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Bardee, a Food Waste Startup Backed by Blackbird, Reduces Staff by 30

In a significant turn of events, Melbourne-based food waste recycling startup Bardee, supported by Blackbird Ventures, has made the difficult decision to lay off a significant portion of its workforce, approximately 30 employees. These employees are currently awaiting their outstanding payments as the company grapples with challenges in securing additional capital.

These job cuts occurred in May, and their revelation was recently reported by The Australian.

Founded in 2019 by architect Phoebe Gardner and entomologist Alex Arnold, Bardee made its mark by raising $5 million in Seed funding towards the end of 2021. This funding round was spearheaded by Blackbird Ventures, with additional support from notable figures such as Simon Griffiths, the founder of Who Gives A Crap, and Didier Elzinga, the founder of Culture Amp, along with his wife, the renowned opera singer Greta Bradman.

Phoebe Gardner, one of Bardee’s co-founders, declined to comment on the layoffs when contacted by Startup Daily. She did, however, express her concerns to The Australian, indicating that she believes the current market may be hesitant to invest in unprofitable deep tech and climate tech companies. Nevertheless, a recent $10 million raise by Bardee’s competitor, Goterra, suggests a different perspective.

Gardner shared her insights, stating, “The reality is, I think Bardee is in one of those first early batches of real climate tech, deep tech investments, and in general, the operating costs are so high, and obviously going up massively with electricity costs alongside everything else.”

Subsequent reports in the media have revealed that Nick Crocker, a partner at Blackbird, resigned from Bardee’s board in early 2022, just a few months after the venture capital firm’s investment. Three other company executives also left amid disagreements with senior management.

Despite the challenges, Bardee, which now offers its fertiliser product at Bunnings, is making efforts to ensure its employees receive their full entitlements by September.

Tragedy struck in late June when a 26-year-old Bardee employee lost his life in a workplace accident. He was tragically crushed to death after exiting the truck he was driving on Hosier Lane in Melbourne’s CBD at 7 am. The truck rolled forward, pinning him against a post and a building wall. WorkSafe Victoria is currently investigating the incident.

Bardee, like its competitor Goterra, uses black soldier fly larvae to process food waste, converting it into livestock protein feed and fertiliser.

After emerging from two years in “stealth mode” following their 2021 funding round, Bardee now operates from a 2,500sqm commercial facility in Melbourne’s northwest, which is reportedly undergoing upgrades.

Meanwhile, Goterra, based in Canberra and backed by Mike Cannon-Brookes of Atlassian, recently announced a $10 million funding round as they establish a $3.5 million processing plant in Western Sydney. They have also struck a deal with Woolworths to process their food waste, aligning with the supermarket giant’s goal of sending zero food waste to landfills by 2025.

Notably, Goterra was the pioneer in constructing Australia’s first commercial waste processing facility using insects in the New South Wales border town of Albury last year. They also have facilities at Sydney’s Barangaroo, where they process food waste generated from the Lendlease office towers. The company is actively seeking a Series B funding round later this year.

Phoebe Gardner expressed her aspirations last week, aiming to lead Bardee to profitability by November.

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