Restaurant food waste to be plugged back in as renewable energy; this won the EIT Prize!

Jun 28, 2019

Food waste to energy took the main prize at the EIT Innovation Prize this week in Stuttgart, and we awarded ‘Zero Waste Solutions’ from Northern Ireland because they invented a neat unit which converts food waste into clean energy within 24 hours, onsite, and is the great solution from restaurants to hospitals to homes. I was delighted to join as keynote and judge at the prize this week. 

Held in Stuttgart and hosted by StartUpBW at the the event hosted entrepreneurs from around Europe in the early stage of developing their ideas and seeking investment support for either developing their intellectual property, buying a new premise, hiring an expert on a team or rolling out a field test with a customer. The finalists presented a polished and passionate degree of professionalism coming from food and farming, who clearly have a tight analysis on food and environmental impact as well as a commercial answer as a solution. Additionally, their burning mission to solve the problem they saw was heart-felt and inspiring.

When I compare start up competitions in the social enterprise space from a decade ago to today, I notice a key difference. Knowledge of C02 and impacts of business processes are clearly defined, and less spoken in terms of ‘we should’ to ‘these are the facts…’.

Additionally, I saw company ideas which contributed to more than one issue for example, Zero Waste Solutions with the food waste to renewable energy machine were addressing food waste as well as renewable energy creation both significant challenges in their own right; and their Aero-D Unit can take packaging into the mix and even extract water from the process. Thus hitting 4 major policy and community issues: food waste, renewables, packaging waste, water saving. Stephen Beck fronted the company and spoke with passion about how it can be both a business and domestic size unit, and have a major fast food retailer ready to implement in-store tests in the UK.


Likewise, runner up for the prize, Microflavours from Brussels took the urban vertical farm concept to grow and deliver microgreens from within the city (reducing traffic from delivery vans), delivering with e bikes and working with a farming team who come from disadvantaged employment backgrounds. Not just providing top quality greens (and future edible flowers) for the local restaurant trade, however by the nature of their business, positively contributing to challenges from other parts of civil society. Founder Dario Vunckx said that the company works together with farmers in the region to connect complimentary products and work together for a more connected supply chain of salad needs while directly reducing C02 and also ensuring that consumers get a crisper product as farm to fork time was significantly reduced with a more just-in-time delivery model within the city walls.


EIT Food created the innovation prize for companies to join the network

And then launch into a more broad incubation support with network, company mentors and access to science and academia for back up .

EIT Innovation Prizes are set up for early stage support with cash prizes for 10 000 and 5 000 available to enable a startup to overcome a direct hurdle in their way on the path to

  • Making the food system better for people’s health;
  • Making the food system better for the environment;
  • Making the food system more trusted and transparent.

Standard business innovation elements were core in half of the criteria, however the other that us as judges were looking at were that the prize given can contribute to the next tipping point in the business’’ needs, and also that it can contribute to a transformation to the EU food system and deliver that vital triple bottom line: social, enviro and economic impact.


Besides the winner and runner up, stand out entrepreneurs in my mind were:

+ Sea Chips from the UK who turn discarded salmon skin into delicious crips created by chef who couldn’t bare to see the fish skin wasted after preparing meals in restaurants and produce a low carb, high omega 3 snacking option for those on the run.


+ Bosetein who have a real-time bacterial inspection scanner to check meat along the supply and delivery chain to reduce foodborne illnesses. Current processes are to take a sample of meat from a slaughterhouse for a 2 day bacteria test, while the team at Bosetein produced a hardware which can be placed onsite and produce a scan within seconds as to safety of the whole piece of meat; significantly reducing the time for food checks and also making it available in more places for example trader or retailer.


I think the EIT model is great because it captures early stage in food and farming and has a ‘nose’ for the nuances that the agri to gastronomy industry faces. As a cacao farmer, I have a healthy sense of time sense as it takes 2-4 years to grow a cacao tree to the point of return on investment being viable. Similar to manufacturing there are high set up costs and actual growth time required before products can come to the market. In my opinion that the European Institution of Food and Technology focus on this with specific measures in mind is a great contribution to fostering the better plates.


