MyAgenda: Iseult Ward

FoodCloud is a social enterprise connecting businesses that have surplus food with local charities and community groups, helping ensure no edible food goes to waste. Ireland-founded, it works in the UK through 1,000 Tesco stores and Waitrose. Co-founder and chief executive Iseult Ward takes our 10-question Q&A test.

Iseult WardWhat’s top of your agenda for change?

“Reducing food waste. Globally, over 30% of food that is produced goes to waste and at the same time, one in eight people do not have enough to eat. It makes no sense that we use scarce natural resources, such as land and water, to grow food that ends up in the bin, especially when there are people that are hungry.”

What are you doing about it?

“We have developed a software platform that enables businesses that have surplus food to connect directly with charities in their local communities. We work with retailers such as Tesco, Aldi and Waitrose to provide an alternative to throwing good food away. To date, we have facilitated the redistribution of the equivalent of over 14 million meals to charities across the UK and Ireland.”

How did you find yourself doing what you do now?

“When I was in my third year at Trinity College in Dublin, I met Aoibheann O’Brien, co-founder of FoodCloud, at an event. We got talking about how much food is wasted and how there was little happening in Ireland to solve this problem. This inspired us both to take action and we began to form a solution. FoodCloud was born.”

How is technology helping you to secure the change you want?

“Technology has allowed us to approach the problem of food waste in a new way – we can now match businesses directly with charities in their local communities so that good food can be rescued and redistributed to those in need. Real-time information and notifications enable streamlined and simple communications, saving time for businesses and charities. We can also trace the food from the food business to the charities ensuring good food safety management systems are in place.”

What’s the project you’ve worked on that has made the most difference to date?

“Our technology enables ‘smart donations’, donations enabled by technology and supported by people. To scale our solution into the UK, we partnered with FareShare, the UK’s largest food redistribution charity. Through our platform, they have redistributed 20% more food in 2016 than 2015. It was amazing to see what we could achieve by combining the strengths of two organisations that share a vision.”

What’s the biggest challenge for people wanting to make a difference through technology?

“All technology startups face similar challenges when they are starting up – getting the right team in place and the resources needed to grow.”

What technologies are you most exciting about in this space right now?

“There are a lot of interesting technologies in the food tech space at the moment – one we have been watching closely are the technologies that will replace best-before and use-by dates on food. We waste a lot of food because of the expiration date that is printed on the label – even though it could still be perfectly fit for human consumption. A smarter solution for expiration dates that notifies you when the food is actually no longer safe for human consumption would prevent food going to waste in stores and at home and would allow more good food to be redistributed to those in need.”

What would you have done differently in your work looking back?

“We would not have done anything different. Our biggest lessons have been from our mistakes and they were worth learning.”

What’s your piece of advice to people looking to do good through digital?

“Always understand the problem that you are trying to solve and make sure that you talk to the people who will be using the technology. We spent a lot of time in the back of stores and talking to charities to really understand what the challenges for them were and develop a solution that addressed these problems.”

DA WINNER logoIn March you won a 2017 DigitalAgenda Impact Award. What impact does that make on your work?

“We are honoured and proud to receive the DigitalAgenda Impact Award. The award is great recognition for how technology can make a difference in communities and is a huge stamp of approval. It has already raised our profile in the UK more than anything we could have done ourselves and we have been offered great opportunities as a result.”