, especially considering the level of food insecurity faced by those more vulnerable in our society.

But one young Halifax-based company is stepping up, using its innovative processes to help mitigate the waste, making good use of good food.

 

T.J. Galiardi with Dr. Darren Burke, co-founders of Outcast Foods

 

On today’s special COVID podcast we speak with TJ Galiardi of Outcast Foods. He explains how his forward-thinking company is helping farmers ease an unprecedented burden brought on by the pandemic, one leaving them with an over-abundance of produce that they cannot sell.

TJ also shares the backstory of Outcast, its mission and the technology they developed that turns surplus fruits and vegetables into high value whole plant powders. And how he’s working with farms, food brokers and grocers, converting their misfit produce into natural health products, pet food and cosmetics, – and reducing food waste and decreasing greenhouse gases along the way.

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When former NHL star TJ Galiardi partnered with Dr. Darren Burke a few years ago, they were looking to create a line of whole plant powders for use in supplements. But their initial research led them to a supply chain with a heavy reliance on Chinese ingredients due to the high costs of North American goods – and tonnes of waste at every step. It wasn’t sustainable.

 

Misfit produce will not go to waste thanks to Outcast Foods

 

Consider this: in North America alone, there’s over $2 billion tonnes of food waste each year. Combine that with the ever-growing issue of food insecurity, and finding a way to overcome the challenge has become mission critical. So the vegan-friendly duo decided to carve a new entrepreneurial path that would allow them to tackle the staggering levels of food waste while developing a local alternative for their upcycled plant powders, one that would use produce found right here at home.

In 2017 Outcast Foods was born, with a mission of creating sustainable nutrition by altering the broken food system. The company is still young but the founders have already achieved significant acclaim and support for their work and cause.

 

Collecting imperfect produce to be upcycled at the Outcast facility

 

Here’s how it works: They acquire surplus or unsellable produce from large farm operations in the Halifax area as well as food wholesalers and national grocery store chains. Their zero-waste facility then upcycles that surplus produce into nutrient-rich, long shelf life whole plant powders for use in natural health products, meat alternatives, pet food and cosmetics. The good news is that significant nutritional value is retained during dehydration. And they’re tapping into that potential big time.

As it stands today, Outcast Foods is able to process hundreds of thousands of pounds of food monthly. With COVID-19, their production has obviously intensified. But even before the pandemic, the duo were in expansion mode, looking to build a new facility and recently closing a $3 million financing round. With a new facility in place, they’ll be able to process a million pounds of food per month, says Galiardi.

Time will tell when those plans will be ready to roll. For now, the founders remain steely focused on leveraging their innovative approach to food security, making a strong case for local ingredients, and helping local farmers in whatever way they can.

 


Elisa BirnbaumElisa Birnbaum is the publisher & editor-in-chief of SEE Change Magazine and the host of its podcast. She’s also the author of In the Business of Change: How social entrepreneurs are disrupting business as usual

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