Food Waste Matters

Industry Spotlight – Leaf Protein Co.

Fern Ho and Connor Balfany


Andrew from the Fight Food Waste Hub talks to Connor Balfany and Fern Ho from The Leaf Protein

We hear about the inspiration and personal story behind the Leaf Protein Co. and all about leaf protein opportunity, including its sources and many uses.  Learn how leaf protein supply chains could increase food security, improve nutrition, and reduce food waste and the challenges to growth in this area and advice for values-driven entrepreneurs.




Andrew: Well, hello and welcome to this edition of Food Waste Matters. Brought to you by the Fight Food Waste Hub and Honey and Fox. I’m Andrew Robertson, joining you for a series of conversations with industry leaders on the front lines in the fight against food waste. We’ll be discussing business, innovation and how these concepts combine to reduce food waste in Australia and indeed, around the world.Be sure to check out the website for more information about the series and for access to previous recordings, including transcripts, audio and video.Now, when most people think about protein, they probably don’t think about leaves. But protein is probably more often assumed to come from meat, comes from eggs, maybe from meaty plant products like soybeans and nuts, but plain leaves? Well, according to today’s guests, unlocking the protein potential of plants could play an important role in global food security and in reducing food waste.I’m very pleased to introduce our first guest, Fern Ho, CEO of the very aptly named Leaf Protein Co. Fern has had a remarkable career in product management and marketing in the high tech and telecommunications industries. So she definitely knows what it takes to transform a cutting-edge technology into a viable commercial product, which she’s done for industry leading companies like Apple and Telstra. But it was Fern’s recognition of the lack of biodiversity in our modern food systems as a major problem that required a solution, which ultimately led to the creation of the Leaf Protein Co.Well, that and an encounter with her co-founder, who is our second guest today on the program, Connor Balfany. And in addition to his role as Chief Scientific Officer at the Leaf Protein Co., Connor is a researcher in the bioprocessing and food science space in the United States. His work is uncovering novel methods of plant protein isolation and functional modification, with an emphasis on applying those techniques to reducing agricultural waste and increasing food sustainability. And that technology is, of course, a key component of the Leaf Protein Co.’s story.And hopefully, Connor will share some technical insights with us today from his lab in the US. Connor and Fern. Welcome to Food Waste Matters.Fern: Thank you so much. Great to be here.Connor: Absolutely. Thanks for having us, Andrew.Andrew: All right, well, as you can see, Connor is joining us from the lab in the United States, our first overseas guest. It’s very exciting. And Fern is here with us in Australia, but recently returned from Saudi Arabia. Fern, can you tell us what you were doing over there?Fern: Yeah, absolutely. It was my first time over there, so it was quite an exciting trip. We were selected as one of the top 100 global startup finalists to participate in the Entrepreneur’s World Cup. So really excited to be representing Australia and also Leaf Protein, which is our startup, actually, I just realised, as you mentioned that it’s quite apt that we went to Saudi Arabia because one of the first plants that we looked at and that Connor did some of his research on is salt bush, which we know quite well in Australia, but actually has been a plant that a lot of research has been done in the Middle East because it’s such a hardy plant that can grow in drought like conditions, but also is one of the plants that we can talk about as an ideal source for leaf protein.So it was great to be there. We managed to get through to the semifinals, which was fantastic, and we were competing with startups from all different industries. So the construction tech, health tech, marketing, technology startups. So, yeah, it was a really vibrant competition. Great experience and great to go to a place where salt bush might be a potential future food source as well as leaf protein source.Andrew: Definitely. Did you bring back the cup?Fern: You can’t see it, but we did get our finalist trophy.Andrew: Oh, wow. Look at that. Congratulations.Fern: Thank you. Cheers.Andrew: All right, so let’s talk about Leaf Protein Co. What led to the inspiration for this and what was your joint pathway to founding the company?Fern: Yeah, so I first came across the concept in 2020, not that long ago, and the concept of leaf protein being the most abundant source of protein on earth, which you wouldn’t really think that would be the case. But actually there is a protein enzyme in leaves called rubisco, which all leaves use for photosynthesis. So basically every plant goes through photosynthesis, which means it’s in abundance and there’s been a lot of scientific research to back that up. I think the most recent research actually showed that. The previous calculations by I can’t remember the order of magnitudes, but there’s actually more out there than we even realise, both on land and in the sea. So things like algae and seaweed has this leaf protein rubisco in it as well.And for me personally, I developed a lot of sort of food allergies as an adult. So constantly looking at the back of packaged foods to see