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Iceland’s GreenBytes raises €1m to fight restaurant food waste

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Reykjavík-based GreenBytes has raised €1 million in pre-seed funding to further develop and expand an app that helps restaurants manage their stock and reduce food waste. 

  • GreenBytes leverages machine learning to help restaurants achieve operational cost savings while slashing food waste. 
  • Roughly a third of globally produced food is lost or wasted, accounting for up to 10% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Upcoming legislation will drive demand for technologies that can help improve food distribution, but a systemic approach will be needed to truly resolve the food waste crisis. 

GreenBytes aims to optimise the food supply chain, enable operational cost savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by helping restaurant managers to organise their produce. Its app relies on a proprietary algorithm, based on historical data from an Icelandic restaurant, which analyses past sales trends as well as weather forecasts and upcoming holidays. 

Restaurants will pay a monthly subscription fee, granting them access to the app’s menu breakdown, stock management and distribution tracking capabilities. The insights generated by the algorithm enable them to order stock based on future sales predictions, thereby lowering the volume of food wasted. 

According to GreenBytes, the app provides a streamlined alternative to time-consuming processes of ordering and maintaining food stock from multiple sources. It has been piloted by a midsize Icelandic restaurant, reportedly lowering food waste by 251kg – equating to 628kg of CO2 equivalent emissions – while generating cost savings of around €8,000 per month. 

The start-up will use its latest funding, led by Crowberry Capital with participation from APX and a group of German angel investors, to further develop its product before expanding into the German market. In future, it plans to develop a scaled-up version of its app that can be used by larger institutions such as supermarkets and canteens. 

GreenBytes chief technology officer Jillian Verbeurgt said, “we are building GreenBytes to help restaurants reduce their operational costs, reduce food waste, and allow restaurant workers to focus on providing good service and making delicious food.” 

The food waste crisis 

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, roughly a third of globally produced food is wasted, with research by the Boston Consulting Group indicating that the current figure could increase to 2.1 billion tons by 2030

This wastage is estimated to account for between eight and 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, while also highlighting the inefficient use of scarce resources including fresh water and arable land. Food waste becomes more carbon intensive at later stages in its supply chain, as emissions accumulate through its processing, packaging and transportation. 

As such, there is an urgent need to reduce food waste within the hospitality and food service sector, which the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has reported as being responsible for around 12% of the UK’s total food waste beyond the farm gate. 

WRAP goes on to say that UK restaurants wasted more than £3.2 billion worth of food in 2018, suggesting that reductions in food waste have significant economic value as well as benefiting the planet.  

A 2022 report by Feedback EU highlights this economic imperative with its finding that the union wastes around 153 million tonnes of food each year, 15 million tonnes more than the volume it imports. As food prices continue to soar, driven by ongoing supply chain disruptions and the conflict in Ukraine, reductions in food waste could make the situation more manageable. 

Upcoming legislation will drive demand for technological solutions

The EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy, part of the broader European Green Deal, considers the reduction of food waste as one of its core priorities and includes plans to establish legally binding targets by 2023. These targets are yet to be defined, but the Feedback EU report has called for them to align with its most advanced scenario of a 50% reduction in total food waste by 2030. 

Some member states have already developed their own regulations, with Spain having introduced a range of fines and mandates in June 2022. Companies can now be penalised for failing to have a clear food waste reduction strategy, and are obligated to allow their customers to take any unconsumed leftovers for free. France and Italy, meanwhile, have enforced similar measures against supermarkets since 2016. 

Impending regulation, as well as increasing consumer concern, places supply chain sustainability at the forefront of business priorities. As the introduction of new legislation on food waste puts pressure on restaurants to effectively reduce their food waste, there is likely to be an increase in demand for technologies that provide solutions for tightening supply chains and improving distribution

GreenBytes is likely to be one of many start-ups that emerges within the space, but it should also be recognised that food waste occurs at each of the multiple stages of its supply chain. Policy-makers can clearly play a key role in engaging stakeholders, but regulation of the food service and retail sectors must come as part of a more systemic approach that addresses food wasted on farms, during transportation and processing, and within households. 

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