How might we reduce food waste from businesses in Victoria?

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and Sustainability Victoria

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Food waste is estimated to cost the Australian economy around $20 billion annually.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Sustainability Victoria (SV) are calling on startups to help businesses reduce food waste.

This challenge is a great opportunity to implement a circular economy solution to help farms, food manufacturers, hospitality and retail businesses reduce food waste, save money or generate new revenue streams, and contribute to a sustainable future.

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What is the problem?

Victoria is growing rapidly and it is estimated that Victoria’s waste generation will increase by about 40 per cent within the next 25 years.

Victoria generates over 2 million tonnes of food waste each year. In 2018 food waste was the second-largest stream of waste sent to landfill, after construction and demolition waste. Far from just being a Victorian problem, it is estimated that 30 per cent of all food produced globally is lost or wasted before it is eaten.

Food producers, manufacturers, hospitality and distribution businesses generate over 1.4 million tonnes of food waste annually and, depending at which stage in the food supply chain this waste occurs, huge quantities are left unharvested on farms, sent to the sewer or landfilled.

There are significant gains to be made from implementing circular economy principles and practices in material-intensive sectors like food production and manufacturing, farming and agriculture.

What is a circular economy?

A circular economy seeks to reduce the environmental impacts of production and consumption through better use of natural resources. Businesses can avoid waste through good design; shifting to more efficient business models that encourage intense and efficient use of resources; or by transforming mindset—or the take, use and throw away mentality.

What are they looking for in a solution?

We are looking for solutions that help food production, manufacturing, farming and agriculture businesses create less waste. Specifically, we are looking for solutions that will:

Ultimately solutions should help these businesses contribute to our sustainable future by offering them innovative ways to reduce waste, save money or potentially generate new revenue streams.

We are looking for solutions that use innovative methods, digital or emerging technologies to:

What is out of scope?

There’s some action already happening in this space and we’re trying to break new ground. This means we are not looking for household waste solutions, awareness or education campaigns, food recycling solutions, off-the-shelf food waste processing technologies or solutions to distribute food as animal feed.

Who are the customers and end-users?

Food manufacturing businesses (food and beverage manufacturing)

Victorian food manufacturers generate significant volumes of food waste including waste sent to sewer, compost or landfill. Often this represents a cost to these businesses (to dispose of waste) or a loss of valuable resources (food inputs, time, water, energy etc). Significant sectors in the food manufacturing area that generate waste include cheese and yoghurt manufacturers, fruit & vegetable sorting facilities, and grain, nut (e.g. almonds) and wine processing. Many larger organisations have sustainability frameworks that include reducing waste. The Australian Food and Grocery Council run a sustainability working group with leaders of many Australian food manufacturers.

Food hospitality businesses (cafes, restaurants, pubs, clubs, bars, take-away, catering)

Food hospitality businesses generate waste in a variety of ways including when customers do not finish meals, when purchased food expires before it is used, when food is produced but not sold on the day, when food is prepared that generates inedible food waste (peels, seeds, bones etc). Over 40 per cent of waste generated by these businesses is food and approximately 65 per cent of this food waste is avoidable and edible.

Agricultural food producers (farms)

Victorian farms generate a large volume of food waste that is generally managed on farms. Food waste on farms are created during harvest or post-harvest and food can be left unharvested, buried on the land or composted. It can also be created due to a lack of profitable end markets or costs to harvest. Almost all food that is wasted on farms is edible and can be avoided.

What help is available to co-design the solution?

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Sustainability Victoria (SV) can provide deep expertise on the current waste system, policy and program approach to reduce food waste and current limitations.

SV also has a good baseline on food waste data in the commercial sector and the selected startup will have access to the waste data team. Additionally, SV can provide networks within the food sector including organisations that reduce, rescue, redistribute or recycle food waste in addition to technical experts at universities and other research organisations.

What is the opportunity for the successful startup?

This challenge would have up to $185,000 in funding which includes:

How does CivVic Labs work?

At CivVic Labs, we go out to government departments and agencies and look for big problems that would benefit from new technology.

These challenges are broadcast to the Victorian startup ecosystem and the best solutions progress to an accelerator experience where you develop a Minimum Viable Product in collaboration with a government customer.

At the end of the program, you're in the running to secure up to $185k to fully develop the solution and we support you along the way with co-working space, coaching, workshops and mentoring.

For more on how this works, head here.


Contact us at or check out our FAQs page.

And if you missed our Information session on the 23rd of June 2020, you can watch it here.

To view the presentation for this challenge, go to time; 28.07.

Further resources

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