what ingredients are there, whether I have any issues, and certainly with a lot of the new plant-based foods that are coming out, so much of that makes use of, unfortunately, wheat protein or gluten, which I’m intolerant to. And so for me, it felt like a real opportunity to be able to bring to market this abundant source of alternative protein that’s free from those allergies that I can’t have myself, but is also more biodiverse and sustainable. And that’s how I started the Leaf Protein Co. We registered the business in September 2020 and then the following year I met Connor, who was perfect co-founder fit for the company.Connor: Yeah, it was a pretty crazy journey for me, coming on board the Leaf Protein company. As a bit of background, I have an undergraduate in biological science and during that undergraduate time, I did an internship with General Mills, the massive food company down here in North Carolina. I was working on plant protein extraction protocols for an institute called the Plants for Human Health Institute and it was sort of a cohort of about 70 or so undergraduate researchers, all with separate projects. I ended up developing a new way to extract some of this protein and applying it to sustainable agriculture and ended up winning first place prize in this cohort, which earned me a PhD to pursue this at a doctoral level.It was sort of at this moment that I realised that science that can be implemented for good and have these tangible products and results was a really impactful career choice. And so I sort of dove into that. I had no intention of going to graduate school or pursuing this to a higher degree, but the opportunity presented itself and it was really fulfilling to see the impact that could be realised with this science application.So pretty early on into that PhD, I started looking for companies that were doing the same. The fact that there was an abundance of this protein out there and that we hadn’t seen it on the market, something didn’t make sense. What was that bridge that needed to be built to address that gap? I started canvassing the internet for leaf protein companies and what do you think popped up when I searched leaf protein companies? I found Fern’s website that she had sort of pioneered the year before, reached out, and as Fern had mentioned, with that salt bush, they had written up a whole kind of section that they were exploring extraction techniques with salt bush, which at the time was a really novel plant in the United States that I was doing my research on. Because it’s drought tolerant, really resource tolerant, it doesn’t use much. And the fact that there was already that overlap between trying to explore leaf protein applications and this protein source, it was just really a great fit.So I reached out to her, I said, “this is really cool what you’re doing. You’re one of the first people I’ve seen that’s actually taken the steps to implement this. How can I be a part of it?” And it just was a wonderfully symbiotic fit. She had all the commercial experience and sort of executive knowledge to complement my scientific background and sort of research and development and going about the PhD gave us a lot of opportunity to sort of orient my research and project around milestones that The Leaf Protein needed to accomplish to implement this into a product. And that was about two years ago, two and a half years ago at this point. It’s then been a crazy journey of developing the process, creating products, sending it out and taking the science off of the lab benches and actually applying it into commercial and pilot scales.Andrew: Thanks for telling us your story. It’s interesting something I’ve heard Fern speak about is the importance of having diverse sources of protein in our food system. And I guess not only in terms of her personal story in regards to allergies and people who may have intolerances. But can you guys talk a little bit about why it’s important to have diversity in the food system for protein?Fern: So there’s two levels of, I think, importance. There’s the nutritional side of things and then there’s also the environmental impact.So there’s a really well-known report that’s come out from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization that talks about the current lack of biodiversity. So apparently there’s about 20,000 edible plants that we can eat as humans. And historically 6000 of them have been either cultivated or used as a food source. But in our modern food system today, of that sort of 20,000, fewer than 200 apparently make a major or significant contribution to food production. And I think it’s something like six or nine contribute to a huge, like over 60% of our food staple crops. And a lot of that is what is actually impacting our food security. Because when you’re relying on just these large monoculture or single source crops, it affects the environmental ecosystem of growing. And what ends up happening is that these crops become more susceptible to pests and disease. And so farmers are having to use not only more pesticides, but then also more fertilizers to grow them. Because if you’re growing big monoculture crops, it’s not great for soil fertility and the nutrition within the soil, which ultimately is what will allow a crop to be really bountiful and fruitful. So there’s all these sort of knock on effects and that’s why there’s a lot of interest in permaculture and having more diverse crop ecosystems.So that’s all the environmental impact side of things. But then also from a nutritional