Making economic sense of food waste


Managing waste: People are looking for solutions to handle their food waste as more are preparing their food at home.

WITH more people eating at home these days, food waste is becoming a bigger issue within households.

In 2015, a report by the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) highlighted that Malaysia generated about 15,000 tonnes of food waste per day, of which 9,700 tonnes were generated by households.

But with environmental awareness stepping squarely into the limelight in recent times, more and more people are rethinking how they discard food and how they can better manage food waste, observes Mentari Alam EKO (M) Sdn Bhd (Maeko) founder and chief executive officer Chelsea Chee.

“People are looking for solutions to handle their food waste and more are staying at home and preparing their own meals rather than eating out. Many families are starting to adopt gardening and urban farming ever since the pandemic. Therefore, the concept of turning food waste into nutrient rich soil is something very well received by the community at large, ” she says.

Maeko sells food waste composting machines for commercial facilities that turn food and organic waste into compost within 24 hours.

Export opportunities: Chee believes there is demand for its composters in other countries.Export opportunities: Chee believes there is demand for its composters in other countries.

To-date, Maeko has successfully converted more than 5.5 million kg of food waste into organic compost used for planting.

At the moment, most of its clients are commercial-based such as hotels, manufacturing plants, factories, hospitals, property developers, schools and shopping malls.

But throughout its years of supplying commercial and industrial composters, the company has also received numerous feedback from individuals who are keen to be part of the solution to help tackle food waste at a community level.

“The collective effort and social inclusivity is much needed to resolve this global issue. It has been in our plan to develop a composter for communal use since and this pandemic just pushed us further to materialise it as we think the time is just right, ” shares Chee.

The company has developed a smaller composter, called MunchBOT, that is suitable for use by homeowners and communities.

Maeko is currently raising up to RM4mil, equivalent to 20% stake in the company, through an equity crowdfunding campaign on Ata Plus. The funds will mainly be used to manufacture and market the MunchBOT.

Moving from the commercial to the consumer market will be a new challenge for Maeko as consumers may be more cautious about spending on appliances that they have made do without before.

But Chee notes that the target market for MunchBOT goes beyond just individual home users.

“We are also looking at getting property developers to include this as essential utilities in condominiums and houses, food trucks, cafes, schools and kindergartens where this portable unit is most affordable to be adopted for such green initiatives, ” she adds.

Maeko’s composters come with Internet-of-Things technologies, which will enable the team to monitor the condition of the composters remotely to provide servicing and tweak the settings where needed.

The company is targeting sales of RM3.99mil this year, with expectations of revenue hitting RM33.9mil in 2024.

Maeko also has plans to expand globally. It has established partnerships in Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore and Maldives.

“We are looking for more partners to market our commercial composter and MunchBot in other parts of the world.

“With the commercial composting machine, we are looking at 30% contribution from the overseas markets as a start when the pandemic is over, but once we launch the MunchBOT portable unit, we are expecting exports to grow as we believe there is demand in many countries, ” Chee says.

Once it launches its overseas markets, Maeko is planning to do a Series A round early next year and hone in on potential mergers and acquisitions thereafter.

Chee points out that there is a growing trend in clean technology investing and it is only a matter of time for food waste management to gain that kind of recognition among investors.

“This pandemic has opened the eyes of many in terms of the need to conserve the environment with more responsible acts, especially with food waste management. In the past, many corporates had embarked on recycling programmes for other materials except food waste, which usually ends up in landfills.

“With this pandemic, we’ve received more enquiries on intentions to adopt management of food waste instead of landfilling them. We are selling a solution for the future and we are confident that food waste composting is the way to go to enable a healthier and better earth, ” says Chee.

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