Katy Barfield is on a mission to reduce the colossal waste Australia’s food industry generates yearly, through her world-first online marketplace, Yume. Katy is the latest to be featured in Women’s Agenda’s series The Link, celebrating and sharing the (sometimes unheard) stories of the country’s most inspiring people.
We’ve got a long way to go to end a long war on waste, but thanks to visionaries like Katy Barfield, we’re making progress. Katy is the CEO and founder of Yume, the world’s first online marketplace connecting food suppliers (manufacturers, primary producers and importers) with mass buyers; enabling them to list and sell their surplus products and, in turn, preventing good quality food from going to waste.
It’s a simple idea, but one that’s already gaining huge momentum with big brands like Huon Salmon, Lemnos and Unilever Food Solutions signing up.
Katy is the latest woman to be featured in our profile series ‘The Link’. We caught up recently to talk about ‘sticking to your mission’, career hacks and what’s really got her fired up.
What are you working on right now that’s got you really excited?
I’ve just finished filming with Craig Reucassel on the new ABC War on Waste It is estimated that a massive 3.9 million tonnes of food goes to waste annually in the commercial sector in Australia. So far, Yume has returned $1.5 million back to Australian farmers and manufacturers and prevented over 300,000kg of top quality products from going to waste. Environmentally, this equates to 600 tonnes of CO2 prevented and 20.7 million litres of water saved.
What one issue is making you really angry right now?
The enormity of Australia’s food waste. Food rescue organisations collect and re-distribute approximately 44,300 tonnes of surplus food per annum, but this is just 2% of the total commercial and industrial food waste in Australia. Multinational manufacturers, industrial caterers and still thousands of commercial sector businesses are not signed up to be part of the movement to achieve a world without waste. They need to all sign up to Yume to be part of the solution.
Best piece of career advice you ever received?
Stick to your mission, values and vision no matter what is thrown at you. Mission creep is extremely dangerous to a social enterprise like Yume. Holding on to your mission is critical when times get tough.
What would you go back and tell yourself ten years ago?
To believe in myself more, to trust my instincts and to back myself. To not let other people railroad me into doing things that go against my gut feel. Whenever I’ve gone against my gut it’s not ended well!
Biggest hurdle you’ve faced (or are still facing) in your career?
Being a small under resourced social business trying to disrupt one of the biggest and powerful sectors on the planet – the food industry. Our greatest challenge is to get big business to change their status quo. We don’t need minimisation targets, we need to achieve zero food waste.
Yume recently helped an Australian company which was left stranded with 27 tonnes of beautiful yellow-fin tuna after a large supermarket cancelled their order at the last minute. Via the Yume platform the supplier was able to find a buyer.
We’re urgently calling for all food manufacturers and primary producers to join Yume, so that we can help prevent this food– which takes time, money and valuable resources to grow, pick, pack and distribute– from going to waste.
How did/are you push through/work around it?
I created Yume after working in the food rescue sector for over 10 years. I witnessed the sheer volume of food that was still being thrown away in the commercial food sector across Australia and realised that to make a significant impact on the food waste mountain, a marketplace needed to be established that the food industry could take part in.
Until now the ability to move surplus food in Australia has been fragmented, disparate, manual and difficult. There are many businesses desperate to sell their quality surplus food who through limited avenues to market, often have no option but see it go to waste. On the other side there are many food businesses that could use that surplus food but have no idea how to source it.
I built Yume to connect buyers and suppliers in a mutually beneficial transaction that prevents food from going to waste. But I couldn’t do this on my own, I have a passionate team that have joined the cause who are intelligent, creative and tenacious. They’re critical thinkers and committed to our vision of a world without waste.
How have mentors or sponsors (or both) aided your career?
Ian Carson the co-founder at SecondBite had a huge influence on me. He taught me to think strategically and look at all perspectives and to find a way through every challenge. Yume’s first angel investor and board member, Pitzy Folk, is another inspiring mentor who encourages me to stay positive and focus on the big picture.
What’s your favourite piece of tech?
The Yume marketplace! yumefood.com.au
What daily publications do you read or follow?
When I find snippets of time between being at Yume and at home with my two boys aged six and eight, I try to catch up with world events by reading the Guardian and Food + Tech Connect.
What apps or tools do you use to help manage your day?
Google Apps, Slack and Jira are invaluable.
Any industry associations you’re a part of or that you’d recommend to other women?
I recommend the Telstra Business Women’s Awards alumni and also the Stanford University’s Australian Scholarships Foundation. Stanford is encouraging Australian women to apply for short leadership courses. Having undertaken this myself, I can attest to the brilliant supportive women you will be exposed to both for networking and inspiration.
What book do you most recommend to other women when it comes to their career?
I enjoyed Biz Stones ‘Things a little bird told me’ and Steven Covey’s ‘7 Habits’.
And what are you reading/watching/listening to right now (for work or pleasure)?
For pleasure I’ve just finished reading Me Before Youa romance novel by Jojo Moyes. I recently watched Trump ‘An American Dream’ a four-part documentary which was fascinating and terrifying (!).
Where can people find out more about your work?
Got a woman to suggest who you’d like to next read about on Women’s Agenda?
Elana Rubin who was a fellow director of mine at SecondBite as she is an inspirational leader and mentor and Petra Fawcett, director at CUB who is a powerhouse of energy and great friend.