Are there ugly fresh chickens?

We have all heard about how fruits and vegetables are being wasted due to cosmetic filtering, but do you know fresh chickens undergo the same treatment as well? A life reared to ultimately be killed for food is already horrible, now it is killed to be thrown?

Simply unthinkable.

Yet it is happening. Thousands of fresh chickens are being thrown away on a daily basis because they do not hit the requirements to be models on the display freezers. Here is a list of why fresh chickens get thrown away:

1. Sizing

cheap fresh chickens

Of course, the most obvious one. Just like all living things, an average number of days is needed to grow a chicken to a certain size. The most popular sizing – 1.2kg chickens – takes about 32 days to grow. However, just like all living things, not all chickens grow to 1.2kg in 32 days. Some grow bigger, some are still just tiny. Regardless, these chickens are usually thrown away since they are too small or big to be displayed on retail shelves. “They would stand out like a sore thumb amidst all the 1.2kg”.
Besides, automated machines these days are made to only process chickens of a certain sizing. In fact, one of the companies we met recently only take in chickens that are 1.75kg (yes, that precise) because their automated chicken cutter can only take that size.

2. Injuries

Alright, slaughtering is not a pretty process guys. The slaughterhouses work tirelessly, and chickens knowing that they are going to be killed won’t just sit there. Loads of knocking around the cages when idling, and workers have to hold them down sometimes. At times, these struggles and relatively forceful handling do result in bruises and broken bones.
Have you ever seen a displayed fresh chicken with such injuries? No? Well, point proven.

3. Anomalies

Chickens, like all other living things, will have deformed parts sometimes. Uneven sizing of wings, overgrown thighs, etc. Although genetic selection, and relatively better farming conditions have reduced the chances of deformities from happening, they will still happen. However, we have checked with chefs and slaughterhouses, such deformities are never harmful (cancerous/bacterial growth is another thing altogether). These chickens are definitely still more than fit enough for consumption!

4. Overstocking/Overproduction

Remember when we said there is a chance for the fresh chickens to not come out the sizing they want despite rearing for a certain duration? What do you think these farmers/slaughterhouses will do to prevent themselves from breaching their contracted volume of sized chickens?
Rear more of course! If I need to supply 10,000 1.2kg fresh chickens a day, I will just simply rear 15,000 1.2kg fresh chickens in case some of them fall short or over the sizing. This just means more is being produced than required. Doesn’t take a genius to know what happens to those over produced ones.

5. Storage Issues

I know some of you are thinking, since there are people out there who will use these fresh chickens, and overproduced chickens can still be the right size – why not just store it and sell it after?
Well, you will be right if fresh chickens don’t come in on a daily basis. There is almost no storage for fresh chickens as it will then be considered fresh frozen which is lower in value. Also, storage isn’t exactly a very cheap thing either. Higher cost, and lower margins? Who will be willing to undertake this?
************************************************************************
We have been working with various poultry slaughterhouses to help them re-distribute these fresh chickens. As our favourite saying goes – one man’s meat is another man’s poison – there is always a use for undersized/oversized chickens out there in the market. For injured and deformed chickens, we have also managed to process and re-distribute them accordingly.
By doing so, we managed to help businesses increase their margins by allowing them to procure cheap fresh chickens at almost 50% discount from their usual prices (whoopie!) and saving them from the bin at the same time. Slaughterhouses and farms are happy too since they have us to take care of their logistics! Doing the same thing as what they always have been but earning extra income, these farms and slaughterhouses are more than happy…
Interested to find out more or know someone who might be? Simply hit us up here or drop us a comment to see what we can do for you!

4 Reasons TreeDots had to remove the Vege Box

Saying goodbye is always tough, but sometimes it has to be done. The “Adopt a Vege Box” initiative was without a doubt one of the first few services that we had started as a weapon against edible food waste. Ugly vegetables sourced from our suppliers packed into a box and delivered to our adopters every Friday, sounds like a great plan!

Or maybe not. Here are some reasons that we have learnt along our journey to force us to pause this product for the time being:

1. Lack of Customers

It took us awhile to realise this but our initiative just wasn’t doing as great as how we envision it to be. Till date, we had only acquired around 20 consistent buyers for the initiative. We did a brief survey out there to find out why and it seems like people just didn’t like the surprise factor of these ugly produce. Either way, not enough customers simply means our operations would be expensive leading to expensive boxes and lesser customers – see the vicious cycle happening here?

