Orbisk supports the food transition by helping professional kitchens reduce their food waste

23 January 2024 9:00

Annually, we waste 1.3 billion tons of food; that's a whopping one-third of all the food we produce worldwide. Reducing food waste would have a hugely positive impact on our emissions. Evidently, it’s necessary to transition to a more sustainable food system. Orbisk helps; their smart monitor observes trash cans, so professional kitchens discover what they waste and how to stock more efficiently. Olaf van der Veen (Founder & CEO) explains, ‘70% of food that goes to waste has never been on a plate.’

Foto van de Orbi keuken

Contribution to food transition

In 2018, Van der Veen and his partner Bart van Arnhem decided that they wanted to use their knowledge of technology and business to tackle a global problem. Van der Veen: ‘Whether that problem was plastic, transport, energy, or food, didn't really matter to us. We wanted to create a solution that would matter at scale.' One of the scenarios from Project Drawdown, a nonprofit that seeks effective solutions to combat climate change, convinced the duo. 'Project Drawdown shows time and again that reducing food waste ranks highest as a short-term opportunity to reduce climate change.'

Foto van de founders van orbisk
Orbisk’s founders: Richard Beks, Bart van Arnhem and Olaf van der Veen.

Especially in professional kitchens, Van der Veen saw opportunities: 'When I have breakfast in a hotel, I'm often the last one at the buffet. You should see the amount that’s left. It turns out that 70% of the food that goes to waste has never been on a plate. Ingredients have already been pre-cut, plates have already been prepared, but guests had already eaten enough.'

The importance of efficiency in the kitchen

And thus was born Orbisk, a smart monitor that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) directly at the trash can, to automatically measure and recognize what food you throw away, how much and at what time of day. The data it collects helps professional kitchens buy food more efficiently. And the need for that is growing. Not only because sustainability is being increasingly pushed at European and global level, Van der Veen says. 'Food prices have risen tremendously, but restaurant goers pay just slightly more than before. Companies can no longer afford to throw away tens of thousands of euros worth of food. Neither do they want to, with sustainability in mind.’

“Aggregated data gives you a very accurate picture about your food waste. Plus, it gives you the ability to buy more efficiently.”

'In 2018, we went into kitchens as much as possible, where we stood next to the trash can. Where lies the discomfort? What works and what doesn't? A year later, we had a first prototype monitor that we could place at a few customers.' By now, Orbisk's customer base consists of 500 companies. Van der Veen continues: 'AI makes our equipment frictionless for the user. In half a second, it registers whether you throw away tomatoes, salmon, or cheesecake, and how much. But also, whether it's on a cutting board or on a plate and at what time. By disclosing that information, it says something about why the food is thrown away. Aggregated data gives a very accurate picture about your food waste. And it gives you the ability to buy more efficiently.’

Rabobank's role

With help from Rabobank and others, Orbisk grew significantly in a short period of time. 'It started in 2019 with a subordinated innovation loan,' says Van der Veen. 'A nice and low-threshold tool; it took away a lot of risk for us and gave us room to hire our first employees, attract customers and make investments. Recently, Rabobank provided additional financing. We have started to really scale up and you need people and equipment to do that. The financing allows us to release those resources.'

Gerben Dijksterhuis is involved in the growth of Orbisk as a Startup & Scale-up banker. The collaboration with the company matches with Rabobank's ambition to contribute to the food transition, he says. 'Combating food waste seems a quick win. But stimulating behavior change is quite hard. Orbisk turns that problem into a strong business model; they give clients insight into their food waste and offer a simple solution immediately.’

“We draw on the knowledge that we have of sectors; what are the risks for your company, what is realistic in terms of growth, how do other companies do it?”

Dijksterhuis helped Orbisk expand with the right financial resources, but also with knowledge of the market. 'We are there to help companies establish a market-ready product. For example, at Orbisk we drew on our knowledge of sectors to pinpoint possible risks, to see what is realistic in terms of growth and how other companies are doing. We also put them in touch with existing customers, for example through our program Samen Tegen Voedselverspilling for (Against Food Waste Together). As a partner, Orbisk can advise clients on how to deal with food waste while making new connections. Orbisk is a good example of how we help startups develop at every stage.’

Disrupting the industry

Orbisk is growing fast and Van der Veen has big plans for the future: ‘In the short term, we are focusing mainly on international upscaling. Abroad we now work reactively, for example for Accor Hotels. But we also want to be able to enter the market proactively, for example in The United States of America and the Middle East. So much food is lost there, more so than in Europe. In the long term, we also want to work with other industries where a lot of food is lost. Like health care and aviation.'

Van der Veen concludes, ‘There is a major transition coming in the hospitality sector. Restaurants are working increasingly data-driven. It really is a disruption. We play a role in that. Orbisk looks at waste, but at some point, we’re also going to predict what guests consume based on data. Then you can stock your food even more efficiently while improving your guest experience. It’s a disruption that’s about to happen in the next few years, for which we can help with our AI software. Food transition is a large scope, but I'm sure it's going to happen'

Find out which financing fits your business

With help from Rabobank, Orbisk was able to grow their business significantly in a short period of time. Wondering what we can do for your startup or scale-up? Discover our various financing products and innovation funds for sustainable growth in every stage of development. Besides financing, the Startup & Scale-up team is also happy to put its knowledge and network to work for you.

Discover the right financing solution for your business