24 February 2021

Food Science student reduces food waste by fermenting surplus fruit and vegetables

Food waste

A very large portion of our fruit and vegetables ends up as food waste and the start-up company Resauce wants to fight this using fermentation. The company was founded by Philip Bindesbøll, a bachelor student at the Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH). He became inspired about it during a lecture on microbiology and pathogenic growth.   

Photo of Philip Bindesbøll
Photo of Philip Bindesbøll

In addition to pursuing a degree in food science, Philip has founded the company Resauce together with business partner Jonas Wahlfelt, who studies at Copenhagen Business Academy. The company’s business concept is based on fermenting surplus fruit and vegetables, transforming them into tasty sauces, syrups and jams that have a long shelf life and thus combating food waste.

Why is there room for a startup like yours?

There is an increasing focus on sustainability in convenience foods as well as healthy and natural food products. Enormous amounts of resources are wasted in the food sector, of which fruit and vegetables alone account for 42%, so it is a good place to start. However, using surplus fruit and vegetables is easier said than done. Food production is typically only lucrative when producing large quantities and is thus very dependent on a stable raw material supply chain.  This is a considerable problem in exploiting the large amounts of food waste, because there is a lot of it, but it is a resource that is very unpredictable and thus difficult to incorporate into a larger production operation. In Resauce, we have devised a system that, along with the fermentation, can handle this uncertainty by means of an alternative production set-up.  

Why did you choose to study Food Science?

My life has probably always revolved around food: when I was younger, the thought was that I would be a chef.  Later this evolved into a scientific perspective on food, as I am driven to create something new and not make the same dish 20 times in one evening.

When did you discover that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I began to work on the idea in the first year of my bachelor studies. Based on my interest in health and cooking, I had investigated fermentation at home and, for example, experimented with kefir, yoghurt, kimchi, chili sauce, etc. I had a lecture in microbiology where we were taught how to prevent pathogen growth in food through fermentation and how you can use fermentation to preserve food in a natural way, without adding preservatives or using high heat treatment. Fermentation already plays a big role in many of our foods: beer, milk, meat, etc. – what if you could use the fermentation process as a solution for the huge food waste we experience with fruit and vegetables?

So what is it like to be a food entrepreneur?

I am in my element in every way! You are throwing yourself into a wide range of things, but that is also where it is new and exciting. Developing a new product in the kitchen and then continuing to work on the technical and scientific aspects of production and food science is just me.

What qualifications are needed to be an entrepreneur?

When you are studying, you sit an exam and the more you put into it, the more you understand – and the better you usually do, as well. But that’s not how it works as an entrepreneur. You have to learn new things all the time and there is a big difference between doing things in practice and making a hypothetical case. I come with a scientific background, but initially did not have much of a business sense. The hardest part of running a start-up is the lack of ’status’ on how things are going and whether you are moving in the right direction. There isn’t really the same sense of progression that you have when you have a job and get feedback from the boss, or a grade for an exam as a student. So it is important that you believe in yourself and are comfortable without constantly having to have complete clarification, control or overview.   

Another important qualification is adaptability. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we were ready with a small production outfit and had found some canteens and restaurants that would buy our products. When they were locked down, we had to put our production on hold and that was a big step back. Now we are working towards getting on supermarket shelves, so there is something new happening all the time and we are constantly being challenged.

Could you manage both your studies and the company at the same time?

I did have a period where I took a break from the bachelor programme because there were a lot of things that needed to be done in the company. The business idea and the market had to be tested and products had to be developed. It is never-ending because there is always something new you should do. Therefore, it is also very much about enjoying the journey and finding it exciting. There is also a lot of help available from the university. UCPH FOOD has been very supportive and several professors have encouraged the company by giving good advice. In addition, I connected with the SCIENCE Innovation Hub, where I have had the opportunity to combine my studies and entrepreneurship.

So has it been worth it all so far?

I definitely think it has. I have probably always had an entrepreneur in me. I am dyslexic and have never really wanted to immerse myself in a lot of studies. I am more the type who throws himself into things and learns that way. I see an incredible amount of purpose in this company and there is also a lot of interest in it – I really hope that we can help to industrialise the fermentation of fruit and vegetables and in that way scale up the fight against food waste. I am probably driven both by an urge to create something that allows people to enjoy food and simultaneously contributes to sustainable development.

Philip Bindesbøll is back in the bachelor’s programme, which he expects to complete in the summer of 2022.