News | Farmz2U is February's Featured Business of the Month
10 February 2017
Aisha Raheem won a Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Award in 2016 for her business Farmz2U.
Aisha started working on her business idea, Farmz2U, three years after graduating from Queen Mary University of London with a degree in Economics.
Farmz2U is a B2B software solution for grocery retailers which functions as a nutritional guide for users by tailoring food shopping activity to each individual based on age, BMI, activity levels and food allergies. It also avoids food waste through in-built controls that prevent the purchase of excess food, in addition to providing alternative uses for food vulnerable to waste.
A key objective of the business is to enable a more efficient and effective use of resources in the food production process. With global waste currently at a third of total production and food waste estimated to contribute 3.3 gigatons of CO2 equivalent, a revolutionary change to production practices is necessary.
Shell LiveWIRE sat down with Aisha to catch up with her and to see what's next for her award-winning business, Farmz2U.
What was the inspiration behind Farmz2U?
The concept of Farmz2U was inspired by a personal experience. A few years ago, a health scare prompted a radical change to my eating habits. Through this, I became aware of the growing prominence of chemicals in our food and quickly cut out ‘junk food’ and ‘fizzy drinks’ from my diet. Food became my medicine as I began to learn the infinite properties of food as a healing and preventative tool.
How did you get into entrepreneurship? Did you always want to go into business for yourself?
My venture into entrepreneurship was completely unplanned. At the time of developing Farmz2U, I had no near time plans of going into self-employment. However, when I stumbled on the growing global challenge of food waste and poor nutrition, I felt obligated to contribute to a solution.
What challenges did you face when setting up your business?
Every day as a business founder presents a challenge, either familiar or unfamiliar. A key challenge I faced in the early days of the business was filling my skill-gaps. Being a non-technical founder required active networking with experts and potential partners. With perseverance and open-mindedness this challenge became one of my greatest assets as I built a large network of technical experts in the private sector and in education thus creating access to a greater skill pool.
What is your proudest achievement with the business?
Completing the ‘proof of concept’ stage of the business is our biggest achievement yet. This involved an 8-month trial of our solution with 550 users. It was a great achievement because we were able to determine the viability of our solution. We also identified and developed controls that achieved waste reduction of 10%, 21% and 30% respectively, through this user trial.
You won a Shell LiveWIRE Award back in 2016, how have things changed for you since then?
Apart from the press coverage this provided the business we are in a better position to move to the next stage of our business – development of a prototype. Furthermore, receiving a commendation from a reputable organisation such as Shell, with one of the largest initiatives tackling energy challenges, is one of my proudest moments.
What’s next for Farmz2U?
Making our solution accessible to every potential user is our next goal. As a B2B software solution for grocery retailers, this involves securing a sales deal with a retailer that shares our values of reducing food waste and enhancing nutrition management. We have ongoing conversations with key grocery retailers.
Entrepreneurs drive innovation. How do you think this can be used to help create a smarter future?
It is important that we develop sustainable and environmentally friendly business practices to ensure the longevity of the human race. With depleting natural resources and the threat of climate change, it is important to develop effective and more economical solutions to the world’s problems.
Entrepreneurs are best positioned to achieve this because they are not constrained by a ‘red tape’ culture.
What role do you think entrepreneurs will play in the transition to a low carbon society?
Entrepreneurs are best positioned to explore new ideas as they have greater flexibility to take on risk. While an entrepreneurial spirit is encouraged by most organisations tackling future energy challenges, there are limitations to full independence and the risks that can be taken.
With a blank canvas, an entrepreneur is able to think outside the box and implement solutions previously thought to be impossible.
What advice would you give to aspiring young entrepreneurs?
Perseverance is a particularly important behavioural trait embodied by every successful entrepreneur. Perseverance ensures a positive attitude after uncountable rejections. Perseverance ensures productivity when monetary compensation is not immediately visible. Perseverance is remaining positive in the face of your greatest adversities.
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