side of things, there’s also been studies that have shown that some of the newer crop varieties, even though they might grow a lot faster and there might be more of it if you look at the actual nutritional content, it doesn’t offer as much as what that same crop or an early variety might have offered decades ago. Not being able to grow as quickly or as fast or in as much abundance, but actually had more nutrition. So it’s kind of like this balance of abundance in terms of single quantities or abundance in terms of biodiversity. And the science just speaks to biodiversity offering us better sustainability, environmentally wise and nutrition wise.Connor: To touch on that sustainability metric, I think it’s important to consider that when we grow common agricultural crops, we’re growing a full plant, but only utilizing a portion of it. Carrots have carrot tops, sweet potatoes have sweet potato vines. There’s a lot of green biomass that is accumulating these photosynthetic proteins that we aren’t doing anything with. At best, it’s been used for animal feed. At worst, it actually has to be carted off of the fields because it affects soil alkalinity and it’s a waste product that we actually have to devote resources into removing. And so if we can actually apply a valorisation process to that turn these green waste products into actually valuable protein sources, we can take already productive agricultural land and turn it into higher production, higher agricultural sustainability because now it’s producing more products as well.Andrew: Excellent. Yeah. So three aspects there food security of course, nutrition, and the opportunity to reduce food waste, which is kind of what we’re all about here at Food Waste Matters. Which leads me, I suppose, to my next question, which is where do you source the leaf material to extract and produce the protein?Fern: Yes, so there are different aspects to the business of where we source it based on whether it’s for lab-based research or commercial production. Most of our work to date has been based in the lab. So I guess I’ll let Connor take that one with the lab-based work.Connor: Yeah, so, I mean, the short answer is literally anything that’s green to kind of reiterate anything that’s green is photosynthesising. And if it’s photosynthesising, it needs proteins to do that. Therefore, we can be really diverse in where we start with that material from. Now, that doesn’t mean that all materials behave the same, have the same protein levels, or will make the same product, but it does allow us to be really inventive on where we start that process from. To date, we’ve done a lot of cool projects with carrot tops, sweet potato vines that we mentioned. We’ve done hydroponic lettuces, alfalfa that’s being used for water sequestration. We’re doing brassicas like cauliflowers and broccoli waste stalks and stems down in Australia. And salt bush, our good old drought tolerant friend that can sequester salt and grow on really marginal lands is a wonderful example of these regenerative crops that can be used for carbon sinks, create green protein sources that we can then extract protein from.So what we’re really about is creating a platform technology that we can utilize for the various different ways that green matter can be produced. Sometimes that’s agricultural waste streams, sometimes that’s regenerative plant species and sometimes it’s just hyper efficient green sources.We actually have a pilot plant going up in Australia that’s utilising a really fast growing alfalfa crop that produces a lot of protein per hectare and can be harvested in as short as five to seven days is a full turnaround of that and the waste bar goes back on. So it’s a really cool way that we can apply this to literally anything that’s green to create our protein sources from.Andrew: I was just going to ask if you guys have been exploring partnerships with potential suppliers of these sorts of leaves and protein sourcesFern: yeah, I was going to add that, as Connor’s mentioned, there’s a vast array of sources that we could dip into. And I suppose this is one of the things with developing a business out of something that is so wide. So we could look at waste streams and that is certainly something that we’ve been looking at. We have a project, the Fight Food Waste CRC, and we’re working with Woolworths and Perfection Fresh to make use of their waste leafy material both at farm gate and also at retail. And so that’s a mixed waste stream. So different types of leaves that we can take in. And that’s great, the opportunity to valorise those waste streams, but then there is also growing sources as well. And I think it’s something that we’ve not been able to dismiss. We originally did look at the waste stream as our primary source, and we’re continuing to look at that.But we’ve also realised the benefits of growing sources. One of them is that growing sources, as Connor’s mentioned, some of these alfalfa crops, they are perennial plants, but also because of the way in which we harvest them, we can actually get far more protein out of those crops than say, a traditional soy crop or other pulse bean protein plant crops. So it’s very unique in the way that leaf protein would be grown as a dedicated crop for a plant protein source.And one of the reasons why we are looking at that is with any new product or technology, you need to win the trust of the market. And so food companies like to know that initially as a new ingredient or plant source that it comes from a stable supply. And we can offer