Transforming bio-waste into a product: these students did it in 2 days!

Transforming bio-waste into a product: these students did it in 2 days!

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On 28 and 29 September 2021, the second edition of the Generation Food Makeathon took place. For two days, a multidisciplinary group of students worked on prototypes of food products based on food waste. The winning group came up with a product that was as tasty as it was surprising.

Generation Food is an initiative of Rikolto, the Province of Flemish Brabant, PROEF, Boerenbond, KU Leuven and UCLL. It’s a movement that brings together young people with fresh entrepreneurial ideas who are taking steps towards sustainable and healthy food for all. The makeathon is the ideal formula for this. It’s a variant of a hackathon, with a greater focus on prototyping.

Just like last year, UCLL students of Nutrition and Dietetics, Business Management and Applied Computer Science joined forces with Bioengineering students from the KU Leuven to tackle the challenge of processing food waste into new products. They worked on concrete cases and on the by-products provided by Casibeans, BoerEnCompagnie and Hof ter Vrijlegem. Respectively, these red beans, spelt bran and apple slices, all grown locally and still perfectly edible.

Crash course

Going through the entire product development process in just two days is not an easy task. So on the first day of the Makeathon, each student received a booklet of methodologies and tips and tricks to facilitate the start of the creative process.

The day started with a crash course on food waste. Loïck Bekaert of FoodWIN broadly explained the problem of food waste, and Rikolto’s colleague Liesbeth Van Meulder introduced the Green Deal Eiwitshift (Green Deal Protein Shift). The Deal is a commitment by the Flemish government and other organisations to encourage the consumption of more vegetable protein and less animal protein. This goal was perfectly in line with two of the specific cases of the makeathon because both red beans and spelt bran are excellent sources of vegetable protein.

To make the leap into practice, we could count on two entrepreneurs. Shinji Mievis, who was part of last year's winning team Délicé, showed his fellow students how Délicé turns the surplus from processing cranberries into a delicious granola.

Afterwards, Gita Van den Boer, CEO of the Chalo Company connected virtually with the students to explain how Chalo contributes to the protein shift through the production of pea snacks. She also gave practical tips on how to successfully launch a new product on the market and how to start a business.

Real cases

After this enriching introduction, the Makeathon finally started. The representatives of Casibeans, BoerEnCompagnie and Hof ter Vrijlegem outlined in more details the type of by-products they brought. Thanks to their explanations students got a clearer idea of the ingredients to be used and made their choice, picking one of the cases. The facilitators made sure that students with different study backgrounds were equally distributed among the groups in order to encourage mutual learning.

I really didn’t know what to expect and I certainly didn’t know what would have been my role in my group. But it went smoothly, and I am already looking forward to getting to work and trying out our idea in the kitchen tomorrow.

Lise Nutrition and dietetics student

After an hour of discussion and brainstorming, the students had to make up their minds and focus on one idea. It was time to prepare a business plan, which was uncharted territory for many of them. For this reason, lecturers in Business Management were attending the event and ready to guide them. Also the presence of Business Management and Applied Computer Science students helped their peers during the process.

To enhance peer-to-peer exchanges we ended the day with a 'world café'. Each group chose a representative to present and promote their idea to the other groups. The students gave and received feedback from their colleagues and strengthened their own concept.

It is incredibly interesting to bring together the creative minds of our young students from different disciplines. Through the Makeathon, they learn to work together and to sharpen their knowledge of sustainable food. I am curious to find out which interesting start-up(s) will emerge from this initiative. We firmly believe that entrepreneurs who endeavour to deliver sustainable food products based on (protein-rich) by-products should be supported.

Robrecht Van Goolen Coordinator UCLL StartMinds

The second day consisted of two parts. First, the students got into the kitchen to bring their idea to life. They experimented with different ingredients to create the ideal recipe. They then had a crash course in branding and pitching from UCLL lecturers Robrecht Van Goolen, Anouk Vermeyen and Karl Magnus of PROEF.

The students applied the lessons learnt to the presentation of their final results at the end of the day. Each group presented a prototype, a pitch and a business plan. These were the six concepts developed:

  • Prappeline: A praline with apple filling.
  • Poeier: A finely ground apple powder, ideal for flavouring cakes, for example.
  • HIB: A filling snack made from spelt bran.
  • Spelty Bar: A healthy bar based on spelt bran.
  • Béfri: A chip snack made from red beans, as a vegan alternative to frying.
  • Amamé: A chocolate spread made from red beans.

The jury has the last word!

Then the jury made its entrance. It consisted of Amy Verbeke (Robin Food), Gil Op de Beeck (FoodWIN), Hilde Wynen (Alimento) and Carline Vuylsteke (Head of Studies in Business Management at UC Leuven-Limburg).

Each group presented his concept. The jury was a real stickler for details, asking a lot of difficult questions. Then it was time to crown a winner... the jury unanimously chose the Amamé chocolate spread. The innovative idea and the excellent taste of the product convinced the jury.

Over the next few months, the Food Technology students will continue working on the concept, and during the second semester they’ll further develop the business plan to bring the product to the market. We are already looking forward to the final result.

Author: Ouafae Salmi

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