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Author Sarah Kirton
Sarah Kirton
Created on Nov 22nd, 2022
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IntelliDigest 2023: Pioneering Global Food System Sustainability

Dr. Ifeyinwa Kanu, Founder & CEO of IntelliDigest, gives us some insights into the current state of the food system and explains just how important it is that change is made, and the role IntelliDigest can play.

What inspired IntelliDigest?

I love nature and am passionate about engineering solutions to make the world a better place by addressing global challenges.

Currently, we’re facing diverse challenges in the food system. Malnutrition is a key factor in the rate of death that we experience in the world today. One in five people die of malnutrition.

In addition to malnutrition and obesity, we also have major issues with food waste. It’s really important that we eliminate edible food waste while enhancing nutrient recovery from inedible food waste. These bio-nutrients will enhance food production rather than using it in anaerobic digestion for energy generation, sending it down the drain or dumping it into landfill.

What services does IntelliDigest offer?

We’ve developed innovations around circularity to eliminate edible food waste (iSaver) and enhance the recovery of bio-nutrients from inedible food waste (iDigest) at the earliest possible time.

Our food system sustainability programme is offered on subscription to improve the knowledge of stakeholders in the food system and provide them with resources to track their scope 1 and 3 emissions through the world food-tracker platform. We encourage large organizations to onboard their supply chain to the platform to benefit from this. More details can be found on our site.

In addition, the Food System Sustainability Index (FSI), a special analytical tool built to UNFAO standard, will enable companies to access their sustainability profile so that they can continue to measure, track and improve on their sustainability.

What are your core values and how do you promote them?

Our core values are centered on innovation, excellence and impact. We promote these through technology, innovations, and capacity building.

We strive for excellence. We continuously search to deliver the best possible solutions to food system sustainability challenges. In pursuit of excellence we’re guided by the six pillars of sustainability – purpose, people, peace, partnerships, planet, and profitability.

Innovation and excellence can only be truly effective when they create measurable, sustainable impacts. Our cutting-edge research and innovative solutions are enabling businesses in the food system. Through knowledge exchange and capacity building, we’re providing awareness on measures to address food system sustainability challenges to stakeholders and policy makers in the food system.

How do you train others to bring about change?

Together with experts from industry, academia and policy making, we’ve developed the Food System Sustainability Master Classes which are focused on providing stakeholders in the food system with vital insights on sustainability and how their business can understand, measure, improve and communicate their sustainability.

Through the AgriFood TechPreneur programme, we support young graduates to address food system sustainability challenges in their countries, working with universities and financial institutions.

We support students who come through our company as interns or employees to improve on their skill set and also help them to rethink their relationship with food. Every young person that’s come through our company, from whatever discipline – engineering, biotechnology,  genetics, food science, marketing, law, science, software development –  has developed a different mindset about food, learnt about food system sustainability and what the food system challenges encompass. 

How have your partnerships impacted the industry?  

It’s critical for the future of the food system that young people take responsibility and lead the transformation. Through the Global AgriFood TechPreneur programme, we partner with international organizations to highlight the food system challenges and explore how we can work together to solve them.

We also work with financial institutions, looking at how we can access more sustainable finance to help young people play a part in this food system change. 

By collaborating with universities on the AgriFood TechPreneur programme, we help young people leverage scientific mentoring and access to research facilities where it’s needed, whether it be running a feasibility study, or to validate their business plan. This supports and derisks starting up and scaling up a business for these young graduates, enabling them to lead the food system transformation. This is a fantastic partnership.

How can we, as individuals, contribute?

This is a crucial question. When we go on holiday we plan everything – budgeting, flights, accommodation, visits etc. This is what we need to be doing when it comes to eating.

Currently, we simply go to supermarkets and buy whatever we see without giving a thought to anything else. There’s no planning in any part of the food system! Farmers, for example, plant whatever crop is going to bring them the best yield without thinking about how to restore the soil.

The Plan to Save Campaign is a call for everyone across the food system to react and do things differently. It’s about you and me planning what we eat, using the resources around us better, understanding nutrient content…finding that balance between demand and supply.

How difficult has it been to convince government agencies to get behind this?

I’m speaking at the Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum in February. It’s a great opportunity to discuss all these food system issues and possible solutions. 

Governments, councils and companies are listening, and it’s a change that will have to take place. The UN Food Systems Summit that just took place will see a massive movement in the right direction, leading to a great transformation in the food system.

How do you see the future of the food system and sustainability?

The food system will be more circular. There’ll be a greater focus on the basic purpose of food, which is to supply nutrients to sustain us while keeping us healthy. This shift will lead to a preference for local and nutritious food produced through proper planning that’s built on extensive data insight from consumer demand. 

As we move towards renewable energy, the cost of fertilizer will continue to increase. It was cheap in the past because it’s a byproduct of oil and gas. Hence, the need to source bio-nutrients for food production to address the increased cost and potential shortage. This will require a rethink in how we source nutrients for food production. Ultimately, we can no longer continue to do business as usual.

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