The stats are mind-boggling. Globally, we waste a third of all food produced: that’s 1.3 billion tons every year, worth an estimated one trillion euros. ‘I first realised food waste was such a huge issue when I was the last to leave the breakfast buffet at a hotel and witnessed how much was left over,’ recalls Dutch entrepreneur Olaf van der Veen, who saw the situation not just as a problem, but as an opportunity to use progressive technology to make a difference. ‘Along with energy transition, food is one of the major causes of carbon emissions. But the fact is that the amount we waste is easily preventable if you quantify and know how to address it – that’s the magic thing.’

As one of the panellists for Quintet’s webinar: ‘For a Richer Planet: Carbon reduction and the role humans must play,’ Olaf discussed this and Orbisk, the social enterprise he co-founded, which last year launched the world’s first fully automated food waste monitor for use in the hospitality industry. Consisting of a smart scale and a camera with an AI image algorithm that automatically recognises which products are being thrown away - identified by amount per day, week or type of ingredient - the monitor provides real-time data which can then be used to help improve planning, stock levels and portion control efficiency. It’s estimated that an average sized restaurant can save over 4,000 kilos of food waste, worth between 20,000 to 60,000 euros. ‘We spend the first three months educating companies on how to use the data and work out strategies for reducing their food waste’, Olaf says of the monitor which is currently being used in around 50 locations.

‘Along with energy transition, food is one of the major causes of carbon emissions. But the fact is that the amount we waste is easily preventable if you quantify and know how to address it – that’s the magic thing.’

Olaf van der Veen

Just as Olaf recognises the need for change in the world of hospitality, Quintet aims to use its influence and investments to not only encourage more sustainable business models in other financial service companies, but also to actively reduce its own carbon footprint - through initiatives such as eliminating all single-use plastics from its premises by the end of 2020. Orbisk’s future plans include scaling up, both to 500 restaurants next year and expanding to other countries such as Belgium, Germany and the UK. Olaf also wants to tackle the problem holistically by setting up partnerships with waste disposal companies and apps such as Too Good To Go, which makes sure that surplus food is sold to others in the community for a small fee.

Does he see this kind of technology being rolled out to the consumer market one day? ‘That is my dream, but the technology is still quite costly and needs to develop further. I would use the image recognition algorithm, not only to track food waste but, for instance, to make people aware of what food is in their fridge so that they don’t duplicate purchases when they are at the supermarket,’ he explains. ‘Not too long ago using this technology wasn’t even possible; we are really jumping on something that is absolutely new to the world.’ www.orbisk.com

Olaf van der Veen took part in Quintet’s webinar ‘For a Richer Planet: Carbon reduction and the role humans must play’. If you missed the discussion, click here to watch a recording of the full event.

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