Renata Barajas CEO and co-founder of Icelandic green start up, Green Bytes, talks to us about food waste reduction through smart stocktaking
by Aimee Rigby/27th-June-2020
CEO and co-founder of Icelandic green start up, Green Bytes
Okay, so welcome to Zero Waste Kode. Would you like to introduce yourself and your company GreenBytes?
Yes, of course. My name is Renata, I am one of the co-founders and the CEO of GreenBytes. And GreenBytes is a green tech start-up that focuses on reducing food waste, and maximising profits for restaurants by using artificial intelligence.
Fantastic, yes. So, what is your vision at GreenBytes?
Great question. So, for GreenBytes, we really just want to have the biggest positive impact that we can, by allowing people to do good and making it easy for people to reduce their food waste.
Like many sustainable tech companies, like ourselves, you’re trying to solve an environmental issue. So, what is that issue that you’re trying to solve?
So, we’re specifically looking at the end of the supply chain food waste, like as you know, food waste is a huge, huge, huge problem that happens from farms, from distributors from processing, and transport and all this stuff. And I mean, I’m sure as someone in the food waste reducing industry, you know about all of the issues that make it an environmental issue, because that’s something that I am always like, learning more and more about because obviously food waste is bad. We know that. But like scratching the surface of like, yes, we don’t have that much food for all the people on our planet. But maybe we do because we’re throwing it away. It goes beyond even that. And we’re putting so many greenhouse gas emissions into our planet. Like, most recently, the factoid that I read was that food waste contributes three times more greenhouse gas emissions than the global aviation industry. So, the global aviation industry contributes 2%. And food waste contributes 6%, which is wild because like, normally, we can be like, Oh, yes, taking aeroplanes, that’s not good for the planet, but food waste, we don’t necessarily have that same link, at least not here in Iceland. But we are trying to help specifically restaurants reduce their food waste. And the reason for that is because my co-founder and I both worked in restaurants for a really, really, really long time. And after working there, we realised that after almost every shift, like we’d end up throwing away so much, so much garbage, and it was predominantly food waste. And we tried to implement different things to reduce that waste. But it wasn’t necessarily catching on. And we were wondering if we were the only ones not managing our food as well as we could. But we realised that we weren’t, as we like, asked other restaurants and did some literature research.
Yeah, definitely. So, can you talk us through your cloud-based solution and how that works?
Yeah, of course. So, at the very core, we tell restaurants, how much food they should be ordering,
because we realise that one of the big reasons that restaurants were throwing so much food away is because they were ordering a bunch of food.
And we’re like, Okay, well, why are you ordering so much food, obviously, you want to keep the customer happy, and have everything that they’re ordering.
So ultimately, it makes it really hard and time consuming to sit there and figure out how much food you’re going to be needing in the next couple of days or weeks.
So, the way that we decided to figure that out, is we tried to take the guesswork out of it by dumping in a bunch of data into a computer machine learning algorithm. So, we take a look at past sales data, we look at weather data, and even COVID-19 statistics to predict future sales. And based on these future predictions, we tell restaurants, how much food they should be ordering.
So, we break down their menus, or we track their inventory. And again, like make these predictions about what they should be ordering. And if our suggestions of what we’re telling the restaurants to order look good, and everyone approves, they can send out their orders through our application to their distributors.
Above images; The process of smart stock ordering shown above.
That’s amazing. Yes. So as a start-up, what was your journey to creating GreenBytes? Has this cloud-based solution always been the end goal or has it changed at all?
It has definitely changed. At the very beginning we were adamant about not being an application. But behold, now we are an application. We just wanted to be like a machine learning algorithm. But of course, people don’t necessarily want to interact with a black box, and they have to have something facing the user. So, it’s evolved that way. We’ve also learned a lot more about the restaurant industry and different aspects as to what makes ordering complicated and tried to address it by adding different features or changing or different things that we look at. As far as our journey, it kind of started off as like an idea from a combination of the problems that we’ve seen and the experiences that we had, like both my co-founder and I have master’s degrees in sustainable energy. So, we kind of had this like mindfulness towards sustainability, but hadn’t necessarily delved into waste management, or prevention. And the more we learn, the more we’re like, oh, my gosh, this is such a huge problem. But yeah, we just participated in a bunch of start-up accelerators, and got some great government grants. And we’re really lucky to be in this like Icelandic start-up community that kind of helped us build this business because both my co-founder and I have backgrounds in STEM. So, I’m an engineer, and my co-founder is a geophysicist. So, we don’t necessarily have, we didn’t have that business mind. But participating in all these programmes helped us learn a lot about that kind of side, and take it from this science project to a full blown business.
Yeah, that’s amazing. So yeah, I mean, I’m sure you’ve experienced this as a woman in STEM; so, have you faced any difficulties as an all-female team in technology? And what advice would you give to others like you?
So as an all-female team, again, we’ve been really lucky, like Iceland’s fabulous; like the first big grant was, actually, specifically for women in entrepreneurship. And it really allowed us to, like kickstart our business and work on this full time. But of course, as women, there are inherent biases that happen, and sometimes you might have to, or people might have, this kind of questioning mind. And that can be wildly frustrating. And this goes to like any marginalised community, but I think what we ended up doing was just kind of, you know, being so good, you can’t ignore us kind of thing. Um, and that is kind of the advice that I would give to others that, like, you may not be taken seriously at first. But like any one coming in new, to any industry, if you’re young, if you’re female, if you’re any other minority, people would be like, maybe I don’t have this inherent trust, but you can build that trust by just being really good at what you do. And I have a feeling that if there is an all-female team or just you know, in general, you’re kind of used to this adversity. So, you’re used to having to address the doubts, and you are used to going above and beyond. And you can use that as a strength as well. Because, I mean, if your product is above and beyond if your team is above and beyond, it really will shine through.
Definitely yeah, I completely agree there. So speaking of how, you know, great and amazing your product is, how do you increase profit for the users of your product?
So, we increase the profit by reducing the operational costs. So, by reducing waste, we are reducing how much food they need to purchase. And food and raw materials is like the second biggest cost that restaurants face- the first being staffing. So, by reducing costs, you reduce the waste and you increase your profit.
Okay, yeah, fantastic. So finally, where can our listeners find out more about GreenBytes?
That’s wonderful. Yes. So, thank you so much for sharing your story and for coming on the podcast.