2. Mismatch in Expectations

stop adopt vege box
Maybe we didn’t market the product right, maybe people don’t get the nature of food waste, but our survey had shown that our Vege Boxes just didn’t hit their expectations. We’ve had people saying that the vegetables are not ugly, and would like to boycott the suppliers whom had sold them via us. We’ve got people wanting to choose the items in the box or know the items a week before so they’re able to plan their groceries. We’ve even got people going to supermarkets and compare the prices asking why are they only saving $10 or even asking to have it for free.
Again, this is entirely due to our inexperience in communications and also lack of resources to properly do so. Therefore we have decided to just halt this, regroup, before we launch another initiative like that.

3. Slow response time from sellers

Our suppliers started to enjoy the other channels of clearance by TreeDots – towards our business clients – because we weren’t clearing their products quick enough with vege boxes. Over time, they started to become sluggish in their end of the week updates, and we had a lack of products to pack for the vege boxes.

4. Lack of sufficient resources

We were doing too many things at one time, catering to business clients took up more than we can chew in terms of resource allocation and we just didn’t have enough for anything else.
With this, we have closed the curtains to our pioneer product but it will definitely not be the end. We are just halting it to see how we can better improve our services to serve you all. Thank you to all the supporters for Vege Box and we hope to still see you around for other orders.

How to Participate in Stop Food Waste Day in 3 Easy Steps

Is food waste really that big of a problem to warrant an entire day dedicated to fighting it? Sure, wasting food on an individual level should be a relatively small issue. But combine the waste of the entire nation (and the globe!) and we get a massive problem that’s hard to stomach.

Step 1: Be aware of the problem

So yes, food waste IS that big of a problem. But how big is it exactly? Let’s break it down. The FAO of the United Nations explains it well in this short clip.

The food we consume have to pass through many hands before reaching our dining tables. Unfortunately, losses are incurred at every stage of the process.  And as explained in the video, food waste is deeply entrenched in all levels of the industry!
Here are some quick bites about food waste.
  • Did you know that Singapore generated 791,000 whopping tonnes of food waste in 2016 alone! That’s equivalent to two bowls of rice per person a day.
  • On a global scale, 40% of our food goes uneaten. Picture throwing one-third of the food on your plate away! Calculate the numbers and you get  1.3 billion tonnes of food wasted every year.
  • Combine all our wasted food and it becomes the third largest emitter of GHG in the world!
  • The author of of Wasted Food narrowed down the 3 main factors of food waste to: abundance, beauty and cost.
  • At the retail level, large quantities of food are wasted due to quality standards that over-emphasize appearance.

 

Just a fraction of the fruits and vegetables that were bound for the landfill if not for our partnership with the Uglies Market at SMU.

 How much food do you throw out as a consumer?  Would you throw out a basket of strawberries you just bought from the supermarket? 

Pretty tragic right? Like all of the food we consume, these strawberries travelled a pretty long way to reach our tables, only to end up in our trash bins because we forget about them.
Many of us don’t think twice about tossing leftovers away or discarding produce that’s left in the fridge for too long. Multiply the impact across all households in the country and we have on our hands one of the biggest contributors to climate change.

 

Step 2: Act now

When food waste happens on such a massive scale, it can be difficult to know where to start. However, we know that baby steps are the way to go. Here are some simple ways you can start acting now!
  • Buy only what you need with shopping lists and planning your meals in advance. Click here and here for useful tools that we feel make this process fun and easy!
  • Store your food properly. Here’s a comprehensive list of how to store all kinds of produce.
  • Freezing is a great way to prolong the lifespan of your food. Master the art of freezing here.
  • Treat expiration dates as suggestions/guidelines, not the law.
  • Manage your food waste at home with apps such as No waste and
  • Buy meals from restuarants and food stalls at discounted prices with 11th Hour and treatsure.
  • Hosting a party for your colleagues or a get-together with friends? We recommend the really awesome Guest-imator: it helps you calculate how much food to prepare for your guests and even puts your menu, shopping list and recipes together!

