Navigating sustainable change for the future of food producers

It’s not easy being a food grower or food producer these days.

Faced with the task of finding ways to make their business more sustainable, they often – despite their best efforts to figure things out – find their heads spinning.

That’s because they are inundated with the myriad concepts (and terminology) that come part and parcel with going green.

After trying to wrap their minds around terms like decarbonization, scope 1, 2 & 3 emissions – and, of course, net zero – it’s understandable that management teams often find themselves at a loss about exactly where they need to start.

“There’s an urgent need to think about sustainability in the food processing industry,” said Chris Bunio, the Co-founder & CEO of Winnipeg-based TheoryMesh. “However, there’s a lot of noise in the industry that makes it hard to understand. That’s frustrating for businesses, as they want to understand so they can do the right thing.”

Doing the right thing is easier said than done.

That’s because food processing businesses are dealing with a food supply chain that is rapidly changing.

Unlike even five years ago, the drive toward sustainability has made sourcing ingredients that much more challenging.

Companies now need to deal with sustainability needs, regulatory requirements and certifications and changing consumer demands.

Bunio said TheoryMesh’s software – which is led by a team of agricultural, technology and business experts – is here to help businesses make sense of all the new demands that have been thrust upon them.

“Our company helps break down all these different things,” he said. “It’s important that businesses understand what they need to do. We want to do our part to help in that area. We specialize in software for a sustainable agri-food system.”

The whole idea is to help businesses implement better sustainability practices, said Bunio.

“For example, we can help businesses look at ingredient sourcing and how it relates to sustainability. Say you get ingredients from Europe. By looking at suppliers, you might find that you could get those ingredients in North America. By doing that, you would shorten the supply chain.”

If there’s any one thing that can be gained by taking an in-depth look at how a food company operates, its efficiency.

And that is critical as sustainability guidelines continue to tighten in the coming years.

“It’s all about putting proper product procedures in place, optimizing food waste and improving packaging,” he said. “Companies need to start thinking about sustainability strategies now because the regulations are coming in 2025.”

He added that there are practical ways to start on the road to sustainability.

“Get guidance. Think about problems. What do terms like scope one and two mean? It’s critically important that you understand what you need to do.”

Why is that so important?

“Everyone in the supply chain from farms and food companies here to the U.S. and Europe needs to be working toward the same outcome to realize sustainability objectives.”

That’s why events like Food & Beverage Manitoba’s Cultivate Sustainability & Trade show are so important, said Bunio.

“It brings everyone together to talk, and provides insight on trends, and on actions that we can take. It’s important to get ahead of sustainability trends and issues and this conference helps do that.”

Perhaps the most important thing such a conference does is drive home the need for businesses to get on the road to sustainability now, even if they start in a small way.

“Companies of all sizes have to keep making moves toward it because it’s coming,” he said. “A lot of them aren’t ready, and for those who aren’t, it could be a rough ride. Companies need to start today. If they do, there should be business benefits. It’s all about taking small, incremental steps toward sustainability. Doing that will benefit the planet, consumers, and businesses.”