Powering the food waste revolution

Timeline: 2019.9 - 2020.2

Tools: Sketch, Adobe XD, Illustrator

Project Overview 

Our client Planethon is a Swedish tech company, focus on turning environmental problems into business opportunities. We see the opportunities of using food waste as eco-friendly materials to make useful products for consumers and eager to help to establish new circular and green businesses for a planet sustainable future.

The result is Orbit, a start-up incubator accelerates new businesses using food waste to make new products for environmental and societal good.

My role: 

We are a team of three and I am the project manager. I led the user and market research, conducted user interviews and planned stakeholder workshop. I was also responsible for over all user interface design from sketches to final prototyping and user testing.



Lack of a sustainable business model


The traditional food supply chain is hard to disrupt

One-third of the edible food wasted globally

during production and processing stage because of systematic over-production and cosmetic specification. Currently, those food waste have gone to animal feed and landfill, which can cause a loss in resources such as water, labour-power etc.

There are startups making bio-plastic or textile from food wasted ingredients. For food waste entrepreneurs, they are struggling with getting funding, finding other stakeholders on the supply chain, and create a long-term partnership.

How might we help business using wasted food making new products grow by fostering a sustainable partnership between food producers and food waste entrepreneurs? 

According to the food waste hierarchy - ideally, wasted food should be redirected into human consumption. However, It's hard to reuse food in catering and hospitality due to food safety issues, market regulation and policy.



We built Orbit which is an online platform helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses, investors to make data-based investments which align with their values, and food producers to make profits from their waste. 


1. Food waste database

Help entrepreneurs and other stakeholders to expand their knowledge about research, raw material data, and market and investment trends around food waste.

2. Open call for entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs can join the open call 'Big opportunities'. Each 'Big Opportunities' page Including the current challenges, technology, market application and stakeholders involved

3. Event calendar

After joining the 'Big opportunities', entrepreneurs will be invited to the related events to meet other stakeholders. 

4. Investment progress check 

After networking with stakeholders, entrepreneurs can check the potential investor and investment they get from the community.  

Design process


2/3 of food waste occurs within supply chains

We started from the whole food value chain and found there are very little research and data on food waste in the middle of food supply chains, with most research to date focusing instead on post-consumer waste or, to a lesser extent, waste directly leaving supermarket stores. Yet within Europe alone, two-thirds of food waste occurs within supply chains.

How to redirect food waste into human consumption?

Currently, food waste and loss including overproduction food from production stage and imperfect food from processing stage, are went to animal feed and landfill, which is unstainable and harmful to the planet. According to the food waste hierarchy, the most desirable way is direct back to human consumption.

The challenges of reusing food waste in catering and hospitality 

we spoke to people from the supermarket, farmer's market, and catering and hospitality. We found that 1. Insufficient recycling options

2. safety and regulatory concerns and transportation

3. storage constraints 

Our initial idea —— Match food waste producer with people in catering and hospitality

According to the pain points, we developed our first idea which is a platform to match food waste producers with people who wanted to use it in catering and hospitality.  After we testing this idea with three restaurants, two wholesalers, and three food system experts.

We realised our initial idea doesn't work under the current food values system because the food supply chain was already well-structured, strict regulation, and safety issues of reusing the food waste.

Forecasting the future —— Circular economy and waste valorisation

How food can be utilised in another way which creates more value than eating? With this question, We found a there are a number of entrepreneurs who recognize that food waste is an unacceptable problem in our modern world, and they make better use of food and create new products like bio-plastic and textile from wasted ingredients typically from farms and food processing factories.

Ref: Wrap, 2019, Food Futures - from business as usual to business unusual

Workshop and validate the idea with food waste entrepreneurs

We talked to those companies who focus on creating new products like bio-plastic and textile, food producers, supermarket, and people from the incubator to understand their needs and priorities.


Then we came to our new idea which is a food waste database can leverage the most promising research, technologies and drive innovation to deliver new business value.

How does it work?

1. Pooling data

Orbit collects food waste data, research and market data. For example, there is some research that shows how you can create textiles from orange peel, a huge amount of orange peel being thrown away, and high demands for sustainable fashion.

2. Identify opportunities and co-creation

Orbit categorises them into different databases based on dependency which called "Big opportunities" in our service. Orbit then publishes these "Big opportunities" for entrepreneurs to apply for, and they can then create a network of stakeholders for their start-ups.

3. Informed-based Investment

Orbit provides investment suggestions which come from our database and from the latest investment news in the industry from the public resources, and also from exclusive reports from our entrepreneurs' progress reports. After that, investors can meet with the right entrepreneurs and other stakeholders to foster partnership.

Business model

Orbit can be funded by membership fees from investors, and by taking a small amount of equity from each start-up and producers of food waste. Revenue could be used to fund grants for more research.

Product details

We had a WIP (Working in progress) show at the end of the project to show our outcome.  We placed three products made from food waste and their raw material to attract visitors, and we display our prototype using the iPad to explain how does it work. We also distributed mandarins for the visitors, and collected peels after they finish, helping them to understand our concept and have a more immersive experience.

Learnings and takeaways

1) Keeping a design process log or diary — Without that type of record-keeping, it can be challenging to accurately remember the decisions making the process as it can easily become blurry.

2) Make more and quicker conversation — We have a board brief at the beginning, in order to step out the foggy area, we talked with different stakeholders in this eco-system help us narrow the topic.

3) Find the idea already exists is not scary, make it happens as early as possible — After 3 weeks of hard working, we generate an amazing product solution, then we found it already exists. It doesn't mean we need to redo the whole process, it shows we are on the right direction but need to do more market research and see if the current solution matches our design challenges and clients capability.

© 2020 by Ruotong Guan 

Please check my portfolio on the web if you want to know more, Thank you!