Key Facts, FAO: “Each year, the world loses or squanders a third of the food it produces. This means that somewhere between planting seeds in fields and providing nourishment to the world’s 7 billion people, approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of food with a value of more than US$1 trillion is lost or wasted. “
“Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations is urging that countries do their best to keep trade flowing and food supply chains alive and increase agricultural output during the international health crisis.”
At a time, when countries are struggling to cope up with the pandemic, it is annoying to see that on one side Farmers are struggling to sell their produce & on the other side lot of people have to spent days without food.
Food Waste has been a crucial area that needs serious investment & find solutions to reduce the food wastage across the globe.
It was indeed heartening to see a Startup based in Norway helping organizations to manage / reduce the Food Waste.
In this edition of PAC Talks with VJCV, I spoke to Charlotte Aschim, Co Founder & CEO of TotalCtrl, Norway.
TotalCtrl is one of Europe’s leading company in the Food Waste Management sector. TotalCtrl is providing software / technology solutions to prevent as well as reduce the Food Waste.
Watch the interview : YouTube Channel: PAC Talks with VJCV : Charlotte Aschim, Co Founder & CEO, TotalCtrl
Listen to the interview: Podcasts: Apple, Spotify, Google (57 minutes)
You can also read the complete interview here :-
VJCV: How is TotalCtrl helping the clients during these unprecedented times ?
Charlotte: We are helping them save a lot of time & money. We were able to help farmers setup market places, help them to move from offline to online. Lot of them have seen the potential of Digital and have started using our services. It is been interesting to see how we adapted to the change.
VJCV: Can you talk about your professional journey which started from Burger King & now again back to the Food Sector ?
Charlotte: I started working when I was 12 years old & have lot of varied experience working in different sectors. I have worked at Burger King, worked as a Real Estate consultant, and many other sectors. Building bridges in 3D, flying Drones, etc. was the last few things I did before starting TotalCtrl.
But we (my co founder & myself) started TotalCtrl with our own experience of working in a grocery store. I was the lock manager there & my co founder was the manager. During that time, we spent a lot of time walking around the aisles looking for products which were about to expire / expired & ended up with lot of food which was wasted. This food was not given out to charity. It was just wasted. Since we spent a lot of time in that , it was the trigger for us to think about starting TotalCtrl. We were waiting for the right time to get into the Food Waste Management sector. So 2.5 year ago, With the United Nations focus on this along with the Sustainability Development Goals , we thought that it is time to get going. I learned how to code, we built a prototype & sent it to different retailers & one of them became our customer. This was the start of my entrepreneurial journey.
VJCV: What are the products / solutions available at TotalCtrl?
Charlotte: We are a Software company. We have solutions available for Grocery Stores, Food Banks, Restaurants& Municipalities. We are helping our customers to save time. Instead of manually checking the inventory / stock in Grocery Store which are about to expire, we help in automating it. It also helps to give the indicators to move such products to market place / reduce the price & try to sell it instead of getting wasted. For Restaurants, they have multiple storages. It is an extremely traditional industry. We help them to save around 85% of food waste & save lot of time & money. So we help in making a huge impact in our customers’ profits as well as the planet & people in general.
VJCV: Where do you fit into in regard with the Food Value Chain ?
Charlotte: We are currently working with Consumer facing businesses. Everybody who needs to have a control of their inventory in digital way are our potential customers. Food banks also use our services.
VJCV: How do you help the Food Banks?
Charlotte: We make sure that they get food faster in & faster out. By automating the process, Food banks are able to get the food from Suppliers faster . Supplier sends the food & is automatically updated in our system. Once the food is in , food banks have real time inventory details. We have an interface for charities as well. So they can see what food is available in the food bank. The charities can register from their phone & can manage it as a self service. So it reduces the time that is required to be spend at the Food Banks & minimizes the contact with other people.
