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“I was inspired by nature” - Daphna Nissenbaum [Interview]

When arguing with her son about reusing plastic bottles, Daphna realised that many packages that could be used several times land in rubbish bins. She also realised that changing people’s habits is difficult. So she decided to change the packaging instead.

You currently work in the food tech sector, but before that you worked as the CEO of a research center on capital markets and prior to that, you held a few positions as a software engineer. Could you tell us how/when your interest in food technology was born?

“The idea for TIPA® actually sparked from an argument I had with one of my kids about the plastic bottles he would take to school – some days he would return them to be reused, while other days he wouldn’t. I said to him ‘We have to think about what we do with our packages’. There were so many discussions surrounding the matter of plastic packaging at the time, and I thought to myself, ‘the world will need a package that is not based on plastic, one that will break down by itself post-consumption’. That was when I really started to get interested in the project.”

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Why did you choose to focus your efforts on developing compostable packaging? Why did this topic matter to you?

“I started thinking about a solution to packaging that would be natural for waste. When we eat an apple or an orange, it disintegrates and biodegrades by itself, and I thought, what if plastic packaging could biodegrade once we’re done with it, the way our organic waste does? I wanted to find the inspiration in nature, which is how I got to compostable packaging; it’s a circular process that takes care of waste naturally.”

Together with Tal Neuman you founded Tipa, a startup that offers compostable packaging for food. What were the biggest challenges when launching the startup? How did you overcome them?

“When we started out, only a few low-end compostable products were available on the market, so developing the technology was our first challenge. We wanted to replicate the properties of plastic packaging with fully compostable materials. Once we had the technology, we worked to break into an existing industry and find partners that would give us machine time for trials so we could bring the technology to market. Today, we’re in a very good position and we work with many partners, and collaborate with converters, manufacturers, and raw materials manufacturers, which has enabled us to see incredible growth.”

Could you tell us a bit about the compostable packaging that TIPA offers?

“TIPA® focuses on packaging solutions mainly for the food and fashion industries, which require a high level of expertise. Food and fashion packaging must accommodate client branding, aggressive supply chains, shelf life, and be suited to consumer behavior. We developed compostable flexible packaging solutions that imitate the transparency, durability, shelf-life, and flexibility of conventional plastic but, after use, return to nature. It enables brands to replace their conventional plastic packaging with fully compostable solutions.”

What do you see as the most challenging part of your current role?

“The company is experiencing massive growth, so the challenge right now is to grow smart while we grow quickly. As we deploy our technology into new segments and territories, it’s sort of a juggling act—our challenge is to coordinate that growth along our supply chain and with our teams, so we can answer the market demand. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences, sometimes very high and sometimes very low. I’m always on my toes, because anything can happen tomorrow, especially in a startup environment.”

Daphna, you are on top of the 10 female founded Food Tech startups list announced by Forward Fooding this year. Congratulations! What would be your advice to other women working in the food tech sector that could help them to get as far as you did?

“I would encourage women in the industry to do what you believe in—do what you think is right. Be very professional, and only let your business, you experience, and your integrity lead you. Fight for your dreams and don’t give up.”

You run your own company and speak at various conferences, but you are also a mum. How do you balance your time between the family and the business life?

“I manage to find a balance. My family and my company are my highest priority right now, so I do have to give up on some other things, but I do not regret it.”

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