that from a growing crop that we can harvest every four to six weeks compared to the way that crop is traditionally harvested every maybe three to four months. So really the productivity is a lot higher and we can therefore really ensure the quality of that input plant source. And so our first products to market will be from that grown source while we continue to develop ingredients from waste streams as well.Andrew: Okay, well, that’s a good way to talk about some of the products that you guys create. Tell me a bit about where your products will be going. I understand it’s still early days for you guys, but who will be your customers and what’s the demand for these sorts of products in a commercial environment?Fern: Yeah, we’ve had interest certainly from everyone in the food sector, in the animal feed sector, and even in the cosmetics sector. So leaf protein is a very unique ingredient that not only is a nutritional functional protein ingredient, but also has a lot of functional binding properties. And I’ll let Connor explain that because that’s tied in very much with the different fractionations of the protein and also the way in which we extract it.Connor: Yeah, so there’s a couple of different ways that we can think about leaf protein. And when we say leaf protein, we’re actually talking about a wide range of proteins that are present in leaf tissue to broadly classify those into two different things. You have green proteins and the white proteins. Greens are bound to sort of chlorophyll and membranes and stuff. And the whites are high performing enzymes like rubisco for photosynthesis. Both of these have very different properties, different nutritional profiles, and different functional properties as well.In food, the white protein is really, really interesting. These enzymes, because they’re composed of small subunits, there are a lot of little blocks that sort of bind together to make one big Lego set. And these little blocks are very representative of animal-based proteins -caseins, wheys, albumins, things that you would find in meat products or egg products. And because of this, it performs a lot like animal-based proteins.When you think about soy or pea proteins, these are storage proteins made by the seeds. They’re supposed to be large and chunky and resilient to nature so that the seed can germinate and be a nutrition source. And that’s great for high amounts of protein, but they don’t dissolve well, they don’t foam well, they don’t emulsify well, or they require a lot of processing to make them perform that functional requirement. Leaf protein has that naturally. It gets better than other plant proteins, it foams better, it emulsifies, and it’s actually a direct competitor for the functionality of animal based proteins as well.So when we produce protein sources from leaf materials, we can extract the green protein, we can extract the white protein, or we can combine them in different ratios and actually have some lab samples here to sort of demonstrate that we have a wide range of different ratios and colors and performances that we can extract from the same leaf product. Hyper purified white proteins that are 95% of this rubisco insoluble proteins all the way down to the fibers that are bound to the green proteins and different extraction methods and compositions of these.So we can really go to market with a variety of different products that meet demands of cosmetics or food applications or anything that it might be, because we can combine them in different ratios, express different functionalities based on extraction method or composition. So it’s a really cool, versatile source that we can source from a versatile source, and it just gives us unlimited combinations on how we might apply that in the landscape.Fern: Yeah, I was going to add, and I didn’t realise this until I started working on the Leaf Protein Co. The packaged foods industry is a huge, billion-dollar industry. And unless you’re sort of someone like me with allergies, you don’t often most people don’t really look at the ingredients in the back of food packages.But one thing is that a large proportion of anything in the supermarket that has to sit on the shelf for a while does require a lot of these ingredients that are things like stabilisers, emulsifiers, foaming, to stabilise packaged goods and give it the right either texture or appearance or mouth feel that consumers expect. And this is where so much of the food industry’s interest has come about with leaf protein, is that they are not just looking for alternative protein sources that’s always something that people are interested in but the little known thing is about finding replacements for all these different stabilising ingredients that are used in the massive packaged food industry and all that functionality that Connor talked about, that’s what’s really unique about our leaf protein ingredients. And that’s a big part of where we will be going to market as well.Andrew: It sounds like a really attractive value proposition there for your customers. Simply the variety of different proteins and attributes that you can assign to them in your processes and the abundance of the supply of green material. So my question is, why hasn’t this happened before? If there’s so much leaf protein out there, why isn’t there or hasn’t there been already a huge impact from extracting these sorts of products and putting them into the market?Fern: Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean, just a bit of history behind leaf protein. So it