Before Covid crisis, 1/3rd of the food produced in the World was getting wasted. Now during Covid crisis, even more food is getting wasted. Farmers are not able to sell it to the restaurants / hotels. So they are lacking a sales channel to sell their produce. Now we need multiple Food Banks to take these food. This emphasizes on the requirement of digitizing the food value chain , make it sustainable & in turn reducing the wastage of food.
VJCV: Farmers are finding it difficult to sell their produce during Covid crisis. How does TotalCtrl help them ?
Charlotte: We are helping them to get on the online Sales Channel & help them to sell direct to consumers. We have created Market places and farmers can add information as per the regulations for each country & consumer can just buy from them. We also suggest to have the pick up point on the farm / near to the farm as farmer would like to reduce his transportation cost. In most of the cases, farmer wants to have most of the cash as they have already lost lot of money. So they want to any additional fees. Lot of farmers are not digital & not good at marketing themselves. We are helping them market themselves & make the neighborhood understand that they can buy from them next year also.
Currently we have started in Norway, will do the testing & later launch in globally.
Consumer facing inventory solution is available for customers from across the globe.
VJCV: In regard with Restaurants, How is TotalCtrl helping them during Covid crisis ?
Charlotte: We see different statistics & see that around 50% may shut down. But we foresee there will be lot of startups in restaurant industry. We will be able to help them cut cost & manage inventory. This gives them more time to focus on the business of selling the food. It is going to be more & more important to become digital.
There are some restaurants where they inventory but not operational & vice versa. We provided our plaform & got both types of these restaurants on our system & are helping them sell to the required people. We have a school in Norway which is now running a kitchen. So they are now purchasing the products from restaurants. It is like a collaboration between different systems & companies. So we get the restaurant on our platform & they update the inventory details. It is a way of redistribution of food which otherwise would have gone wasted.
VJCV: How are you able to help the restaurants / grocery stores to get their Sales Forecasting as well as Pricing Strategy correct ?
Charlotte: This (TotalCtrl) gives them more power. They are able to see when things are going to expire. So this give indicators for them to take actions like reducing the price / move the product to market place, etc.
VJCV: TotalCtrl is a one stop solution – you help in Marketing material as well?
Charlotte : In a grocery store, they spend a lot of time creating & printing marketing manuals / leaflets. We provide that on our platform where they can complete this in just 3 clicks.
VJCV: You have partnered with Artificial Intelligence based company Halla in Los Angeles. What are the plans ?
Charlotte: We were looking to get into the US market. So Halla will help us in that process. We are planning to enter US by 2022. This partnership will also help Grocery Stores in selling what is available / what is going to expire.
We are planning to scale our consumer solutions. We are launching an App. This (for now in Norway) will help consumers to get control over what they have at home & get notifications. It will also give recipes automatically generated considering the products available at home.
VJCV: UN has been talking about Sustainability Development Goals. So how do you help companies / organizations to achieve the SDGs?
Charlotte: Since we are dealing with Food Waste we are directly part of the UN SDG Goals. We are also part of ‘End Hunger’, etc. All our partners are connected to this. We are able to be the provider of a kind of network of different system that help businesses to keep to their KPIs. Businesses have KPIs like Food Waste reduction, calculating CO2 emissions, cost reduction, digitalization, etc. It is going to be more important to be Sustainable.
Sustainability also means Profitability as well. So leveraging on knowing what future will be : more local, more digital, more sustainable & going & creating solutions for that.
VJCV: Using TotalCtrl , can companies track Carbon emissions ?
Charlotte: We are going to combine our solution with Carbon emission calculations. We have to make sure that it is the most reliable way of measuring it. Food is one of the key emitters of CO2. Food gets converted in to Methane which is poisonous & when we waste food it is hard on the planet.
VJCV: You have receive accolades & people are looking up to TotalCtrl as a solution provider. So how do you see that ?
