Abu Dhabi-Based Startup The Concept Partners With Etihad Airways To Develop IoT-Based Food Tray And Reduce Food Waste In The Aviation Industry

Made from sustainable materials such as recycled cabin waste and plastic bottles, the tray features an IoT chip that will allow Etihad to track food consumption served on board, as well as portions of the meal that left not consumed.

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The Concept, a UAE-based product development and design company, is teaming up with Etihad Airways to develop sustainable inflight solutions to monitor food consumption and reduce food waste in the aviation industry.

The Concept
Yadhushan Mahendran, Maria Sobh, and Muhammad Rijal Hikmatullah, co-founders of The Concept

Launched in 2017 by co-founders Yadhushan Mahendran, Maria Sobh, and Muhammad Rijal Hikmatullah, The Concept aims to eradicate non-sustainable hardware from the aviation industry, starting with a passenger’s inflight food try. The team is developing a smart food tray called Neos Fly+ to help Etihad examine passengers’ food consumption behaviors and understand their preferences.

Made from sustainable materials such as recycled cabin waste and plastic bottles, the tray features an internet of things (IoT) chip that will allow Etihad to track food consumption served on board, as well as portions of the meal that left not consumed. The collated data will be utilized to examine food consumption and wastage patterns and will help to improve meal planning and reduce operating costs. Etihad will also provide access to its catering facilities and flights to support The Concept’s development phase.

Source: The Concept

The startup originally joined Dubai-based aviation and travel incubator Intelak to kick off its concept, and it is now a part of tech accelerator Hub71 at Abu Dhabi Global Market. The partnership between The Concept and Etihad follows the recent announcement of Etihad as the official airline partner of Hub71.

Mahendran, co-founder and CEO of The Concept, describes the process of the partnership as having been a harmonious one. “The partnership in itself came together so seamless, as we identified a problem that Etihad Airways are looking to solve, and we are in the pipeline of developing the final solution to this problem,” he says. "The overall process of the partnership and the journey to getting the partnership was further encouraged and made seamless as we are a Hub71 startup, in which Etihad Airways is the official airline partner. With the help of Hub71 and Etihad Airways leading the change of mindset towards sustainability in the region and globally, the partnership was in-line with their vision.”

Etihad Airways is one of the corporations contributing to Hub71’s The Outliers, an initiative for SMEs to solve prominent challenges. The collaboration aligns with the airline’s approach to sustainability, says Frank Meyer, Chief Digital Officer at Etihad Airways. “This research and development partnership reinforces Etihad’s commitment to sustainability and our reputation for innovation,” he says. "We look forward to working with The Concept on the development of the NEOS Fly+, which could support our efforts to reduce food wastage. We are proud to partner with a homegrown, locally based startup to push the sustainability agenda forward.”

Going forward, Mahendran states that the team is fully focused on developing the NEOS Fly+, alongside Etihad Airways to ensure that the launch of the product by the end of the year. The startup is also currently raising seed investment of US$1.2 million, and is working on expanding its team. “We are developing beyond aviation into other industries such as retail, hospitality, and medical industries. We are keen in actively working with airlines and the aviation industry in order to aid the revival of the aviation industry.”     

‘TREP TALK: Yadhushan Mahendran, CEO and co-founder, The Concept

What’s your advice to startups seeking partnership with corporate entities?

1. Do your researchYou research and understand if the corporate has a similar mindset to what your company does and is trying to solve. In our instance, it was sustainability.” 

2. Be realistic “No one is expecting you to make a product or service overnight. As long as your product/idea is feasible, corporates will lead on to it.”

3. Be strategic “Ensure that even though you’re just a startup, that the partnership is strategic and leaves both the corporate and your startup in a win-win relationship during and post-partnership.” 

Related: Despite The COVID-19 Crisis, Dubai's Commitment To Sustainability And Corporate Social Responsibility Remains Strong In 2020

Pamella de Leon

Written By

Pamella de Leon is the Startup Section Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East. She is keen on the MENA region’s entrepreneurship potential, with a specific interest to support enterprises and individuals creating an impact.