There are many benefits of the vegan diet for dogs illustrated in the VEGGIBLES project by the first group interviewed from the Management Engineering 'Leadership & Innovation' course at the Politecnico di Milano, both from the point of view of animal welfare and from that of the environment and the reduction of waste and energy consumption.
The students participating in the project tell us more about it in detail:
Martina Gallistru, Jana El Kouche, Pietro D'Amore, Lorenzo Maria Fonte, María Paula Covelli, Alessandro Del Favero, under the guidance of Prof. Filomena Canterino
1) Participating in the International Leadership & Innovation program at the PoliMI's Faculty of Mangement Engineering, you were involved in the ideation of a sustainable innovation project for MEAT-TECH 2024, the exhibition dedicated to innovative technologies, ingredients and solutions for the entire protein world. What did you realize? And what was the idea behind the project?
“The project we developed for the Leadership & Innovation course was based on the application of theoretical concepts studied during the course to a real-life case, specifically for the company Ipack-Ima. Our group focused on developing a production line for vegan dog food, starting with an analysis of the problem and the industry, selecting the necessary ingredients, and identifying the various components of the production line and product packaging. The product is named Veggiebles and aims to cater to the recent trend of people reducing their meat consumption. The dog food market is experiencing strong growth, with analysts estimating its current value at $232 billion, projected to reach $350 billion by 2027. Additionally, throughout the development of the production line, we made efforts to minimize consumption and waste, aiming for a solution with a smaller environmental impact.”
2) What do you think are the strengths of the project and what makes it truly innovative?
“First and foremost, vegan dog treats are not readily available in Italian supermarkets. They can only be ordered online from a few vendors, often with long delivery times. To source the ingredients, we decided to utilize vegetables that are usually discarded due to their non-compliance with standards or simply due to overproduction, thereby reducing waste and giving them a second life. The product packaging is entirely recyclable, made from compostable paper and sealed with a plastic zip that can be easily separated from the rest of the bag. The most innovative aspect of the project is undoubtedly the production line. To achieve this, we selected state-of-the-art machinery to minimize consumption. For instance, in the drying process, we employed the Gatedryer, a highly efficient machine in terms of energy consumption and space required for installation. Lastly, to cool the dog treats, we devised a coil of pipes beneath the conveyor belt through which cold water flows. This approach significantly reduces consumption, and we can reuse the water for washing pots between cooking sessions. Our project fits into a circular economy perspective, addressing the needs of individuals that influence the market.”
3) Being part of this project has brought you closer to the world of the food industry, a growing market full of opportunities. What aspects have you been most passionate about? What surprised you the most in the research part? What developments do you expect for your future?
During our initial research on the industry, we were able to identify different opportunities for innovation and the creation of new ideas that would not only generate economic impacts for those who implement them but also have environmental impacts by creating more sustainable products and production lines. Among the many opportunities we identified, we found ourselves more attracted to and passionate about sustainable and circular trends that provide access to alternative protein sources while reducing waste. In our search for new solutions to aspects such as the scarcity of animal-based meat offerings or the scarcity of vegan products, we discovered that if there was already a limited variety of these products for humans, the offering for domestic animals was even more restricted, and that was what surprised us the most and to which we believe a solution must be sought. In the future, we believe that AI will play a key role as it will help the industry meet the specific needs of each individual. This will lead to the development of flexible production lines that allow product customization, for example, by creating a nutritional plan based on specific data received from the customer.