Charlotte: It is an honour to see the accolades. We wanted to build credibility in everything we did & it has helped us. One of the things which is great for us is that lot of people are applying for our jobs. We are the leading technology in Food Waste Management. We have been called as Speakers in different platforms. It is good to have that arena for creating awareness. This (Food Waste) is a huge problem which need more awareness. We want to help companies who want to come in to this sector. We know that we are good but we need more solutions / companies like us to come in to this.
VJCV: You have recruited people at Senior Management level from other industries / fields ? How do you plan those recruitments ?
Charlotte: We understood at the start itself that we need people who are expert in their fields. My co founder & myself had realized our weakness & wanted to recruit people who can help us in getting things right. This helps us to understand the different scenarios. We have been lucky enough that there are lot of good people around us. They see the potential of the company & they want to be part of this journey.
VJCV: Are you self funded / have investors on board?
Charlotte: We started off as a self funded Startup. Though we wanted to keep investors at bay but we understood that to expand we required investment. So now we have investors , some who came in as strategic investors as well as angel investors.
VJCV: How important is to understand your Weaknesses and get people on board according to that ?
Charlotte: It is very important from the start. Startup is running a business in different stages & it kind of changes every year. So to understand our weakness & getting the right people on board is critical.
Running a startup has lot of ups & downs & is like a roller coaster journey. So people who are okay to be part of this journey & are ready to learn are always welcome to work with us.
VJCV: You have employees from different nationalities ? Is there any specific reason to that ?
Charlotte: Initially I did not care about anything like gender / age / any of those kinds. We wanted people who are ready to work & learn. So somehow we ended up with people from different nationalities. But we have realised in the last one year that it gives us different perspectives & enables us to understand things from varied view points . It also has challenges like everyone will have different values / cultural differences, etc. We need to adjust to get going. So combining those thoughts helps us in getting the things together & scaling the company.
VJCV: Across the business ecosystem, one of the key topics is Women Entrepreneurship. Your co founder & yourself fit into this bill. How do you both decide to work together & how are you coping up with each other for the last 2.5 years ?
Charlotte : We are best friends. So that helps. She is more into Marketing, HR , etc. & I am into the technology, business side of it. So being two extremes somewhat works in a positive way.
We had challenges as female tech founders till we were noticed as the upcoming startup. Being female founder is more of an advantage. I being a female carrying a tattoo, blue colored hair, etc. helps me stand apart.
VJCV: When and why did you get your hair colored blue ?
Charlotte: I wanted to have some unique identity. I went for a music festival in US which was before the launch of the Startup & I colored my hair blue. So I thought of continuing the hair style as it was matching my eye color & helped me stand apart from others. The way Steve Jobs had his unique turtle neck T shirts.
VJCV: How are you coping in regard with your financials now?
Charlotte: We managed to get a round of funding just before Covid. So with the money that we have now, it is sufficient to manage for another one year. In addition to that we have more applications lined up for investment. Also new product solutions should help us get sufficient revenues.
VJCV: What are the future plans of TotalCtrl?
Charlotte: Take out the World :). The plan is to scale our Solutions. Make the most of this situation, provide technology and make more holistic solutions. Make sure we can prevent food waste & make the value chain more Sustainable.
Retail Solution are available for use in 155 countries.
We are launching the Consumer solution also for Norway for now. The plan is to connect with more partners who are recipe providers / data providers. So we are looking to get the right partners on board to expand to new countries.
TotalCtrl Solution is ranked as one of the world’s most innovative by Retail Insider
TotalCtrl named as one of Europe’s most inspiring food waste change-makers by the European Food Waste Innovation Network.
Food Waste Management will have a key role post Covid 19. This will be critical in making sure that the food is made available to everyone without much challenges.
Technology will have a substantial role in ensuring the Sustainability of the Value Chain. Hope to see many Startups like TotalCtrl to be part of the Food Waste Management initiatives.
PAC Talks with VJCV : Food Tech : Charlotte Aschim, Co Founder & CEO, TotalCtrl