DAVE COOK AND SELOMON GOITOM:
DAVE: I have always had a strong interest in food security and have researched the subject for as long as I can remember. A few years ago, I was accepted as a researcher at the University of Cape Town to look into how African indigenous crops react to the changing climate. While I was there, it was interesting to see how there was almost no food waste in homes, in fact, I found that 90% of food was wasted or destroyed in production, quite often due to lack of refrigeration.
When I got back home to Bakewell – home of the Bakewell pudding (not tart)! – I was shocked and dismayed to discover that 70 percent of food waste here in the UK was created within the home. This was such a strong contrast to what I experienced in Africa, and hard to fathom.
I had been thinking about this for a while and had always had aspirations to have a business and work for myself. I had been looking for something like Launchpad. Seeing that I get paid £16k tax free and would also get an MA while starting my own business, it was the perfect opportunity.
I was put into a group with Selomon Goitom, who is my co-founder and also had a strong interest in food waste and security. Selomon is originally from Eritrea, and moved to the UK when he was 16 and qualified as a software developer.
SELOMON: I’ve always wanted to be in business, because I had been working in my family business from a young age and I’ve always had an interest in software and technology. I did an undergrad in computing and theology – I was the only person to do this at my university. But I work with my church and have a strong faith, so to me those seemed like the most natural subjects to put together. This probably is also what drives me to be helpful to my community. I later also got an Msc in Computing and it’s wonderful that it’s helping me now. I joined Launchpad primarily to start a business, the fact that I got a second Masters degree was a bonus.
DAVE: Our industry partners set us a food waste challenge and with Selomon’s tech background and my research, we were able to design and develop the Seefood app. It’s wonderful to be able to see the fruits (literally!) of our hard work on the App store and on Google.
At first, we created Seefood for students who we saw and talked with every day on the Penryn campus where we’re based. We found that most had no idea what to do with some of the things their parents had bought them from these huge grocery shops during Freshers’ week. But now, we’ve found interest from people across the board – especially families.
We’ve found we could save families £60 a month if they use our app and follow the tips – can you believe that is how much the average household wastes? (https://www.hubbub.org.uk/food-savvy – please link the word wastes with this link)
SELOMON: Food waste wasn’t at the top of my agenda initially. We’d been given three challenges by our industry partners but after research and working with my team, I found myself really changing how I related to food and waste. One statistic that really got my attention was 10 billion tonnes of food is thrown out a year according WRAP (https://wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Food_%20surplus_and_waste_in_the_UK_key_facts_Jan_2020.pdf ). This results in 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. This is costing the council millions of pounds to dispose of. Since doing the research, I have a strong desire to educate people, especially younger people who have a poor understanding of food. They’ve never had to ration after the war and the fact there is an abundance of cheap food – even if it is not healthy food – has made people complacent.
DAVE: We’ve found the lockdown has got people thinking more about their food and how we relate to it. More time cooking and less time eating out or grabbing a sandwich seems to have had an impact
We really want to have an impact too on people’s pockets and the environment and truly believe our app can do that. The world’s one billion hungry people could be fed on just a quarter of what we chuck in the bin (https://www.ozharvest.org/what-we-do/environment-facts/)
We’ve found that many people aren’t educated when it comes to food, and quite often, they’ve forgotten what’s in the fridge or larder. People just don’t know how to save the food they’ve bought and we want to end this destructive process with Seefood.
SELOMON: During the lockdown, we found that there might also be a market to create an online marketplace to help Cornish producers sell their products directly to consumers. For now, we’ll use third party software but long term, we’ll develop our own platform to do this. We also hope to upload consumers’ purchases to our app, which will help people also reduce their food waste.
DAVE: The app catalogues what is in your fridge and larder and will remind you when something is close to its use-by date. It also has 70,000 recipes built in so will suggest meal ideas for the products you have left. It even has a shopping list feature to help plan your meals before you go shopping and will also let users know if they are doubling up on a product they might already have. Bread, potatoes, milk and chicken are the most-wasted foods, but with helpful tips from the app, users find they could freeze the bread, create a chicken and potato casserole and use the milk for a dessert.
At the moment, this is entered manually, but soon we plan to have a feature where users can just take a picture of their shopping receipt and this just goes on the app.
What we’ve learnt is we can make a big change with small swaps in
our life, and we would love to share the knowledge we’ve gathered with the
Seefood app. It’s available on the App store and on Google right now, and more
about us is on the website https://seethefoods.com/ . Save food, save money and
save the planet – what could be better than that?