Millions of tons of food are thrown away on a daily basis, the majority of which is edible. A Swiss start-up is looking to change this within the hospitality industry by helping commercial kitchens manage their food waste through AI and image processing.
KITRO, was founded in 2017 by two hospitality management graduates after they experienced the situation first hand and realised the existing need for a product that helps kitchens optimize and reduce their waste.
The company’s product consists of a smart scale with a pole that scans what it is being thrown away and how much it costs. Based on this users receive detailed, action-oriented insights that show their food waste breakdown and how they can save. This allows them to make smart decisions and use data to reduce food waste and costs.
KITRO has lofty goals, as its mission is “to bring back the value of food so it is appreciated and not wasted”.
Anastasia Hofmann, co-founder of KITRO, spoke with Innovation Origins to explain a little bit more about the start-up and her journey.
Where did the idea for KITRO originate?
Co-founder Naomi and I studied both at Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne, where we also worked in different areas within the food and beverage sector, namely kitchen and service. Witnessing the quantities of food waste thrown away on a daily basis really shocked us. We realized that within bigger kitchens, it is hard to keep an eye on what fills up your bins at the end of the day and therefore we got inspired to create an effective solution which is easy to implement and helps restaurants to monitor and measure their food waste.
Did you develop all the technology involved in the start-up?
Yes, everything was designed by us however we work with partners for some parts of the development. The product itself consists of a hardware and a software. The hardware is the system we put into the kitchen and every time they throw something away it takes the weight, it takes the image, and it takes the time. After that, AI in the backend analyses what has been thrown away through image processing and machine learning. After this the customers receive a complete analysis on an online dashboard where they can see how much they threw away, the costs connected to it, the sources of the food waste, and more. Based on this data customers are empowered to make data driven decisions to optimize their work processes.
What was the biggest challenge creating this?
Founding a tech company without a technical co-founder turned out to be a challenge initially as it took quite some time to find someone we could trust with this big part of the company. We eventually overcame it by being patient and trusting that we’ll get there in one way or the other. Now we have a great tech team working with us to resolve the problem of food waste.
What sets KITRO apart from similar competitors?
I would say that there are a few points. Definitely the usability system of our solution, since we are building it together with our users; and because the founders’ team has a very strong connection to the hospitality industry. This makes a huge difference, I think. The second point would be the fact that the solution is fully automated, which makes the measurement very effortless for the customer.
Was it difficult to get funding?
We were actually lucky in that regard because the topic got quite some attention when we got started two years ago. So we had a lot of support through the start-up ecosystem here in Switzerland and we also were able to find great investors to support our mission.
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
I think it is important that the project they are working on is really something they cannot stop thinking about and are super excited about. This passion will help them to keep going even during times when things aren’t going well. Also, they should really get out and talk to potential customers and see if there is any need in the market for such a product. Then they should just try it and get started. But talking to customers before you build something saves a lot of time and money.
What does the future hold for KITRO?
In the future we hope to contribute to the building of standards and regulations. There is a huge trend towards regulations in this area, and some countries are setting standards and regulations or even forbidding food waste. So, with KITRO our goal is really to help shape this and provide a benchmark standard so that there is also legal bases for this. Lastly, we also would like to support the UN’s goal to half food waste by 2030 by collecting and providing data in an accurate and consistent way.