actually goes back as far as the 1700s. So there was a French chemist, Rouelle, who first recognized the protein that you could coagulate out of leaf juice as a potential food source. And then it kind of just went by the wayside for many centuries and it wasn’t until in times of economic need, so in the 1960s, 70s, it was when it was sort of revived again. And that’s when it started to be developed for use as animal feed, because technology back then was not as developed as it is now. And I’ll let Connor actually talk about some of the technological advances that allows us to make leaf protein more technically viable or techno-economically viable.But back then, leaf protein was kind of like this, just really hard, not very nice tasting pellet. So it finds the animal feed, but human consumption, most people struggle to eat their greens as it is back then, so it’s difficult. But yeah. Connor, you might want to talk about some of the technical side of things.Connor: Yeah, there’s a couple of different ways that you can dissect that question as to why now, why hasn’t it been done in the future? It makes so much sense. If there’s so much there and it has so much promise, why haven’t we seen it? And as Fern was mentioning, a lot of it has to do with just the natural evolution of technology and its application as well.Actually, back in the 1960s was when basically the Bible on leaf protein products and their applications for human nutrition was written by Nathan Pirie. And he basically highlighted when it was first discovered by the French biochemist and its applications to food and agriculture. And essentially the takedown was that it just could not compete with subsidies given to soy and pea and wheat crops. I mean, we just talked about the promise and functionality but at the end of the day, soybean is 60% protein that can be dried and dewatered and brought to a processing facility where leaf protein can sometimes comprise as little as 1% of the actual input biomass. And these vast differences in the amount of protein that is easily recoverable and made into a cheap and readily applicable product just didn’t make sense economically back then. It was explored as animal feed, but it was unpalatable because these green ones, they taste like grass, they taste like leaf protein. And we didn’t have the understanding or the technology to isolate some of these higher purity, less flavorful and more functional samples. And so it sort of fell to the wayside. It had a lot of promise but then it just couldn’t be made economically feasible.And it really wasn’t until this modern area of the perfect storm of plant-based products that this search for new and exciting ingredients was revived and it sort of brought our new life into exploring some of these cool products. And so with this push for plant-based meats and plant-based beverages and sort of replacing animal products with cool plant substitutes, that’s when sort of the search for these ingredients that perform like animal products but are based from plants was revalorised and it all of a sudden created new demand, new price points.And of course, the technology that we used to isolate and produce this got substantially better during that 30-year lull period as well. So it was sort of the perfect storm of technology advancing, the desirability in the market being there and just the understanding of protein biochemists or biochemical pathways that allowed efficient separation to create new value add products to really make this achievable again, not to mention the need for sustainable agriculture, new sources and everything like that. And so it’s sort of the perfect time to bring this back and it couldn’t have happened too soon.Andrew: Great. Well, if now is the time, what are your ambitions for the impact that this technology can have on increasing food security, improving global nutrition and reducing food waste?Fern: I guess both in terms of the technology itself, but also the impact that your company can have. I think a big one is, as Connor mentioned, our mission really is to increase the biodiversity of our plant protein ingredients in the market. Because as it is today, a lot of those subsidies that Connor’s mentioned is what’s driven the fact that 90% of the plant protein market is made up of soy and wheat, which is not great either for nutrition or sustainability. So we’re really about increasing that with being able to produce leaf protein ingredients from any leaf source.So in line with our tent to increase the biodiversity of plant protein ingredients, a big part is being able to extract leaf protein from multiple different grown sources and looking at local plants as our grown sources as opposed to sort of importing this one stock standard plant variety all over the world. In Australia, for example, we would look to use salt bush as a local source together with other plant sources. And depending on the geography, we’d use different plant, local plant sources. So that’s one stream, but then the other one is very much that waste stream that we talked about.So looking at all the different areas within the food system and supply chain from farm gate through to retail, we do need to work with fresh leaves. So there is a point in that food supply chain that we stop. We can’t actually work with what comes out at the other end once it’s been cooked. But that’s another area. Working in with the retailers, working in with the growers and produce suppliers, we’ve had a lot of interest, as I’ve mentioned, with the projects with these