Less food waste thanks to artificial intelligence


Tonnes of food ends up in the waste every day in the kitchens of Swiss restaurants, hotels and hospitals. The Swiss start-up Kitro helps companies to reduce food waste. Even golf courses are now relying on the weighing scales system that’s based on artificial intelligence.

Kitro was founded in 2017 by Naomi MacKenzie and Anastasia Hofmann, who met at the Hospitality Business and Hotel Management School in Lausanne and were appalled to see how much food – food that was actually still edible – ends up in the bin.

The solution they have developed – a weighing scales equipped with a camera and specialist software (read more here) – automatically records and identifies the discarded food leftovers and classifies it using machine learning algorithms. Analysing the collected data enables companies to determine what type of food is being thrown in the bin and the times of the day when wastage is highest.

Tailored advice
But it isn’t just systems and data analysis that the start-up offers; it also provides tailored advice on which specific changes companies can make. “We’ve established that simply providing our measurement data often isn’t enough,” says Naomi MacKenzie. “We help our customers to set food waste reduction targets and to identify changes that can be made to their planning, procedures and food preparation. We go through the analysis with them and look for changes a company can make to ensure less food is thrown away.” Little changes can often go a long way, as the following real-life examples highlight.

Avoiding food waste by making a few simple changes

  • Smaller portion sizes: An average of 20 to 30 grams of French fries were being left on plates at a restaurant in a ski resort. It now serves the fries in a slightly smaller bowl.
  • Reorganisation in self-service: The basket containing the free bread has been repositioned in the university canteen. It’s now been placed in front of instead of after the checkout. This change means that students put less bread on their plates. The bread thrown away from plates was reduced by 70% in the first week after making this small change.
  • Raising staff awareness: In a hotel restaurant, much more food was being wasted when the head chef was away than when he was in the kitchen. The images taken of the waste bin helped to raise awareness of the issue with the head chef and his staff – regardless of the language they spoke – and to communicate the key problem areas in a clear and consistent manner. Food waste was decreased significantly as a result.
  • Menu planning: Optimising menus – for example, by limiting choices – generally has a major impact on food waste. It has other benefits too, as many diners prefer fewer options as they find too much choice overwhelming.
  • Smaller portions, more refills: Less food is thrown away at buffets if smaller plates are used and refilled more frequently. A flexible menu means surplus food can be reused for the following days’ menus. For example, the Kitro system measured that on average 500 grams of scrambled eggs were being thrown away every day from a hotel’s breakfast buffet. The kitchen responded by cutting daily production by 400 grams, which still left a leeway of 100 grams. This step reduced the volume of scrambled eggs thrown away each month from 25 kg to 5 kg.

Expansion abroad
Around 100 Kitro systems are now being used in hotels, restaurants, universities, hospital kitchens, ski resorts and golf courses. The majority can be found in Switzerland, but Kitro weighing scales are now also being deployed in Germany, Italy, Greece and the UK.

The Kitro systems are also being used in around a dozen luxury hotels. Analysis reveals that food waste can be cut by around one third (28%) in this segment by using the Kitro solution. In total, 4.7 tonnes less food was discarded.

“We are often asked why we don’t provide Kitro for ordinary households. We’ve acquired in-depth expertise in the restaurant and hotel industry from first-hand experience, which is why we intend to continue focusing on this segment,” explains Naomi MacKenzie. “We also find it extremely exciting to see how foodtech can increase the level of innovation and resource efficiency in a traditional sector, enabling it to go beyond what has been done for the past century – from the technology used in restaurants to the dishes now being served. We’re very proud of our contribution to cutting food waste, which is a vitally important sub-element in the supply chain as a whole.”

Extensive support from Innosuisse
Kitro has already taken advantage of various types of support from Innosuisse. In addition to two Start-up Training modules, the start-up has benefited from initial and core coaching. It has also received support for an Innovation project with Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) and the NTN Swiss Alliance for Data-Intensive Services (data+services).

Kitro has also just redeemed an Innovation cheque for a new project together with the Hospitality Business and Hotel Management School in Lausanne. All that Naomi MacKenzie would reveal at this stage is that it involves upscaling. The two Kitro founders are still also working as trainers for Innosuisse start-up training. They would also like to take part in the Internationalisation camp in San Francisco in the near future to gain a first-hand insight into the US market through this Innosuisse initiative.

Last modification 23.08.2022

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Naomi MacKenzie and Anastasia Hofmann, co-founders of Kitro.