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Tackling Food Waste Through "Ugly" Produce: Summer Fellow Lucia Cuneo (MBA 2022)

By: Lucia Cuneo 15 Jul 2021

The HBS Summer Fellows Program enables students to apply their classroom training as they explore career opportunities in roles or regions where compensation is generally lower than the traditional MBA level. This summer, we are connecting with some of our 59 Social Enterprise Summer Fellows, who are working around the world to develop skills and knowledge while having significant responsibility and high impact.

What are you working on this summer?

I am working for ANINA Culinary Art, an Israeli start-up that utilizes its technology, expertise in design, and knowledge in culinary arts to create food products from “ugly” produce. Normally, ugly fruits, vegetables, and grains are thrown away if they do not conform to customers’ aesthetic standards, even if they are high quality and perfectly fit for consumption. ANINA’s vision is to prevent food waste by reinserting these products into the market through its innovative technology. As part of my internship, I am working side-by-side with the CEO, Anat Natan, to help craft the company’s strategy and to develop pioneering and inspiring products people are passionate about.

Why did you choose this internship for the summer?

More than 30-40% of the food supply goes to waste. In a world in which millions of people do not have access to food, I wanted to have an active role in an organization that seeks to tackle this paramount issue and make a lasting impact for the world and humanity’s future. ANINA’s mission was also a perfect fit for my passions of innovation and product design. For the last five years, I have dedicated my career to creating new plant-based food products from scratch; I deeply enjoy every step of the process, from interviewing consumers and pinning down their needs to benchmarking dishes via tastings and elaborating a business strategy. Moreover, I was impressed by ANINA’s CEO and founder, Anat, who has an inspiring approach to both work and life. I craved the opportunity to work side by side with her at a one-year-old company with fewer than ten employees. To me, this was a unique opportunity to learn first-hand how a start-up is set up and operated by a leader I see as a role model.

What are your goals for this summer?

One of the goals for my summer was to continue working within the foods industry, and particularly, within AgTech and the plant-based category. Alternatives to meat and dairy have become extremely relevant, and even necessary, for a sustainable environment, and my intent was to continue developing my expertise in this space. Moreover, I wanted to work in a new region and broaden my international experience. Working in the Middle East has allowed me to understand the complexities of the region and has exposed me to a fascinating start-up ecosystem, adding on to my South American and European experiences. Finally, I wanted to be part of a newly founded start-up to learn first-hand how a start-up is created in its early years. Having worked in well-established CPG firms, my goal was to learn how entrepreneurs kickstart their ventures, design their organization, and strive to achieve groundbreaking impact with limited resources. ANINA provided the opportunity to fulfill all my goals for the summer.

How has your MBA skillset prepared you to be successful in this role?

The MBA skillset is key to having a well-rounded understanding of how to operate a start-up. In the HBS classroom, I became the case protagonist every day. I was able to immerse in different industries and functions and learn how to make complex decisions in a short timeframe and with limited resources. This leadership experience and business knowledge allowed me to successfully onboard in a start-up and hit the ground running from day one. In particular, the RC curriculum complemented my Marketing and Engineering background with a deep understanding of VC dynamics, and how funding requirements shape my workplan and everyday decisions. It also enabled me to better comprehend the challenges and tradeoffs ANINA’s leadership faces beyond the scope of operations.

How has the summer influenced your thinking on future involvement in social enterprise?

Throughout my career, I have sought to work in companies that are dedicated to sustainability and creating a positive impact in the world. My summer internship is a continuation of this path and my life goal of creating a world that is more sustainable. I aspire to continue being involved in social enterprise after HBS. My experience at ANINA cements my drive to wake up everyday knowing that I am contributing to something meaningful, something that helps people around the world get better access to food and a better life. The positive social impact in both people and the world brings a smile to my face and makes me happy to go to work every day.

How can someone learn more about your organization?

You can find out more about ANINA’s vision, products, and latest news by visiting the company's website or LinkedIn page.