Every year we waste 1.6 billion tonnes of food worldwide – at the same time 25 million people starve to death and another billion are undernourished. Yet, in this equation, no one really needs to starve. In other words, every starving person is a victim of the wrong food distribution. But why is food waste still such a big problem? Shouldn’t we have learned our lesson about food production over the last decades and know how much is needed?
PIABO-CEO Tilo Bonow and SPRK-CEO Alexander Piutti
Tilo Bonow has invited an expert in this field to discuss this topic in his Podcast Business Class: Alexander Piutti. He is founder and CEO of the impact start-up SPRK.global, which has the mission to redistribute overproduced food. What has now proved to be a promising business model in Berlin is to be raised to a global level in the long term by means of AI technology.
Piutti has been an entrepreneur for over twenty years and has himself already founded several successful companies. As a graduate engineer and automation technician, he is rooted in the deep tech industry. He has long-lasting experience in setting up companies and an understanding of complex challenges.
Therefore, our core question is: What solution has Alexander Piutti found with his company SPRK.global to solve one of the biggest problems of our time? And can this be an approach to minimize CO2 emissions in addition to hunger?
But … back to the beginning:
“It all started when we gathered relevant findings that food waste does not happen just anywhere, but right on our doorstep. And the extent of it is much worse than we thought.”
The reasons can already be identified in the production of food. Piutti explains that there is a tendency to produce a surplus at every stage of production. After all, if you calculate too sharply, you risk losing customers, should they leave empty-handed and migrate to other brands. Aggravating factors are that our consumption depends on season and weather. This makes it often difficult to make a precise calculation. For example, it is not possible to estimate in advance how much meat is actually needed in the summer barbecue season.
“After all, you can’t produce animals on-demand the day before.”
This automatically leads to overproduction, as higher consumption is expected in terms of quantity. However, this is what SPRK.global’s core business is centered around. Because: if overproduction exists anyway, it makes sense to think about a system of redistribution. Accordingly, SPRK.global has built up a complex network of partners from the industry, such as wholesalers, caterers and restaurant kitchens, to strengthen existing forces, such as NGOs like Die Tafel or die Arche. How it links together, Piutti explains in our episode.
Alexander Piutti, CEO and founder of SPRK.global
Further, Piutti talks about potential channel conflicts, how it is related to consumer psychology, and also which course politics has to set. Especially surprising in this context are his research findings on the extent to which food waste correlates with the climate crisis:
“There is a direct correlation between CO2-based climate damage and food waste. 1 kilogram of avoidable food waste translates on average into 2.3 kilograms of CO2 emissions.”
These results are becoming increasingly important, not least because of rising population figures and greater demand for food. This is one of the reasons why SPRK.global is working on the development of a globally functioning, technology-based system that will enable the redistribution of production surpluses via the B2B supply chain.
“The bigger the problem, the better! If the solution turns out to succeed, it can be scaled more easily.”
As a passionate entrepreneur, Piutti goes on to present SPRK.global’s underlying technology that builds the basis of the company. Most importantly to be able for his business model to scale worldwide, and learn from recurring patterns. The impact topic, however, is a new concept in need of explanation. Specifically in SPRK.global’s case, as the core business contains an offline component that goes hand in hand with complex software. Among other things, this is what made it more difficult to find investors.
“You have to find people who are committed to the topic and who do not want to invest just because of the ROI.”
Last but not least, he has found some valuable partners who will support him in the implementation of his project. Only recently, SPRK.global completed a seven-digit financing round. He adds:
“Each of the investors has its own story of how they came to us.”
Looking back, he is grateful for how they came together with the right partners. In the podcast episode, he also highlights why the Xtreme Tech Challenge was decisive for their plans. It should be said that there are exciting people involved who are known in the founder scene.
Alexander Piutti and Tilo Bonow
Finally, Piutti comments on consumption by the end consumer:
“40% of food waste takes place at the consumer’s end”.
Of course SPRK.global has also developed a strong solution for this. Find out more about it in the Business Class podcast.