Introducing Turkish start-ups: Fazla Gıda

Currently, Fazla Gıda raised a new series of investment and  planning to expand into Europe very soon

Fazla Gıda is a start-up focused on addressing waste food. As you know zero hunger is one of the issues of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Fazla Gıda is a social start-up in solving waste food issue. Having founded by Olcay Silahlı, CEO, and Arda Eren, CTO, in 2017, the company saved 19.000 tons of food. To reach its targets, Fazla Gıda is collaborating with restaurants, hotels, dining halls, food retailers and distributors. “Thanks to our cloud-based infrastructure, we offer companies holistic evaluation opportunities through donation via food banking, secondary sales on HoReCa channel, production of animal food and conversion to electrical energy in biogas plants in a manner to create maximum financial, environmental and social benefits from these products,” said Olcay Silahlı, CEO at Fazla Gıda. I interviewed Silahlı and here’s what he told me.

What is Fazla Gıda? What are you doing exactly?  

The groundwork for Fazla Gıda was laid around 2014-2015. I had the chance to learn about social entrepreneurship along with Sustainable Development Goals in One Young World Summit that I have attended that year. I started thinking about what I can do in this field in detail after I got back to Turkey and I chose to focus on food waste problem in order to contribute to climate action goal.

2015 and 2016 went on with literature studies. During these studies I came across with Food Recovery Hierarchy prepared by US Environmental Protection Agency in 1960s. I concluded that technology must underlie in the foundations of this effort in order to carry out food evaluations mentioned within the hierarchy in the most efficient way possible. Together with my partner and the company’s CTO Arda Eren, we designed Fazla Gıda in order make use of surplus foods in parallel with the Food Recovery Hierarchy; and  we opened the Fazla Gıda digital platform which includes different modules such as donation, animal food   and recycling to the use of food businesses and recovery partners, and we designed and incorporated processes into the platform by educating institutions like food banks, recovery facilities on an individual basis.

With the first operation we carried out in 2017, we set out with the aim of reaching the goals of Ending Hunger, Responsible Consumption & Production, Sustainable Cities & Communities besides achieving the goal of Climate Action, and also showing the young people in Turkey that it is possible to do a job that is in involving benevolence for the humankind and for the world.

As Fazla Gıda, we saved 19 thousand tons of food with the operations we carried out since 2017. A considerable portion of foods that we recover reaches to more than 1.1 million individuals in need regularly through our donation operations. Some part of the foods that are not fit for human consumption were put into use in animal food production and brought back to economy and some other part was converted into electricity in biogas facilities. In addition to these, we continue to prevent waste while creating economic value for both buyers and sellers by reselling products which are in suitable condition. Through more than 50.000 food recovery operations carried out in 36 cities all across Turkey, we prevented 62.000 tons of carbon emissions and restored 300 million TL worth of food products to the economy.

For 4 years now, we have been providing maximum financial, environmental and social benefits to more than 40 global and national brands through their products which they cannot recover by technological solutions through our cooperation with Turkey’s and the world’s largest manufacturers, distributors, retail, wholesale and e-commerce marketplaces within B2B market.

What is Fazla Gıda’s business model?

When we look to the figures in the world, we see that one in every three food item goes to waste. And in Turkey we know specifically that in certain product categories up to 45% of the produced products become waste and dump.

As Fazla Gıda, we take over the technological and operational management processes of surplus products that many stakeholders, including manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, distributors and e-commerce marketplaces, cannot evaluate in order to say stop this waste. Thanks to our cloud-based infrastructure, we offer companies holistic evaluation opportunities through donation via food banking, secondary sales on HoReCa channel, production of animal food and conversion to electrical energy in biogas plants in a manner to create maximum financial, environmental and social benefits from these products. Thus, our stakeholders provide economic, social and environmental benefits from their surplus products without making effort, while at the same time we reduce carbon emissions by preventing food waste.

Within our ecosystem, we work in partnership with many hotels, restaurants and dining halls, food producers, distributors, retailers and wholesalers, as well as all relevant food banks, associations and institutions throughout the country. In addition, our consultancy services and trainings for institutions and their employees, regardless of which sector they are in, have a positive effect on increasing awareness on food waste. Because thanks to these awareness studies, the employees of the institution can foresee the positive results of cooperation between Fazla Gıda and the institution, which helps not only the institutions, but also all the employees of the institutions to embrace the movement to fight food waste together with us.   

I know you are in touch with restaurants, food manufacturing companies and supermarket chains. How does your cooperation work? 

Retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers and distributors reserve surplus  food that is out of sale for a variety of reasons but is still suitable for human consumption, with the help of trainings provided by Fazla Gıda experts, they carry out necessary measurements and make them ready for donation under appropriate storage conditions. Afterwards, Fazla Gıda creates adverts for companies, food banks, soup kitchens and foundations through the Donation Platform. Thanks to the mobile application specially prepared for food banks and soup kitchens, authorized persons who are there can view the adverts opened by the institutions and make a request for the advert. Thus, the whole process becomes effective, transparent and traceable. 

Currently you have raised a new investment from various investors, including Berlin-based Atlantic Food Labs. How will you use this investment?

When we set sail for this journey, our main objective was to establish a sustainable business model that will make a positive social impact. Seeing that we are able to walk in parallel with this objective at this point that we have reached today makes us very happy. And the fact that the investors see and support the firm steps the company is taking, makes us proud and motivates us even more for the future. In Serie A tour, with the leadership of 212, we received an important investment from MAP, 500 Istanbul and Atlantic Food Labs. We recovered overall 19.000 tons of food from going to waste in the last 4 years but we have much room for improvement. And we will use this investment to expand our team and further develop our technology in order to go faster and with more confidence in this road. And  we will also expand to Europe this successful business model we have established in Turkey  towards the end of this year.

How did Covid-19 affect your business?  

The pandemic has contributed both positively and negatively to the globally critical problem of food waste. Awareness of food waste in homes has increased, but the opposite has happened in restaurants.

Since restaurants could no longer use existing food stocks during the initial quarantines, and the optimization of standard purchase and production planning could not be carried out quickly, we can say that in the short term there has been an increase in the amount of food waste in restaurants. With the reopening of restaurants, this time changing procedures in food and drink regulations, takeaway and delivery services, as well as differentiating consumer demands, contributed to waste. During our field studies, we observed that specially the businesses have surplus products in their hands due to these changing conditions and momentary consumer habits.

On the other hand, thanks to the Donation Operations we managed with the technological infrastructure and its subsidiary services, even in the worst days of pandemic we have been able to deliver healthy food to those in need in the field. We provided healthy food door to door for more than 600 thousand people in need during Stay at Home period.

Olcay Silahlı, CEO at Fazla Gıda

What do you suggest to companies and individuals not to cause food waste?   

As the pandemic caused the interruption of the supply chain, there have been food companies that had lots of surplus products that can be evaluated . Most of the companies did not know how to evaluate these products in their hands during this period. First of all, we need to raise our awareness about the issues of “waste” and “surplus”. After that the next step should be determining the root causes. To determine root causes you need to be able to measure; and in order to measure, you need to have data. Keeping and measuring data and making constant improvements will give the possibility for preventing food waste. As the consumers, we have to know that food waste is the cause of 8% of total carbon emissions, and that indirect water footprint caused by food production is at serious levels. Basically, with each half apple we throw to the garbage, not only we throw away the water used during its production process, but also we throw to the garbage the carbon emissions caused during its transportation . Small changes in life like planned shopping, fridge organization and food preparation may help with reducing our personal impact on food waste issue.

The second should be following a circular food system. Nowadays food systems are becoming more and more circular, and this means that the output or wastes can be used as input for another product. This way, you can create the maximum financial, social and environmental value from your surplus foods.

Businesses can donate, resell or put them into good use with recovery methods through Fazla Gıda. When COVID-19 ends, our responsibilities to the environment and to the society will continue, because of this we invite all institutions to cooperate.

Are you planning to expand abroad? 

Yes, we are planning to expand into Europe very soon. We can share the details in a short time.  

That is all I want to know. If you have anything extra, please add. 

First of all, if you want to recover the products that are almost out of date but still consumable, you must establish a swift coordination. And to do this, you need to make quick decisions and quick matching. A digital infrastructure is inevitable in order to make up a solution for that.

On the other hand, the first rule of fighting against food waste is always preventing it beforehand or reducing the waste in its source. The only way to do this is again to able to take decisions in real-time based on data through a digital infrastructure. You cannot improve what you cannot measure, so in order to procure maximum environmental, social and financial gains, you need to establish an optimized measurement and tracking system, and by using the data the mechanism provides, you need to make a decision for the next step. Moreover, this mechanism should give you the possibility of tracking the actions you took.

Digitalizing food recovery processes ensures that decisions are made independently from individuals and institutions, in this manner so a transparent, traceable and effective process management can be provided for all stakeholders.

While looking for solutions to one of the world’s biggest and most serious problems with limited resources, the only way to manage resources and time effectively is through the digitalization also of our stakeholders which are within our entire partner ecosystem along with us following the right steps.

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