Growzer and EIT Food work together on circular economy

The fact that there is still a great deal of food waste was demonstrated once again in the corona period. This is a problem that deserves a bold solution. Working together to create a circular economy in the catering and food sector, and doing so in a technological way, was the starting point from which EIT Food and Growzer found each other. The beginning of a beautiful and, above all, sustainable story. We spoke to Martine van Veelen, Director European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) Food, CLC West and Frank De Meulder, Managing Director of Growzer.

Martine, Can you outline what EIT Food stands for and is doing?   

Martine: EIT Food is an independent, Europe-funded organisation dedicated to innovation in the food sector. To this end, we work together with various parties, such as manufacturers, trade unions, research institutes and retailers. Danone, Nestlé, Puratos and Colruyt, for example, are some of our partners. But smaller SMEs and start-ups are also indispensable. Even more so, it is often those start-ups that come up with the most innovative ideas. We finance interesting projects that fit within our scope, thus stimulating innovation and making the food sector more sustainable. 

Martine van Veelen

And how did EIT Food and Growzer find each other?
Martine: During the corona crisis, we noticed that many hospitality entrepreneurs were experiencing more and more difficulties. As an organisation, we therefore wanted to use our network to alleviate the worst suffering through innovation and still offer the sector a future. We were therefore looking for people with a thorough knowledge of the hospitality industry and we ended up with Frank and Growzer via via.

Frank: Not only do I have a lot of experience in the hospitality industry, at Growzer there is a lot of additional expertise and sectoral knowledge. So we are familiar with and integrated in the entire flow of the hospitality industry. From manufacturer, to wholesaler to hotel and catering business: we have our partners and collaborations everywhere.

What is your first joint project concretely aiming at?
Frank: With our first project, we are resolutely aiming for a circular platform. What is food waste for one catering business can be a source of a new product for another. For example, coffee grit is used as a breeding ground for cultivating mushrooms, and there are even companies that specialise in processing leftovers from smoothies. With Growzer we can already map out a large part of the possibilities. This way we know who orders what, who has surpluses and where there is a permanent overordering. But in order to complete the whole story, we still need to work together with other partners.

Martine: And that is where we have our role to play. We can perfectly match the right parties with each other. Through our cooperation and communication with all players in the sector, we can reduce these surpluses and facilitate the circular economy. In concrete terms, we have already brought Growzer into contact with the start-ups Orbisk and Foresightee. 

How do these three players complement each other?

Frank: Foresightee is specialised in Machine Learning. Machine learning learns from your historical data and other influencing parameters: internal factors such as promotions, and external trends such as local weather and holidays. This makes prediction more accurate than other technologies. By means of push messages, users can test the moment when the tenability date expires. This is where the added value lies: in the case of highly perishable goods, accuracy makes all the difference. 

All processes based on this are also optimised. From ordering to planning promotions and personnel. The result is less food waste, better product availability, fresher quality and satisfied customers.

Orbisk is at home in monitoring waste thrown away in restaurants by using cameras with image recognition technology to focus on the waste bins. The waste bins are placed on scales. In this way they already know how much waste is being thrown away and with Growzer we can enrich this with an effective cost. You can be sure that the eyes of a hospitality entrepreneur will really open then. Add to that some machine learning to predict future purchase volumes and we will come to a circular and future-proof story with different parties that is better, more profitable and more sustainable for everyone.

Martine: Discussions are ongoing between the various partners and then we are here to take this to a European level. What works in Belgium can also work perfectly in, for example, the Netherlands, Spain or another European country. In addition, we often work together with local authorities.

Sounds great, and what will the future bring? 

Frank: It goes without saying that we want to pull this cart with Growzer. On our platform, we want to bring all actors together, streamline the operation and ensure more circularity in the economy. A sustainable endeavour in which we truly believe. We also think the time is right for it.

Martine: We are happy to work with motivated partners who are committed to innovation and are fully committed to it. We regularly have projects, so no doubt this is only the beginning of the story. We will do everything we can to make this project a success. Making the hospitality industry more sustainable, circular and therefore more profitable: that is what we are going to do together!

Thank you for your time and good luck!

Want to know more about EIT Food? Then take a look at the site www.eitfood.eu

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