 

Step 3: Spread the word

 

Food involves all of us. Everyone has a part to play in this ecosystem. You can do yours by simply spreading the word.

Bonus step: For the aspiring food waste warriors

For those who ask, “how can I do more?”, we’d love for you to come on board as a food waste warrior.
Here at TreeDots, reducing food waste is at the centre of whatever we do. We help society target one of the biggest contributors to food waste- those at the top of the supply chain. By redirecting excess food stocks from big players such as food importers, suppliers and distributers to businesses, we’re helping to unlock the value of food that would have otherwise gone to waste.
Looking for cheap food or the best food bargains? We’re the place for you.
Are you a business owner or have a company in mind that you’d like us to reach out to? Feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] We’d be happy to hear from you.

3 Ways To Start Hustling based on The Lean Startup Methodology

Getting started is one of the biggest roadblocks for aspiring entrepreneurs. The Lean Startup Methodology has been hailed to help startups achieve maximum acceleration at a minimal cost.
We engaged in a lecture and hands-on session about running a startup, the lean way. Conducted by Bryan Long, Co-Founder of Stack and Founder of The Testing Ground, we knew we were in good hands.
We have combined our key takeaways from the session with our own experiences to share 3 ways you can get hustling!

1. Embrace Failure

Singapore is no Silicon Valley. We avoid failure like the plague!
However, failure is a mental hurdle that founders must cross and eventually, embrace. Want to reach the finish line faster? Fail early and learn early.
Failure has been lauded as the mother of success, and for good reason. Startups that ultimately succeed emerged from failure after failure while iterating on their ideas.
At TreeDots, we’ve been shoved out of offices and spat in the face. Our early ideas were far from perfect. The F&B industry was also a brutal one. We were uncertain, tired and discouraged.
But we pushed on.

2. Test Your Idea

Startups don’t usually start with deep pockets. When we’re strapped for resources, developing a perfect prototype can often be out of the question.
The solution: Create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP-yes, you read that right!) An MVP is the fastest way to effectively test if your idea and return with the most valuable insights.
Traditionally, corporations can take up to a year to develop their business models, prototypes and final products before finally testing them.
As a startup, you can run your tests monthly or even weekly with an MVP. That’s 52 times more opportunities for validated learning!
Our MVP was a photo of a blemished head of cabbage. We went door-to-door, showed this photo on our phones to potential customers and asked, “Would you buy this, if it was cheaper than the market price?”
Our MVP cost us nothing to produce, and taught us that:
  • Food distributors and importers are our potential customers, not wholesalers.
  • There was a market for ugly but perfectly edible food.
  • Yes, we can continue building on our idea.

3. Make Continuous Improvements

After rounds of testing with your MVP, you are sure to end up with lots of data. Use the insights and feedback you received to decide whether to pivot or iterate.
Were your initial assumptions correct? Can you proceed with several tweaks in your business model? If yes, go ahead and make iterations to further refine and develop your idea.
If no, your idea may require a pivot– A change in your business model while maintaining the essence of your initial vision. Remember, the changes you are making should be guided by the data you have collected from your tests.
Here at TreeDots, our ultimate goal is to reduce food waste.
We started by thinking that food caterers would be our perfect early-adopters. We assumed that they had flexibility over their menus and were accruing low-profit margins from their sales.
Over time, we realised that these food caterers value their relationships with their food suppliers. They were also already well-versed in the art of negotiating for the best prices to survive in the low margin environment.
It turned out that our service wasn’t that valuable towards that sector at the beginning.
This called for a change in our entry strategy. We shifted our focus to organisations that wanted to procure their raw ingredients at less competitive prices. These organisations included small restaurants, cafes and voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs),
A pivot in our target audience then became key to kickstart our sales.

Start Hustling Now

Get creative with designing your MVP. Go out and talk to your customers, users and partners. Consolidate feedback and make iteration after iteration. Prepare to fail but also be sure to emerge wiser after every stumble.

4 Things We learned as a Startup at the VCIC Asia Regional Finals

When we were invited to the Venture Capitalist Investment Competition (VCIC) Asia Regional Finals on 3/3/18 to participate as a startup, we couldn’t say no. An opportunity to practice our pitches, learn how to negotiate terms and rub shoulders with actual venture capitalists(VCs)? We’re definitely in!

