Positive Carbon talks to Wasted.ie
The topic of Food Waste has never been hotter. Many see it as a challenge for the large global food producers, but there is a solution closer to home.
The Irish Hospitality sector is believed to waste €300 million of food every year. Hotels, restaurants, catering firms are all faced with the challenge of unused stock, over ordering of food, preparation waste and poor menu planning. And that’s just in the kitchen.
There is the secondary challenge of food prepared but never served, customers over-ordering and food being left uneaten.
Enter Positive Carbon, an Irish Start Up established by two Irish entrepreneurs and out to tackle this issue head on. We caught up with Co-Founder Aisling Kirwan to find out more.
Where it all began
After studying Biochemistry in Trinity, Aisling realised that as much as she loved it and everything she learned about the subject, working in a lab was just not for her. Her real passion was firmly rooted in the challenge of climate change and sustainability and she knew that any path she would take, would be in this area.
She worked with food waste company Food Cloud for 3 years , which she speaks were fondly of, as this is where she realised that food waste was much bigger entity than most of us realise. Her time spent in Food Cloud allowed her to identify that, even with the best solutions and organisations in place to re-divert food that would potentially be wasted, it is inevitable that food will still go into the bin.
This was when she joined forces with Mark Kirwan, who was from a tech background and equally as keen to find a viable solution to our food waste challenge. Mark had been working with many of the larger retailers, reporting on food waste across the sector.
The journey begins to research a solution
Aisling spent some time in Australia working with a firm that had a technology solution to tackle food waste. After managing that project for the company, she found herself not only in the large Australian cities, but in every town and village across the continent.
Her next journey brought herself and Mark to Chile, where they were invited to work on their Tech proposition for 6 months. Unfortunately, after the country went into a Covid lockdown, the two were on the last flight out of the country and back in Ireland 3 weeks later.
The silver lining of Lockdown
After returning Ireland to try to advance their tech proposition and define a clear solution, Aishling and Mark found that the lockdown in Ireland presented them with an opportunity. One of the most challenging parts of pitching their idea to the hospitality sector was that chefs were just simply too busy to sit down and talk. With almost all restaurants, hotels and kitchens now closed, chefs and hotel staff were only delighted to give up their time to talk about what they needed.
Their main objective for speaking with the industry professionals directly was that they wanted Positive Carbon to be a solution built for and used by chefs. Following months of research, they immediately knew that any solution needed to be automated, simple and not time invasive. Having sat down with countless chefs across the country, they were able to build a prototype based directly from chef’s feedback and wish lists.
Carbon Positive is born!
In 2020, Aishling an Mark finally had a prototype for Positive Carbon. Through the use of a 3 part system, the Positive Carbon technology can be used in any commercial kitchen, where it will identify the exact food that is being thrown into the food waste bin. A laser scanner, a camera and some clever AI technology is incorporated into the ceiling mounted equipment, installed above the food waste bin, so it can create a data piece (or label) for that particular piece of food. For eg; Chicken fillet, 100grms, disposed of at 2:45 on Thursday 10th January.
The beauty about the system of course is that it is fully automated and requires no input from staff, as they go about their business as normal. The scanner just picks up what is being thrown into the food waste bin and creates a data set accordingly for easy reporting by chefs or management.
This technology really is the first of it’s kind here in terms of monitoring food waste. Currently, food waste is recorded infrequently by kitchen staff in most establishments and usually on paper, so it is time consuming and often inaccurate. A paper based record inevitably does not give you access to real data over time.
Every kitchen can benefit from having a Carbon Positive system in their food preparation kitchen, but many also also seeing the benefit of having it installed also in the area that is taking returning plates from customers. The latter will now give chefs a clear indication of what customers like and don’t like on their plate. Are the portions too large? Are customers leaving the side salad behind every time?
Positive Carbon believers
Following a successful round of investment from Berlin venture capital firm APX, Aisling and Mark are now looking forward to building on the success they have had since the company launch in 2020. Successfully installed in kitchens in Trinity college, DCU, The Sandymount Hotel and The Grand Hotel in Malahide, Aisling is still very proud of their first installation at Airfield Estate in Dundrum, who have a huge connection to sustainable food.
There are lots of projects at initial stage, which we can’t mention here, but one project that Aisling is particularly excited about is one that is currently underway with Gather & Gather, who are a growing corporate catering company delivering a bespoke experience to many businesses and organisations around the country (they also have a collaboration with Airfield Estate). The company’s ethos is heavily steeped in sustainability and enhancing consumer experience through food and helping clients maximise the potential of food in the workplace.
With so much achieved already, its hard to comprehend that this company (and this tenacious duo!) have only been in business since 2020. We are sure that Positive Carbon will be the name that every kitchen in the country will soon be talking about.
If you are a café, restaurant, hotel or involved in corporate catering anywhere in Ireland, we suggest that you take a look at this innovate (and may we say, pretty cool!) company.
Check them out here Positive Carbon