Made in Croatia

Zagreb Man Invents System to Prevent Needless Food Wastage

By 4 February 2019

As Bojana Mrvos Pavic/Novi List writes on the 2nd of February, 2019, Zagreb's VeeMee connects customers and manufacturers over a platform where, by scanning a QR code on a product, the buyer can see all the information about the producer that interests them - who he is, how many hectares he is working on to produce his own food. That is, the customer can see whether or not what they're holding in their hands is truly authentic.

He may only be 31 years old, but he has many more good business ideas that, without exaggeration, could save the world - Marko Kozjak from Zagreb goes through life preventing food wastage and working towards having a "zero waste" future in which there will no longer be wasted food, or at the very least not so much of it.

Each of us, on average, throws away 75 kilograms of food per year into the trash - these are the alarming results of the research recently carried out by Branka Ilakovac. We mostly throw away fruits and vegetables, but also milk and dairy products, according to her research. How much food, however, is being discarded by chain stores, purely because of the smallest mistakes in packaging, the look of the food or other superficial defects, is difficult to imagine for the average consumer.

Tons of food is either returned to producers or taken to be thrown away, for example, if some tomatoes end up being damaged ​​during the delivery process, or if every tenth mango is too small - such cases see the whole consignment become a collateral victim and it is simply thrown away. This is a huge amount of food that is perfectly fine for human consumption.

Kozjak, who established the Zagreb-based VeeMee company with his partner Nikola Vida, is saving food from being needlessly thrown away. The company has saved more than a hundred tonnes of food over the last six months, and even prevented the dispersement of twelve tonnes of CO2, which would otherwise have ended up in our atmosphere.

Kozjak told Novi List at his office at the Technology Park in Zagreb, that when he finished "Tesla", the Central Technical School in Zagreb, he had already developed some projects for which there was unfortunately never any money to realise.

"Then, back in my younger days I took Nietzsche in my hands and fell in love with philosophy, and then completed philosophy and religiology. After graduating from the faculty, because I was always interested in sales and negotiation, I ended up selling fruit and vegetables, I was an assistant to the manager at one, and then a director at another company. I got to know all the holes in the system - from procurement problems, over freight, to logistics, and I decided to start a company that will repair that,'' stated Marko.

He has already succeeded, though many say they initially expected him not to. He has developed a food rescue system, but VeeMee (Vi-Mi), as its name suggests, is doing something very useful indeed - it connects customers and manufacturers over a platform where by scanning the QR code on the product, the buyer can see all the information on the producer - who the producer is, how many hectares they have, and how they produce their own food.

Thus, the customer can check a product's authenticity. Up to 1,100 Croatian OPGs and other producers are connected to the platform at the moment, meaning the sources of their products are guaranteed, and the customer can, if they want to, even visit the OPG and see for themselves where the food they're buying and eating comes from.

The story continues with another important segment of this Zagreb-made business - saving edible and decent food from being carelessly and needlessly thrown away.

''When some products arrive at the factory of a shopping centre from their producers, due to a certain mistake, everything will end up being returned to the manufacturer, or it will be sent to be thrown away - in 70 percent of cases this is because of a packaging error, or because of a LOT print error. Similarly, in 30 percent of cases, it's due to some irregularities on the goods themselves, for example, due to a small part of the goods having been stolen and the like.

This doen't mean that it isn't good food, but that part of a delivery, two to three percent of the goods, has endured some damage, and the whole truck, as well as the damaged goods, will be returned to the manufacturer. It will be thrown away. We're in contact with producers, primarily for imported goods, because in Croatia this system is not yet sufficiently recognised, and we take the goods to our partner's warehouse.

We either repackage it, if it's a packaging problem, we correct any printing mistakes - we mostly do whatever it takes to deliver it in compliance with the law, and send it to the stores within the next 24 hours. If there is a product with more significant damage, and it's clear to us that returning it to a store would take longer than a day, then we sell it to food outlets or to wholesalers,'' explained Marko.

So far, in just six months of active work, Zagreb's VeeMee has saved about 90 percent of such goods, which are "repaired", sent to stores or to food outlets, or to wholesale markets. The third option is to divide the goods if there is no other solution, or there are no buyers for it, and yet someone still wants it.

Make sure to follow our dedicated Made in Croatia page for much more. If it's just Zagreb you're interested in, give Total Zagreb a follow.


Click here for the original article by Bojana Mrvos Pavic for Novi List