Tyler pitching at VCIC. Image credit: nbs gradstudies

This was definitely a most rewarding experience for us. And today, we want to share four of our biggest takeaways!

The Appeal of Social Enterprises

Prior to the competition, we had the impression that compared to deep tech companies, a social enterprise like ours wouldn’t stand a chance.

Hence, it was surprising when we found that our social impact was the most appealing factor to the VCs. Not only were they heartened by what we were doing, they also felt that social causes like ours were worthwhile investments!

This came from many of the students who would go on to become VCs. And our value proposition turned out to be our social impact.

We realised that times have changed and that we definitely had a distinct edge over purely profit-driven companies.

Always Seek Out Like-Minded Investors

VCs will be the ones helping you scale up and grow. They will connect you with the right networks that are key to the success of your startup. What happens if there’s a mismatch between your interests or worst still, your end-goals?

We learned that an ideal VC would:

  • See value in what you are creating
  • Want to achieve your goals with you
  • Have the capabilities to help you achieve the very same goals

So, always be on the lookout for investors with the capacity and interests to help your startup achieve your long-term goals.

Know Your Term Sheet Clauses

Knowing how to negotiate the terms in a term sheet is essential to secure a good investment. The negotiation session at VCIC was certainly helpful in preparing us for such occasions in the future.

How do we differentiate between an agreement that is favourable or not? How can we protect the interests of both the investor and the founder? These are questions that we as founders, need to know how to answer.

If you are planning to raise funds through seeking out potential investors, we highly encourage you to know this skill like the back of your hand! Doing so will not only help protect the shares of the investors and founders, but also ensure that your startup is going in the right direction.

The Team Matters Most

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it once more.

After a networking session with the VCs, we’ve ascertained this fact yet again. While our profit margin, market size and company traction are key to securing investments, these factors are secondary. Our primary objective should always be building a strong team first.

Your team matters most because you will be the ones bringing the ideas to life. Business ideas can change and your company’s performance can improve. But your team is forever!

How We Won the Grand Prize at the Social Startup Challenge 2018

Recently, we won the Grand Prize at the Institution of Innovation & Entrepreneurship Social Startup Challenge 2018! Hurrah!

IMAGE 2018-03-07 11:29:03.jpg

Woohoo! TreeDots at the Social Startup Challenge 2018

This would not have been possible without the help of our interns Jia Le and Yu Sheng, who also represented us at the competition.

Creating Real Impact

The award was a sign of validation that here at TreeDots, we are doing real work. At the competition, we shared about two of our social impacts: one, reducing food waste; and two, providing affordable food prices to lower-income groups.

At TreeDots, we don’t simply sell to businesses. We also reach out to lower-income groups and ensure that for them, each meal only costs $0.48. Because of that, they are able to meet their required 2 servings of vegetables and 3 servings of meat per day. This was not achievable with the prices at supermarkets.

To top it off, our judges at the competition were active players in the social entrepreneurship scene. It was heartening to know that all our hard work had been recognised.

Tough Times Don’t Last…

As of February 2018, we saved a whopping 1.5 tonnes of food– our biggest achievement to date. We started out with lots of hurdles because we were new to the industry and had to learn everything from scratch. During our first 2 months of operations, we only made $200 in revenue.

However, we pulled through. We continued making refinements and spoke to our advisors. Ultimately, we managed to save so much food in just 6 months.  Seeing the impact we made is a huge validation. Previously, we constantly questioned ourselves if we were doing the right thing. Now, we want to make that number grow, and grow exponentially!

…Tough Teams Do

The three of us have varied skill sets and experiences. Hence, we all come in from different angles and that really value-adds to the team. You want different skills and styles of thinking so that you have different ways of approaching a problem.

Cai (also known as Jia Cai) puts on the table the tech skills and expertise that Tylor and I lack. Tylor’s experience in investment banking helps increase our sales and attract potential investors. I go micro, and it helps because I’m handling the operations.

That’s how we value-add each other.

Eliminate all Fear

The startup scene can be very intimidating. Our advice to budding entrepreneurs is:  START DOING. If you have an idea, you’d have some things you wanna test- go ahead and test it. Test it and talk to somebody! When you start doing and getting your hands dirty, you’ll eliminate that initial fear.

