Meet the latest data-focussed green tech startup on the block: KnoWaste. Working within the closed catering canteens sector, the team of 3 (plus a few freelancers) has been working to reduce food waste since 2020.
Here to answer our 10 questions is Kesta Kemp (pictured right), Creative Director and Head of Customer Experience.
1 – In your own words – what do you do?
KnoWaste is a data-driven food management system for closed catering canteens. Our two pronged service reduces food waste by up to 50%, cutting total food costs by at least 6%, all whilst improving diner experience.
Diners log onto our web-based application and select their meals for the week. Each meal option visualises the associated carbon and water costs in tangible terms to diners, informing diners on the environmental impact of their food choices. Catering teams receive accurate data on the number of diners eating each meal option, and how many portions to make, reducing waste from overproduction and spoilage.
This all came about as we were interested in tackling food waste. From our research in educational institutions we found that catering teams didn’t know how many diners were eating each night, and more importantly what meal option everyone wanted. This led to massive amounts of food waste, at an economic and environmental cost. Equally due to the first-come first-serve basis, diners didn’t always get the food that they wanted and those with dietary requirements felt marginalised and un-accounted for. This led to KnoWaste.
2 – What is the most exciting thing that you are doing?
I think the side that is most exciting to us is understanding how we can create sustainable behavioural change. We are working to understand how we can inform diners on the environmental cost of their food. We don’t want to shame anybody or make everyone vegans, we just want to be able to help people make informed choices and get to the point where people know the amount of water and carbon that is in their food, like they know how many calories there are. We know food waste isn’t a super sexy topic, so working out how we can engage people is a really exciting challenge.
3 – What are you most proud of so far?
I think just how far we have come as a company in just one year. The highlights have been participating in LSE’s competitive impact-driven Aspect Accelerator, having our first MVP funded through the Nology programme, testing our service with over 400 users, collecting over 2000 data points and most recently winning the University of Bristol Runway Awards.
For us the most important thing is to help make the catering sector a more sustainable place and that has really driven us to work fast and take every opportunity.
4 – What have you found most difficult about being a startup?
I think any entrepreneur would agree in saying that starting your own company is never plain sailing, and there are some real highs and lows. For us, the challenge has been in helping show people that food waste does not have to be an inevitable part of the catering industry and is an exciting opportunity.
We have had many times where investors don’t see food waste as a major issue, but then equally we have those incredible meetings where people share the same passion as us. Starting a company is all about persevering through the hard times, which means taking on all the feedback you can get and constantly learning, but equally ensuring that you never lose sight of your mission and your ‘why’.
5 – What would you do differently if you started now?
I think we would just get out earlier and test our service. It is the number one rule to constantly test your assumptions, but even when you know that it can be so easy to overlook some pretty big assumptions!
6 – Where do you think you’ll be in 12 months?
We want to have run successful trials and be embedded in 5 schools by this time next year, looking to scale up after that. We want to work very closely with our pioneer customers and make sure that they are as passionate about KnoWaste and the change they are making as we are. Co-creation has been a really major part of our journey so far and we really want to continue that to make as big an impact as we can.
7 – What tools/people/services/organisations from the cluster have helped you most?
All of us are graduates from the Centre of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Bristol and honestly we could not appreciate the help from the staff there more. Everyone has always been on hand to help, whether that has been in advising us on our business model, introducing us to like-minded people or even in funding our venture!
The help from Steve Edwards as a mentor has also been incredible and we wouldn’t be where we are today without his brutal honesty and relentless encouragement!
8 – What’s the best thing about the Bristol & Bath tech cluster?
I think it is how supportive everyone is. Everyone we have met is so open to sharing contacts and helping in any way they can. It is such a great, inclusive community and we are so happy to be a part of it and to contribute to it ourselves!
9 – Who will you be nominating for a SPARKie next year?
It has to be Kaedim! They are also a startup from the Centre of Innovation and the work they are doing is incredible. We are always looking to them for motivation that hard work really does pay off.
10 – Where can we find out more about you?
Equally, if you want to get involved with KnoWaste in anyway then please don’t hesitate to contact us at email@example.com
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