GreenBytes: A new way to fight food waste

Foodwaste Greenbytes Unsplash
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One of the challenges for participants in Climathon Reykjavik in 2018 was on the theme of sustainable food management.

The aim was to develop ideas on how to best address the significant environmental impacts of local food waste, and GreenBytes was one of the most successful ideas that grew out of this Climathon.

Can you tell us about your idea? 

Our project aims to preemptively tackle a fundamental part of the food waste problem -- over-ordering food in restaurants. There are many great solutions that  address the food waste issue, but GreenBytes aims to tackle the source of the problem by preventing food waste before it occurs.

The majority of food waste in restaurants occurs because ordering the right amount of produce is difficult. The data to make good decisions is available, but it’s confusing and easy to get lost in the numbers.

GreenBytes takes the data analysis out of the hands of restaurants. We collect sales data from restaurants and use artificial intelligence to determine the optimal amount of stock that needs to be ordered. The first step is breaking down the ingredients of a restaurant’s menu and quantifying how much goes into each dish. The sales data is then collected and used to create a recurrent neural network model that predicts future sales. From the model prediction of sales and the quantity of the ingredients in each dish we can determine the total amount of food that needs to be ordered.   

There is a continuous need for the solution to be implemented because sales are variable and change from day-to-day. The model is updated with daily sales data for each prediction. We aim to reduce food waste in restaurants by helping restaurants only order what they need to make the optimum amount of sales. This allows restaurants to be green, but also save money. 

How has your idea progressed since 2018?

The original solution to combat food waste through social awareness was born at the 2018 Reykjavik Climathon. The idea that our team worked on back then, Food Foot Print,  aimed to calculate grocery item CO2 output and display that number next to the price at grocery stores so that buyers could be better informed. We met with grocery store owners and other experts, and although this is an important task in allowing buyers to easily make green decisions, it’s a time consuming and costly process to conduct full LCA’s for all the grocery store items. 

My personal passion for reducing food waste came from what I learned at the 2018 Reykjavik Climathon, but after months of work, I came to the realisation that the problem needed to be addressed quicker and in a way that economically incentivises the user. 

“I don't think GreenBytes would exist if it wasn't for Climathon.”

The urgency of addressing global food waste and the long-term nature of the original project caused me to direct my focus to this new project, GreenBytes. 

In the summer of 2019, I was working at Iceland’s national energy company forecasting wind power production. I realized similar algorithms could be applied in the food service industry. I contacted the teacher’s assistant for the master’s level course on machine learning to collaborate on a new project called GreenBytes. After some development we started working on GreenBytes full time in October 2019. 

We started going to business development workshops and made it into the top ten of Gulleggid, a startup competition. We're prototyping our program with a local juice store named Lemon and are training our algorithms for three of their stores using sales data from the past two years.

Another milestone is that another restaurant owner has agreed to let GreenBytes test our algorithms.      

All in all, we have participated in two start-up accelerators, won various awards and raised around 20,000 EUR since starting the new project. 

How did Climathon contribute to your idea? 

The main impact of Climathon on GreenBytes was education, connections, and the tools to become an entrepreneur.  I don't think GreenBytes would exist if it wasn't for Climathon. 

I did not know about food waste and the environmental impact of reducing it. One of the Climathon prizes was a consultation with advisors from the Icelandic innovation center, and that was pivotal in helping GreenBytes understand how to develop and fund a new business. 

The Climathon instilled in me the urgency of the food waste issue, and the confidence that there are tools out there to put together a business to help tackle it.

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