You WILL face rejection, and that’s okay. If lots of people reject your idea, that’s good too because then you’ll realise that you might be doing certain things the wrong way.

And that’s a wrap! Today, we learned: 

  1. When you’re faced with setbacks, keep refining your idea until it works.
  2. Work with others with different strengths and skills to bring out the best in your team!
  3. Have an idea? Start doing now! You’ll overcome your fear once you try!

 

How did TreeDots celebrate Chinese New Year?

It all started with a quick discussion at SMUAA B3 Cafe, an idea to give back to the unsung heroes who have been keeping our alma mater as conducive and beautiful as what we had always known it for. Everything was fuzzy, nothing was solidified, but all of us only had one goal in mind – to express our heartfelt thanks to these quiet heroes in SMU this lunar new year.

TreeDots, SMU Grow, and SMUAA B3 decided to come together, each pooling our expertise, to whip up something amazing for our school’s 100 cleaners, technicians, security guards, and contract staff on the 7th day of lunar new year. Why the 7th? According to Chinese tradition, this day is everybody’s birthday! So what better day to show our gratitude!

After much planning and consideration, we decided to do a few things for these lovely people:

  1. Lo-Hei! A tradition where the Chinese set up a raw fish salad while uttering auspicious phrases and toss it as high as possible to usher in a year of prosperity;
  2. Buffet – how can a party not have a feast;
  3. Goodies bag for them to take home something after;

A campaign was thus set up to start raising funds and we were so touched by the generosity of the SMU circle – within a short span of two days, we had hit our initial target of S$1,500! At the end of the fundraising campaign, we raised a whopping S$1,900!

After all the hard work (and donations), the results were truly satisfying when we see the buzz of excitement and happy faces at the end of the day –

Albeit a simple event, it really felt like an extended family reunion for everybody. The funds collected went a long way since we managed to maximise food supplies and reduce food wastage. All of this couldn’t have been done without the help of all the donors, volunteers, organisers, SMU Grow, and B3!

Receipts –

lo-hei appreciation receipts

TreeDots at EarthFest Singapore 2018 – Our first ever event!

Some time in December, TreeDots was invited to set up a booth at EarthFest Singapore 2018. We were having a bunch of mixed feelings then, it was between excitement and fear because of the same reason, the entire TreeDots team had never set up a booth before!

Fast forward till now, we were glad we went took the leap of faith and went along with joining EarthFest Singapore 2018. Plenty of sleepless night, and thankful for some of our friends who decided to help us out – special thanks to Flora Artisan for helping us with the styling of the entire booth! The weather was great that day as well, despite having rained for the past few days.

TreeDots Founder Team at Earthfest Singapore 2018

TreeDots Founder Team at Earthfest Singapore 2018 with our booth beautifully set up by Flora Artisan

Made plenty of new friends along the way, started a new product specially for that which is awesome for our fresh produce sellers onboard – Adopting a Veggie box. Nobody knows what will be under-demanded by the market, and being able to put them into a box and sell it to customers whom are cool with surprises? PERFECT PLAN. Check them out here, and probably order some to take a break off grocery shopping for a week (or more) and prevent all these perfectly fine vegetables from being thrown away!

Many exciting collaborations are also in place, we met organic farmers who are keen on being listed on our platform, content generators willing to help us publicise our ideals, professional executives who are volunteering to improve our business operations for free, and we even got ourselves a short paragraph in a Straits Times article!

We thank everyone whom have supported us thus far, and for those whom have missed EarthFest, worry not for we have taken a short montage of us working hard that day for you!

Click here to view if the video isn’t working!

With this, the event is over and we thank all of you for your continuous support. Do check out our page more often for more upcoming events!

EarthFest x TreeDots – One of the greenest event in Singapore!

Are you as stoked for Earthfest as TreeDots are right now? Our team has been working tirelessly over the past few weeks waiting to bring the best out to you guys via this event. Needless to say, our main focus would be on sustainable practices in the F&B industry right here in Singapore! We even have a new product to help you guys find even greater convenience while saving money and food at the same time! Not convinced? Have a glimpse of some of our products here to get a brief idea!

