Circular Food Solution Challenge

Priority Area: Food Action

Dates: Nov. 2023 - Feb. 2024

Status: Closed

The Opportunity:

Approximately 58% of all food produced and distributed in Canada is lost or wasted, accounting for 4% of Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and costing approximately $49 billion per year. Opportunities for diverting, reusing, and upcycling food loss and waste (FLW) resources exist throughout the food value chain. Preventing food waste, diverting it from landfills, and fostering a circular bioeconomy are essential steps in mitigating these environmental challenges and creating economic opportunities in Canada. Collaboration across various sectors in Canada supports circular strategies, knowledge exchange, and resource sharing, making it crucial to advancing these goals.

The Project:

The National Zero Waste Council, in partnership with Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL), Halifax Regional Municipality, Halifax Food Policy Alliance, Halifax Partnership and others spearheaded Circular Food Hubs: Mainland Nova Scotia. This pilot project applied a 5-step process, guided by COIL, to support the evolution of Nova Scotia-based food hubs that integrate circle economy solutions with food loss and waste (FLW) prevention. Peer-to-peer learning through workshops, data collection and strategic opportunity assessment, and the piloting and testing of solutions together showcased how a circular food system in Nova Scotia can evolve.

The Challenge:

The Halifax Innovation Outpost,1in collaboration with the National Zero Waste Council and Guelph- Wellington’s COIL, issued an open call for the piloting and testing of circular food solutions in mainland Nova Scotia that either launch new, or deepen, action on food waste and climate change.

Applicants received:

  • Advice and guidance as appropriate in implementing a solution
  • Funding up to $5,000 for solution costs (including supplies, marketing or campaign fees, equipment, meeting or event costs, etc.)
  • Participation in a national lessons-learned webinar event with other businesses and local governments across Canada
  • Introduction to other grants, external to this project, to scale up promising solutions.

We invited applications that explore a practice that is circular*: to trial it and learn what it may take to scale it or even test its viability.

*a circular food solution is one that: helps design out food waste and pollution; contributes to shorter supply chains; helps circulate resources, and regenerates natural systems.

Applicants' Profile:

Eligible applicants included Nova Scotia-based for-profit businesses and not-for-profit organizations.

  • Businesses need to have operations in mainland Nova Scotia, but are not required to be headquartered here.
  • Requirement for applicants to be working in collaboration with a minimum of two different supply chain actors.
  • Collaborations can be cross-sector (public, private or community) or single sector.
  • Government bodies can be included as a partner, but cannot be the receiving agency for funding.

Review Process:

A committee of project partners reviewed applications, considering:

  • How proposed solutions deliver on circularity, and food loss or waste reduction;
  • Likely achievability of solutions within the funding and timeline parameters;
  • Ability to transfer and scale; and
  • Depth of collaboration.

This committee included Halifax Partnership, National Zero Waste Council, City of Guelph COIL, Halifax Regional Municipality, Halifax Food Policy Alliance, and Dalhousie University faculty.

Funding was awarded up front.

Project costs provided: up to $5000

Eligible Expenditures:

The following includes, but is not limited to, eligible expenses:

  • Supplies, including machinery
  • Marketing
  • Partnership-development support (e.g. new relationships for food recovery/food redistribution)
  • (Food) Product testing
  • App Platform testing

Behaviour change campaigns including materials (* e.g. see Love Food Hate Waste Canada. Contact [email protected] for details).

Deliverables Included:

  • A circular food solution that is trialed in collaboration with other supply chain actors.
  • A brief, one page ‘Lessons Learned’ report complete with budget details on funding expenditures at the end of the Pilot and Test phase. This report identifies what would be needed to make the solution viable, and scalable, in Nova Scotia, and whether the applicant will pursue the solution more comprehensively post the trial phase.
  • Successful applicants must also participate as guest speakers in a national webinar, hosted by the National Zero Waste Council, that shares the lessons learned through the pilot and test experience.


1. Organization: Station Food Company Ltd.
Project Details: They will work with a creative design agency on a rebrand strategy, change their labels and marketing materials, hold small focus groups, and then track the increase in volumes of seconds used in production of their newly branded soups (using sales reports). With help from National Zero Waste Council and COIL, they will gather ideas on how to rebrand this product line.

2. Organization: Shivani's Kitchen Ltd.
Project Details: They plan to conduct a feasibility study to assess the potential impact and viability of using cheese waste water in Indian curry preparation. The study would involve collaborating with local cheese producers to collect and analyze the waste water composition, identifying suitable recipes for incorporating this waste water into Indian curry, and conducting taste tests and quality assessments to ensure that the final product meets food safety standards.

3. Organization: Vessel Meats
Project Details: By using a process called pyrolysis they intend to break down the otherwise discarded animal bones into charcoal to be used for cooking. The initial time to collect the parts and assemble the retort will take about 30-40% of the estimated time requirement for this project while the remaining time will be used to physically test the machine, make adjustments and perfect the production process. If successful, they anticipate this to become a small to medium scale solution to creating local charcoal and reducing waste heading to the landfill.

4. Organization: Moc Biotechnologies Inc.
Project Details: The project involves converting abundant lobster waste in Nova Scotia into valuable chitosan-based 3D printing bioink, addressing both food waste reduction and greenhouse gas emissions. This process will be tested using advanced technology like ultrasonic and microwave processing to assess quality, cost-effectiveness, and scalability.

5. Organization: Sodexo Canada StFX Campus
Project Details: They will partner with the Antigonish Community Fridge to provide frozen soup donations produced on Saint Francis Xavier University campus to the community fridge for those in need. The soup produced is created by packaging leftover soup, that was not used during meal periods and using ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste. In return this program reduces the amount of food waste and greenhouse gas emissions produced by the organization by reducing food waste.

6. Organization: Square Roots Food Services C.I.C
Project Details: They work to reduce food waste and food insecurity by connecting fresh produce that would otherwise be reploughed into fields or waste in landfills to customers in need of healthy produce. They do this by purchasing seconds produce from Nova Scotian farmers also provide them a new source of income that would otherwise be lost. They use a social pricing model to sell their bundles at $10 or $7.50 for 10lbs of fresh produce. The program runs twice a month on Saturdays to allow the community to come together and socialize, volunteer, and shop for affordable, local produce.

Our winners are going through the process, stay tuned to hear more about their projects!

Contact us about the Innovation Outpost



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