different stages within that food supply chain as well as the grower. And actually one of the reasons why we are setting up our pilot plant up in Queensland, as Conner mentioned, is because the grower harvester reached out to us and wanted to make use of their crop as an input source for leaf protein production. So, yeah, we’re really excited about the interest.Connor: It’s really cool to put an idea out there and see how people want to apply that idea. I think just having the platform of leaf protein extraction has led to some really incredible leaps, not only for our pilot plant, but I was recently just in Thailand because they have cassava farms there. Cassava, once again, it’s growing for the roots of starchy, vegetable or a tuber. But there’s massive amounts of very high protein leaves that are being thrown away. And so we are working with some Thai companies to see if we can valorise the protein extraction there. There’s a company in the Philippines with that we are now extracting protein from tropical plant leaves. And then bananas, pineapples and papaya. I was out in California looking at carrot tops and none of these were actively applied by me in the lab. But it was the fact that we had this idea of, hey, we can take green biomass and create high value products out of it. People have taken that idea, applied it into their own systems and I think that’s where a lot of the impact of leaf protein extraction can actually come from.The fact that it can add so much value to the many existing streams that are out there and having the people that really understand their respective streams apply leaf protein extraction to it. So it truly is sky’s the limit. Whether it’s regenerative crops that are drought and salt tolerant, whether it’s highly sustainable, fast-growing crops, or whether they’re waste streams from agricultural sources that we have to fly to different countries to see and valorise. It’s really cool how it can all be applied.Andrew: Well, you mentioned government subsidies there and the influence, I suppose, of some of these entrenched legacy producers of plant protein as one of the challenges that the company or perhaps the technology has faced in the past. What are some of the other challenges that you guys see or that you’ve overcome already?Fern: I think one of the big things around leaf protein, making it commercially viable is the logistics around it. And so looking at the waste streams, a big part of making that commercially viable is managing the logistics of collection. But also, I guess this is where we started with a growing source because it does sort of make it a little bit easier to manage, where we’re locating the processing very close to the actual source material. That probably is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome, and I think has been one of the hurdles previously that hasn’t allowed it to be commercially viable. So it’s an important one to look at.Connor: I think another big learning for us was to realise that we cannot be a direct competitor with soy and pea. I think it’s very common to think that, oh, we’re producing a plant protein, we need to compete with the other plant proteins. And when you look at how cheap you can get soy and pea protein from as low as like a dollar fifty per kilo coming out of China and some places in the United States, it was really hard, I mean, impossible to justify the economics behind leaf protein meeting that price point.And so one pivot that we had to do early on was valorise other reasons that this is a still very valuable leaf product or plant product. And that was the functionality aspect that was developing a process line that now allowed it to perform very well into certain applications of food products, as well as start competing with different classes. Methyl cellulose and xanthium gums and carragheenin, all of these very high value plant ingredients that now we can replace with a readily recognisable leaf protein ingredient. And we’ve sort of come across this term “Protein Plus”, that it’s never going to be a $2 per kilogram product, but what it can do is replace these other things, these long names and ingredient lists or other aspects. Still, while being a readily recognisable plant-based protein that allows it to command a bit of a higher price point and clean up labels for food manufacturers. I think that was a pretty big learning on how we implemented our product and process line as well.Fern: Yeah, and actually, I’m talking about price point. That’s a big one because so much of the food sector is a bit of a commodity market, but actually, really the devil is a bit in the detail and you do end up paying for what you get. A lot of the ingredients out there have a very wide price range even soy, for example, you can get soy, as Connors mentioned, for two, one dollars per kilogram, all the way to the organic versions that’s much more expensive, maybe ten or more, and then you have your premium proteins. And at the end of the day, it all comes down to the cost of production, which also matches up with the nutritional elements of what’s going in there. So it kind of goes back to what I was talking about previously, where industrially, we’ve managed to increase industrial output with the large monocropping agriculture that we’ve done. Huge tonnage, huge volumes coming out. When you then look at the nutritional value of all of that, does that actually stack up to something that’s produced on a slightly smaller scale that is a little bit more expensive? It’s kind of a difference also