Burnaby’s Trendi Tech is cycling up its mission to automate food rescue

The robotics company recruited local metal fabricator Apollo to build a mobile food processor called BioTrim.

Trendi Tech BioTrim

Credit: Trendi Tech

The robotics company recruited local metal fabricator Apollo to build a mobile food processor called BioTrim

“As consumers, we don’t ever see the food that’s wasted at the farm level,” says Carissa Campeotto, co-founder and CMO at Burnaby-based robotics company Trendi Tech. A year after incorporating her business of upcycling misfit fruits and vegetables into shelf-stable products in 2019, she travelled 6,000 kilometres across the prairies with co-founder and CEO Craig McIntosh to take stock of how much fresh produce goes into the bin at Canadian farms.

Their findings? Around 800 pounds every 10 minutes.

At the time, both Campeotto and McIntosh were on a $3/day food budget. In wanting to automate food rescue, they recruited Surrey-based manufacturer Apollo Custom Manufacturing to help fabricate and assemble a mobile food processor in Vancouver.

In order to build the BioTrim processor, Apollo converted a shipping container to meet Trendi’s specifications, which asked for a unit that could be dropped onto a commercial transport trailer. Apollo incorporated Trendi’s cleaning and freeze-drying technology (which retains 97 percent of the nutrients, according to Campeotto) into the unit to allow it to dry and grind batches over a 24-hour cycle. The result is what Trendi calls BioFlakes—a powder that’s a tenth of the food’s original size and weight, and that’s fit for both human and animal consumption.

By setting high standards for fruit and vegetables, grocery stores in Canada often reject what farmers bring to the table. And that burden becomes heavy when a farmer doesn’t have the manpower to resell the misfits. As Campeotto puts it, the grocery community is comfortable with a wasteful buying strategy. “On average, grocery stores are buying 20 percent more than they need so their shelves don’t look empty,” she says.

Depending on the size of the BioTrim unit, the technology can process anywhere from 300 to thousands of kilograms of food per day. Trendi is trying to create the opportunity for farmers to resell otherwise wasted food and for companies to be more sustainable about their products.

“I’ve gone to many different conferences this year for agriculture and the number one leading conversation in every agriculture community is mental health at the farm level,” Campeotto adds. “We think our food system is delicate right now. We think the cost of our food is expensive today. But what will it be in two to three years when more and more farms are closing down and nobody wants to do that work or take that risk?”

For Trendi, nipping waste in the bud means prioritizing farmers and producers. Its intention with BioTrim is to build macro facilities in agricultural superclusters in B.C. (and beyond) that can process community-level waste instead of each farmer buying a unit themselves. Permanent units are already set to launch in Ecuador this year.

Trendi has raised some $10 million since 2021 in its mission to stabilize the risks and challenges within our current food system. It rescued over 120,000 kilograms of “misfit” puree in an earlier project that deployed smoothie vending machines at YVR and other locations throughout B.C.

The impact of transforming a low-value commodity that nobody wants into high-value goods trickles down to the bottom line. “We’re able to get this product at low value, make a partnership with a producer and then share profits together,” says Campeotto. “We’re providing affordable food with the highest nutrient value, and that’s the goal.”