On September 11-12 I had the opportunity to combine the two worlds between which I juggle – being a student at ETH Zurich and at the same time a member of a start-up company that focuses on food waste. It was a great occasion that the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit 2019 on “How Talent Thrives” was held at my university, ETH Zurich. During two days, we were able present our work to an international audience and at the same time support the event by contributing to its sustainability concept. During the summit, we measured the food waste with our newly developed tool that uses AI measurement. During the networking breaks, we engaged the international participants with a quiz to start a conversation about food waste in their countries, which helped make them think about food waste in their own institutions.
I had always planned on working during my time at ETH Zurich, as a concentration on studies, coupled with real life application, would better prepare me for the working world once graduated. The glove fit once I was confronted with the opportunity to join a fast-paced start-up environment at a company that promotes sustainable work practices by focusing on data. I was putting my theoretical knowledge from classes to good use to solve one of humanity’s biggest issues: food waste. By intertwining challenging studies with work, my learning curve skyrocketed and my knowledge was enforced. I was put in charge of building up a software system from scratch, and learning the ins and outs of a new business to me.
It’s not always easy, figuring out how much energy to expend on certain tasks and reach objectives with deadlines on either end. But once you get in a rhythm, setting priorities becomes more of a natural process and it all works itself out to fuel a certain lifestyle (a few sleepless nights are part of the deal!).
KITRO stems from the hospitality experience of its founders, who studied at the École hotelière de Lausanne, and who build bridges between the top institutions in Switzerland. Combined knowledge is stronger than fragmented efforts to make a difference, and this openness to learn and improve current processes intrinsically motivates me. KITRO strives to reduce food waste in commercial kitchens through a fully automated solution that identifies and analyses food that is thrown away. With a camera and scale, we share actionable insights into what’s filling your bins, so that you can optimise your operations to save food and costs, while positively effecting the environment.
From its very beginnings, the company has journeyed side-to-side with ETH Zurich (see text box below). ETH is a place where academia meets industry, and that is best represented by the start-up ecosystem in Zurich, events like the World Academic Summit being hosted by ETH this year, and the young and dynamic drive of the city and its inhabitants. Although I have not yet completed my Masters, I already see myself as an ambassador of ETH thanks to the chances I’ve had during my time here. Since starting my studies in the Computer Science department, I’ve seen a drastic increase in the size of student intakes per semester. This increase in demand for computing skills in the job market begs the question: what will we choose to develop in the future and in which industries will we place our energies? My hope is that in a time where technological advancement puts at risk our natural environment, more and more graduates will choose the path where technology positively affects our world, so that we can continue to build and live and work and play.