Right now tickets are by invite-only so you can reserve yours free through this newsletter via this link: http://bit.ly/EarthFest2018

What is EarthFest About? We’ll let them describe it:

Message from EarthFest:

EarthFest is having it’s third edition on January 14, 2018!  Just like the first two, it has been designed to be sustainable, fun, and inspirational for all ages!  Featuring a food fair of delicious international and new age planet-friendly foods, a Farmer’s Market of local businesses with more sustainable products, an eco-carnival of engaging low carbon games, as well as other various opportunities like talks, screenings, etc.  We will have over 120 stalls this year and expand into a third floor.  There will be something for everyone and all interests – all packaged in one of the most sustainable and beautiful venues in the world: Marina Barrage!

Highlights and additions to the festival this year include:

  • New bands on stage, including local artist Christiane Mikaela
  • Our first hybrid food truck will be part of the food fair
  • New talks and workshops curated by Green is the New Black!
  • PitchFest by Awesome Foundation – win $1000 for your sustainable project
  • NEA Exposition on Climate Change + Waste
  • Screening of Landfill Harmonic by Singapore Eco Film Festival
  • Singapore Really Really Free Market
  • Exhibition of the Green Warriors by The Wedge Asia
  • WWF Eco-School exhibitions
  • Bookswap hosted by Secondsguru
  • Used cooking oil collection for biodiesel production by Alpha Bio Fuels
  • Try e-schooter sharing by Popscoot

Are we really serious about sustainability?  This is how we’ll stand apart: Our food fair will use 100% compostable material – and we’ll actually compost it!  The food is all planet-friendly requiring less water, land, and food inputs to produce while still being delicious and healthy (and from some of Singapore most highly rated restaurants!)  We’ll feature only reusable bags and no pamphlets can be handed out – they have to do digital distribution!  And all that haze we’ve been breathing in?  Well that’s due to palm oil – so it’s banned at EarthFest!  More than that we’re the first comprehensive sustainability festival that unites many organisations and businesses together at once.  You’ll have access to information on fair trade, buying local, organic, responsible investing, planet-friendly and healthy food, transportation, biodegradable & non-toxic options, overfishing, waste, electricity usage, water and much, much more!  Most importantly, we’ll inspire you with the effective ways you can make changes to really make a sustainable and modern future possible!

Excited?  We are and hope you are too!  We hope to see you on February January 14, 2018 from 11 am to 4:30 pm for EarthFest!  The limited tickets are FREE and available at http://bit.ly/EarthFest2018  You can also see all the businesses that will be there by visiting http://earthfestsingapore.com!  This is a community-based event – so if there is something YOU want to contribute or run, let us know and we’ll try to find a way to make it happen! Thanks to Singapore Press Holdings for being a sponsor this year!

Fresh (but ugly) Vegetables is now on TreeDots!

TreeDots has recently on-boarded an importer for fresh vegetables as a seller on our platform. As an importer, their minimum importing quantity tend to generate a large amount of waste from overstocking – ordering below is an option but they would lose their reputation if they are unable to fulfil demand from their wholesalers and distributors.

Their vegetables are fresh, air-flown from their country of origin to Singapore. They might show some blemishes but other than that they are perfectly safe for consumption! Super fresh as well since they were placed on our platform immediately after they landed here. TreeDots have done their necessary due diligence on the quality and pricing of the products, and we would say its definitely a good buy. Did we mention that their products are also considered premium in their industry? I mean, look at that Asparagus from Mexico costing only $5 for 450g!

At TreeDots, we take transparency very seriously since we are dealing with food products. As such, we require the seller to ensure that all of the fresh vegetables would have their description and reason for selling at a discount clearly stated on our platform. Returns would also be allowed if you find that it is not as per our description on the platform upon delivery.

So what are you waiting for, hurry grab some premium greens that are going at a low-cost over here! At TreeDots, we are unable to promise a consistent flow of products due to our business model so once products are sold out, we do not know when is the next time they will be back again so get the most out of these deals before they are gone (maybe for good)!

Finally, our social initiative – Food Fund – is still ongoing. Let us create a wonderful for the less-privileged this Christmas by offering to get them meals on the table for at least a month to ease their burdens. Just a mere $60 and you’d be able to feed one beneficiary for 30 days! You may pledge your donation amounts here.