AEROPOWDER, founded by Ryan Robinson and Elena Dieckmann from the United Kingdom won the $5,000 USD Kirchner Food Prize, awarded by the Kirchner Food Fellowship for the project that represents the most impact investment potential. AEROPOWDER has developed a proprietary manufacturing process in which they upcycle surplus poultry feathers into insulation materials that can be used to transport food.

Learn more about AEROPOWDER, one of 2018 TFF Challenge Finalists, and their plans for the future in this Q&A with Ryan Robinson, led by Thought For Food Program Manager Monika Jiang. Enjoy reading, and get in touch if you have any questions.

How did you start AEROPOWDER?

About two years ago my co-founder, Elena, was doing a student project looking at the potential uses for surplus feathers, when she asked me for some help with some technical aspects of her work. It seemed like such a crazy project, but I like crazy so that’s all good. Things went pretty well, so we applied for a student competition, and we ended up winning it with our idea of using feathers for building installations. At that point, we had not only gone through a rigorous competition and pitched to judges, but we had also we won some money to test our ideas out. With such good feedback and the opportunity in front of us, that was the reason we started AEROPOWDER, although things have clearly changed quite a lot since those early days! Less building insulation, more food packaging!

Looking at your journey with Thought For Food the past months, what are the key learnings and benefits you’ve achieved?

The reason for us applying for the Thought For Food Challenge initially was to understand more about how to approach a food based solution. What kind of language would you use? How are people thinking in that space? In that sense, it was very useful.

Now I have a better feel for it, and feel much more equipped on how to approach our customer target group in the food delivery space and get the right message out to the public about what we are doing. Also, let’s not forget that we did win a prize awarded by the Kirchner Food Fellowship, who can provide a lot of support beyond the prize money!

Congratulations again for winning the Kirchner Food Prize! Can you tell us #whatsnext for AEROPOWDER?

Starting with the connection to the Kirchner Group, I have had a fantastic catch-up with one of their team here in London, and for sure it’s a relationship that I will make sure we keep up because they have a lot of know-how about scaling up small startups in the food industry.

On a bigger picture? For sure we are looking for more customers,  either ones we can realistically sell to now or large established organizations to run trials with so that maybe in the future when the time is right they are happy to buy our products. It’s all about getting that buzz going! I think we’ll have everything lined up by end of the year, and start an autonomous production run by the beginning of 2019. As long as nothing explodes, we will then be ready to scale production and be looking to raise the funds to do so.

For the next three years, we’ll be very focused on the food industry, to grow and develop AEROPOWDER and pluumo as a sustainable business.

You’ve met a part of the TFF Global Community of next-generation innovators. What would you say is the role of your generation as innovators of the current food system? What is different about the Millennial mindset and approach of changemaking?  

Smartphones! Not to play Candy Crush, but I’m being serious. We are a generation that has grown up being connected to the whole world. We get to see the local and global problems that are facing the world, but importantly we see the solutions as well. So someone can gain inspiration and an understanding of how to do something about making the world a better place and I think that is so powerful. People fourty years ago maybe read about success stories in the paper or something, which was more in the distance, and that’s where our generation would be a little bit different. Hopefully this creates a new breed of innovators to take on the toughest challenges we face at the moment.

What was your experience like as a TFF Finalist and how did that experience shape where AEROPOWDER is today?

It gives you a lot of hope to meet so many people who are working on solutions around a big challenge. AEROPOWDER now has another great family of like-minded people to lean on, and we are happy to be leaned on in return! For me personally, as I’ve attended a couple of these gatherings already, and again met incredible people, I want to make sure that the connections are still real ones, where we can exchange ideas and stories – not only about business, but beyond that.

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