Ninna Granucci knew she was studying towards something that would help her make a positive impact on the world, but never imagined she would become an award-winning entrepreneur while at university.
The Brazilian student is in her final year of a PhD in Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland, and is simultaneously running sustainable food innovation company, Green Spot Technologies. The company is paving the way to a less-wasteful future by turning fruit and vegetable waste from farms and juicing companies into nutritious flour through fermentation. Green Spot’s products are not only beautiful to look at, and delicious, but also tick all the buzzwords health conscious consumers are looking for; high protein, high fibre, low calorie, gluten-free, rich in vitamins, minerals and natural antioxidants.
Full speed ahead!
In 2015, Ninna and her Associate Professor Silas Villas-Boas presented their fermented fruit and vegetable flour concept at the University of Auckland’s Velocity 100K Business Idea challenge, which sparked an interview in the New Zealand Herald. This attracted a lot of attention from potential investors and companies looking to get involved, which encouraged them to go right ahead and launch Green Spot Technologies.
By the start of 2017 they had set up a pilot plant in East Tamaki, Auckland, and by June 2017, Green Spot Technologies had signed a formal agreement with Turners and Growers (T&G) Global to receive up to 150 kg per week of apple pomace that would usually go to landfill, to produce their fermented apple flour.
T&G Foods General Manager Colin Lyford says the company’s goal is to find sales for all parts of the apple that cannot be sold as first grade fruit. The partnership with Green Spot adds value to the growers and horticulture as a whole, he says.
Ninna says the produce powerhouse has been invaluable in helping Green Spot identify further market opportunities, evaluating their pricing and enabling consumer sampling across Australia and New Zealand.
The future of fermented flours
Ninna’s long-term goal is to expand Green Spot’s production, and mission, globally.
“The amount of food that is lost or wasted every year is incoherent with the world current population growth rate and future food demands. Therefore we need to challenge this situation, and there’s nothing better than science to propose solutions,” she says.
Green Spot’s flours can be used to substitute traditional flours and as a base material for food technologists to develop new products (particularly relating to high protein, high fibre and, low carb foods). The various fruit and vegetable bases offer more options for the market, through their different colours, textures and flavours.
Tips from an accidental multi-tasker
Ninna’s plan was always to finish her PhD and then focus on her entrepreneurial journey, but the universe had other plans. Timing is crucial in business, and she says it seemed like the right time to launch Green Spot Technologies in 2015, to jump on the market’s growing obsession with health and sustainability.
“The appetite for our first product range had been growing since 2015. Fermentation has been hailed as a natural and positive process to transform the food and beverage market,” Ninna says.
Her advice to surviving the high pressure of a new business and study is to organise and prioritise your day, and surround yourself by people who give emotional and professional support.
“But mostly, it’s necessary to work hard, try to keep calm and keep your ‘head above water’,” she laughs.
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