of what you’re feeding your animals. In terms of animal feed, that all gets translated too.So whatever you’re cost cutting, at some point, you’re going to end up with a lack of something later on down that supply chain. And that’s where we’re very conscious of making sure that we’re not just about cost cutting, but we are actually about ensuring the right type of sustainability and the right type of nutrition, because ultimately that goes back to health. And that’s also another big weight on our global planet. It’s not just about feeding the 10 billion people by 2050, but it’s making sure that they’re healthy so that you don’t have all these huge medical bills that we’ve had to suffer, particularly in the Western developed countries.Andrew: Okay, and what advice, finally, would you two have for aspiring entrepreneurs or for other companies who are also, like you, keen to make an impact in reducing food waste and improving sustainability?Fern: I think food waste is a big area, and as I mentioned, there’s so many points along that food system and supply chain. And every different point, I think, sort of requires a slightly different solution. So it’s really, as you said, Andrew, actually working in with the producers and suppliers of that food waste to ensure that your ability to valorize that fits in with their business operations, because it’s hard to get people to change and it’s even harder to get a complex business to change.So for us, that’s been a big thing working in, not just with the suppliers to make sure that we can fit in really easily operationally, whether it’s at retail or at farmgate. And then at the other end, the output our product, making sure that that’s in a form and format and functionality that the end customer will actually be attracted and really interested in using for their end product or end consumption.Connor: Yeah. So to answer the first part advice for entrepreneurs, I really am a strong believer to network, to talk to other people, to build circles of things that you’re interested in. I mean, this entire journey started with an email, an outreach to someone who was doing something that I thought was cool and ended up being this wonderfully synergistic fit of complementing skill sets that we were able to build this vision and company with. I think no matter what you’re doing, if you have a grand enough vision, you’re going to need other people to implement skills that you haven’t had time to cultivate there’s 24 hours in a day, and we can only get so good at a certain thing. So at a certain point, I think it’s really important that no matter what industry or application you’re looking for, reach out to people that can compliment you and also are excited about that vision. And I think that’s the quickest way to start making a tangible impact. To speak to the actual sustainability side of things, to boil it all down into, I guess, a single takeaway add value. Take something that is maybe undervalued or underrepresented or a problem in a market and try to solve that by adding value. Whether it’s a waste stream that you can extract something valuable out of or it’s an ingredient that doesn’t have a certain requirement when manufacturers are using it. If you can add value to anyone across that chain, you have a case for increasing not only your own business potential, but the application for that to be scaled and used and actually implemented on a larger and larger scale. I think that would probably be the two takeaways that I have to share with people.Andrew: Well, that’s really good and valuable advice. Thank you so much for offering it to us today. Are there any final messages that you’d like to deliver to our audience today?Fern: Yeah, one of the things that we’re always keen to see what’s out there is organisations, producers of leafy waste material from the horticultural space. We’re always keen to have a conversation. We have a number of ongoing projects, one at RMIT here in Victoria that can make use of some of that waste material. So reach out if you’re a big source of that.Connor: Yeah. And additionally, if you’re a downstream manufacturer or you create food products and you’re interested about some of the potentials that leaf protein could offer your products, please reach out. Our pilot scale will be live here in a couple of months and we’ll be producing many kilograms of samples. We’d love to connect, see how you can implement leaf protein and make some cool products together. Andrew: Well, that’s terrific. And I’ll add some links and email addresses so that any interested subscribers can do that in the description to this podcast below. And thank you guys very much for joining us on food Waste Matters. I definitely learned a lot. I think we covered a lot of ground today and I’m pretty excited about this idea. I’ll definitely be watching the company and seeing what comes next for you guys and hopefully we’ll be able to catch up again soon.So, Fern Ho and Connor Balfany thank you very much for joining us. And thank you to our subscribers for joining us for this edition of Food Waste Matters. Brought to you by Fight Food Waste Hub and Honey and Fox. The Fight Food Waste Hub is for everybody who is interested in reducing food waste.Invite your colleagues to sign up to our mailing list and get notified when new content is published. Just visit the website and if you’d like to get in touch with us here at the hub, please send an email to we’d love to hear from you with feedback, comments or questions.So until next time, keep up the fight.