I was delighted to share my thoughts that evening about systems change with reflection on my own journey from making chocolate bars to working on cacao farmer education; and the interesting and profitable levers we find not just in social enterprise, but also in science and policy engagement. Thinking laterally, and seeing that business has only one function in society, while understanding that the entrepreneur’s experience, business methodology and team can be a whole other contribution to improving knowledge and conditions around the green economy.


Looking forward to collaborating more in the future. Thanks for having me!

Here is the short-list of the finalists - >


Winner: Zero Waste Solutions 

Zero Waste’s Aero-D unit converts food waste into a clean renewable energy within 24 hours on a client’s site. With Food Waste being one of the major contributing factors to Climate Change, the Aero-D could be a major game changer in taking greenhouse gas emissions by eradicating food waste within 24 hours of installation. Each Aero-D removes 91tons CO2e each year, whilst providing heat, hot water and electricity.




Runner Up: Microflavours

MicroFlavours is a modern urban farm based in Brussels. With circular growing methods we grow microgreens indoor and  in vertical systems. This allows us to grow year all-year round without being influenced by changing seasons and climates. Our vegetables are produced in the city and for the city. We deliver our greens in a short chain with electric cargo bikes to all corners of Brussels. By cutting the intermediary and introducing a from farm to plate model we can deliver a better service, better quality and a better price for our customers. Today more than 75 restaurants, hotels and event venues work with our products.




Sea Chips

Sea Chips are the UK’s first handcrafted salmon skin crisps. The business uses the nutrient-packed skin byproduct and upcycles them into light, nutritious crisps consisting of three flavours. The Founders’ vision was to create a highly nutritious and innovative snack product using fish by-products with an aim to improve diets, combat food waste and improve the sustainability of the UK food system.

The company's founders are Dan and Dom. The Sea Chips team are then supported by its main investor, Jonathan Brown, who is an industry leader in the salmon market. Production is based in Cumbria using state of the art accredited facilities, ready for full-scale production.





 More than 75% of people don’t meet the daily recommend intake of vegetables per day. Grünten is a new oatmeal product based on vegetables that is going to change that. Grünten comes in three flavours that are based on pie flavours: Apple Pie, Carrot Cake & Red Velvet Brownie. It is low in calories yet keeps you satiated for long, due to the naturally occurring fibers. Per portion does Grünten contain 100 grams of vegetables, which is 40% of the daily (Dutch) recommended intake. It is ready-to-eat and therefore great for busy moments or for on the go. Grünten is a healthy, convenient & delicious breakfast, lunch or snack, that is going to change those percentages and make sure that in the future 75% of the people do eat enough veggies!




Each year foodborne illnesses sicken 600 million people worldwide and more than 23 million people in European region. Bacterial inspection methods have an important role in preventing this problem, but the slowness (requires 2 to 4 days to produce the results) of the present inspection techniques is a major hurdle. At times the results come after the product is already in the market.

To solve this issue, we are developing a Real-time Bacterial Inspection Sensor (ReBIS). It utilizes an optical sensor and innovative Artificial Intelligence algorithms to scan and estimate the bacterial count and freshness level of food items in real time. Using this completely automated sensor the supply chain can be made more transparent and efficient.

Twitter: @alokksingh07




Frau Gleich

“Frau Gleich” makes responsible consumption easy, by bringing select organic food and non-food products to vending machines, bridging the gap between convenience and sustainability. With machines in semipublic locations it gives easy access to actually good products where they are needed and wanted. With fair pricing and tailored assortments, it caters equally to people who may not already buy sustainably much and those who already do and brings added value to the locations themselves. The choices in products and companies behind them have an impact within the supply chain as well as on people’s health and buying habits in the long-term. “Frau Gleich” is a social business that creates positive change inside and outside the company. It shows that responsibility and profitability can go hand in hand together.







Insects are a high-quality and sustainable protein source, but most consumers in the West are still reluctant to bite into a mealworm or a locust. With our farm-to-table concept, we control the value chain from breeding and harvesting the insects to processing them into a range of products. This approach allows us to build consumer trust, establish our brand and better tailor products to niche markets.



klimazone is a digital farming startup that is eliminating post-harvest food wastage using data and deep learning. By synchronising food production to future market demand, we want to address overproduction and oversupply at its very roots: farm production. We call this Demand-Oriented Farming. Our predictive intelligence tool shall enable growers to plan their production, find the best markets for their produce, and best produce for chosen markets. All in advance. Just-in-time production now meets farming.