Huge amounts of food are thrown away every year. A Munich start-up wants to change that: two founders have developed artificial intelligence that helps commercial kitchens to estimate food quantities precisely.
Red, green, yellow are not only the colors of the traffic light coalition, but also the sad sight of a tomato, a lettuce leaf and a banana that ended up in the garbage can behind a large Munich supermarket. Thrown away because nobody bought them in time.
The fact that food that is still edible often ends up in the garbage is nothing new. Politicians are aware of the problem. Industry also contributes innovative solutions, such as the Munich start-up “Delicious Data”. They fight food waste at the source – at large suppliers of food and meals, for example bakeries or large canteens. Because year after year, tons of food are thrown away in this country, although it is still edible.
“Delicious Data” was founded by Valentin Belser and Jakob Breuninger. “Food waste is a huge problem, globally and in Germany. Large companies in particular are always faced with the challenge of precisely assessing the demand from customers and guests. If you have too much, there is unnecessary waste, but if you have too little, the customer is dissatisfied and you lose sales, ”says Belser in an interview with FOCUS online. This problem has been bothering him since his student days. As soon as he was in the canteen, he asked himself how a healthy balance could be struck between the range of schnitzels and those who bought them.
As a result, Belser and Breuninger developed artificial intelligence that helps canteen kitchens to estimate food quantities precisely so that as little as possible is left over at the end of the day. For this, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture even awarded Belser and Breuninger the “Too good for the bin” award in 2020. Since 2016, this prize has been awarded to outstanding projects that contribute to reducing food waste.
Not only politicians, but also large investors like Carsten Maschmeyer were recently able to convince “Delicious Data” with their idea. Maschmeyer recently participated alongside other international investors in Series A financing for the start-up. With his early-stage fund seed speed Ventures, he supports this with capital and as a mentor with his know-how.
“The balance between low sales losses and low food waste is difficult for system restaurants, large catering companies or supermarkets to strike. On average, we see between 10 and 20 percent food waste among our customers. This can largely be avoided if they knew the demand more precisely in advance,” explains Breuninger, explaining the planning balancing act of companies that produce large quantities of food or dishes for customers.
From historical sales figures and additional factors such as weather, calendar data (is there a bridging day or school holidays that could depress demand), frequency data that shows how many people are in the region and other information, “Delicious Data” therefore creates data sets, with which the artificial intelligence they developed makes predictions about the demand for certain products or dishes.
Belser and Breuninger also want to offer their software internationally in the future – and in doing so they benefit from a basic principle of artificial intelligence: the more it is used and the more data it has available, the more accurate its predictions will be. Companies can use the software to plan up to six weeks in advance – and react flexibly to changing demand up to the day the goods are ordered.
Meanwhile, the issue of food waste has also been addressed at the federal and EU levels. The federal government’s “National Strategy for Reducing Food Waste” ties in with the revised EU waste legislation passed on May 30, 2018, which aims to halve food waste across the Union.
Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir (Greens) believes that, in addition to politics, consumers in particular are in demand: “We have it in our hands together to avoid food waste – from field to plate – as far as possible. Above all, we consumers can contribute to saving valuable resources through conscious consumption,” the Federal Minister of Agriculture explains.
Özdemir also wants to handle the strict standards for the quality of food differently in the future, to which fruit and vegetables in particular fall victim: “Food can also be better utilized in production: not everything that has a dent or does not conform to the belongs in the bin – a lot of it can be used elsewhere,” the minister suggested. And adds: “Let’s not forget that our farmers have worked hard for our food. So it’s also a question of appreciation, treating food with respect”.
There is no perfect plan, not even when shopping. But with a few recommendations made by the Federal Environment Agency, food waste can also be reduced for private households: