Taking part in Bord na Móna’s Accelerate Green accelerator for scaling businesses, Positive Carbon helps commercial kitchens to monitor and log food waste.
Founded by Aisling Kirwan and Mark Kirwan, Positive Carbon was founded in 2020 and recently secured investment and support from German venture capital firm APX.
The Roscommon business provides fully automated food waste monitoring for hotels, restaurants and cities.
“The food service sector is responsible for approximately 250,000 tonnes of this food waste resulting in 875,000 tonnes of CO2, and costing €300m to the industry per annum”
Through the use of their patent-pending food waste sensors and food detection artificial intelligence, Positive Carbon provides high quality food waste reporting tools to hotels, restaurants and cities to enable them to develop advanced waste reduction strategies which increase their food operations gross profits by 2% to 8%.
Time for positive action
“One third of all food produced globally is wasted, contributing to 10% of all greenhouse gases. Reducing food waste is the single greatest action we can take to remove CO2 from the atmosphere,” explained Mark Kirwan, speaking ahead of the forthcoming Ireland’s Sustainable Future conference on 9 June.
“In Ireland alone, we waste over 1m tonnes of food each year. The food service sector is responsible for approximately 250,000 tonnes of this food waste resulting in 875,000 tonnes of CO2, and costing €300m to the industry per annum.”
Positive Carbon is one of several impactful, established Irish businesses taking part in Accelerate Green, the first Irish accelerator dedicated to scaling companies leading the response to climate action and sustainability by developing products and services based on green innovation.
Running from February to May 2022, Accelerate Green operated from from Boora, which represents the centre of Bord na Móna’s innovation heritage, demonstrating Bord na Móna’s commitment to the Midlands’ communities who are a key part of an ecosystem of projects and assets connected to eco-innovation, circular economy, and sustainability.
This work is supported with partial funding through the Bord na Móna led European Commission funded LIFE Integrated Project “Peatlands and People”, an initiative that aims to support the realisation of a carbon-neutral, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable country.
Food for thought
“Positive Carbon provides commercial kitchens with food waste monitoring technology that tracks and logs all of a business’s food waste,” said Kirwan.
“This gives staff a full understanding of exactly the food they are throwing away. This enables them to make informed decisions around their purchasing, production and preparation to reduce their food waste, food bills and environmental impact.”
Positive Carbon was founded by Mark and Aisling Kirwan in May 2020. Both had worked in the food waste industry for seven years, working with food retailers across Ireland, the UK, Australia and Chile.
They wanted to take their learnings from working with food retailers, who track all their food waste through barcodes, and apply that to a much underserviced sector – the foodservice industry – giving them the same line level food waste data.
Aisling and Mark have both benefited greatly from the Irish start-up ecosystem, taking advantage of programmes like New Frontiers and the Competitive Start Fund from Enterprise Ireland and also from the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland community that works solely with businesses having a positive impact.
To keep agile, as a team they use a Trello board to plan out the week, designate tasks and keep track of everything moving along.
The biggest lesson the Positive Carbon founders have learned is not to wait. “Don’t wait – get your product out in front of customers at the earliest possible opportunity – this wasn’t always in our control, having been founded during the pandemic – to test it in the real world and start getting feedback. Take this feedback onboard and build the product your customers want, not the product you think it should be. They are the ones using it and they know best.”
Their advice to fellow founders: “Try to find a first customer who loves the product as much as you do. This may take a bit of time in the beginning, but it’s so important to get someone who is committed to using the solution and will give you honest feedback. Your product could be in the hands of ten people who think it’s fine and hardly use it. It’s so much more valuable to have someone who uses it and tells you exactly what they like and don’t like.”