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The next ingenious IT-solution from Estonia: The winners of Shark Tank broke the code how to open up four food business within an hour.

Food technologists, entrepreneurs Katrin Liivat and Karin Repp created the team with the programmers that gave birth to FoodDocs – the winner of Ajujaht this year. The wish to change the red tape of management of the catering business easier and more comfortable induced an idea that they needed a program that would think for a person and remind them of several obligations and deadlines that could otherwise just slip the memory. Different inspections, measurements, reports – it may mean a real headache for a starting company and FoodDocs is just the help they need also in another way. A founder of a new catering business can now perform the necessary month-long paperwork in 35 minutes. So promises Katrin Liivat with whom Delfi Kasulik had an interview.

Congratulations on winning Ajujaht! What gave rise to the idea to create such digital solution?

Me and Karin are both food technologists and have worked in the catering business for 15 years. Karin was a catering manager of the Estonian Defence Forces, I have dealt with and compiled the food safety documents, and also started a catering business myself. Filling in different kind of papers for 15 years, and finally had enough. The driving force was that Karin had a dream that I came to her and asked her to start dealing with food safety. Then, in turn, she came to me driven by her dream and said, “I will make a program about it, what do you think?" I though that this was a stunning idea and so we just took action.

The dreams may sometimes come true. What does this victory mean to you?

For us, the victory was very important. It proves that the technology is able to simplify the red tape. The red tape is a very serious issue in the food sector. We will prove that it is possible to do it more easily, and most importantly, by saving time. We also received a special award from the city of Tallinn where the officials made the selection. This is very eloquent that they also feel that the bureaucracy must be facilitated.

Or, that this idea will not change the lives of people who work with food easier, but also the lives of officials?

Exactly. We have received a lot of help also from the Ministry of Rural Affairs. The Veterinary and Food Board performs all inspections of the food companies and in the initial phase of our idea we have asked for advice from them. We asked, what they thought about a digital solution that would eliminate that whole pile of papers. What, if the program will think on behalf of a human being. The Ministry supported the idea wholeheartedly. Thanks a million to them!

New restaurants crop up every day with new and exciting tastes. How exactly and whom will this tool be of help?

It will be of very big help just for the new start-up companies. In order to open a food business, be it a coffee shop, restaurant, nursery school, petrol station or production, it is necessary to prepare a document, which takes at least a month. In addition to being prepared, it is also necessary to have very strong professional knowledge and it must be in the local language. It will take 35 minutes with the FoodDocs to get one month work done when all the necessary analyses and drawings are available.

Tell a person who on daily basis comes across the food safety only as a restaurant visitor – which documents are necessary for establishing a catering place?

Both the food safety plan and the activity license application are necessary. In our program, it is possible to get the both documents with less than one hour. For a start-up company it makes the opening 500 times faster.

If both these documents are prepared in your program, then one may open one's own catering place?

Exactly. But the food safety plan is not necessary only for opening. The program works so that the keeper of the catering place should not be kept posted manually with all the food safety related documents and deadlines. The program thinks on behalf of them. The food safety dashboard will start to work for you, gives you notifications if some requirements begin to expire. For example, when it is necessary to take food analyses, carry out pest control, conduct audit, hygiene trainings, etc.

Once a year, the Veterinary and Food Board also inspects all the businesses. It can never be so that everything is in order. Always something is forgotten due to human factor. As long as all the stuff is printed out, there is no comprehensive overview.

Has the solution like that been tried anywhere else in the world?

There is no such document-based solution that is related to the legislation.

For me as a restaurant visitor, it just means that the catering place that uses FoodDocsi probably will not serve me bad fish on the plate?

Yes. Our motto is to offer cleaner food and improve the quality of food safety throughout the world.

What are the daily assistants that make keeping a catering place easier?

Daily monitoring. For example, the temperatures of refrigerators must be monitored. It is a pure human factor. If there is some kind of gadget that sends the temperatures directly to the program, and this, in turn, will let you know if something is wrong, the human factor is eliminated.

One work, which no longer needs to be performed, is skipped. Such solution could be urgent and prevent huge damage. Only recently there was a failure of refrigerators in a big grocery store and they suffered heavy loss.

If the temperature fluctuations or a device failure happens in some time gap where it was not noticed, the food in the refrigerator may become spoilt. The meat can go bad, so that nobody knows about it. One part of the FoodDocs dashboard will be automated monitoring where all the things run together and the keeper of the catering place has a clear overview of their food supplies and their use-by dates.

This sounds like saving the labour costs too? So, it is like that the employer could save a little bit on someone?

This depends on the size of the company. If it has many catering places, big personnel, many fridges – it may mean saving of 100 euros a month for a small business to several thousands of euros for a big company.

It depends on how much working time of people is spent on looking through the legislation or 'fire-fighting' due to' not knowing it. This program enables to be always two steps ahead of making an error.

You are not maybe quite content with what this program allows already today. What are your plans for the future?

Just one fourth of our product is ready. We want to cover the whole food safety chain so that there would be a dashboard where all the food safety problems could be solved For example, the way of making the selling of products between the companies easier can be offered as an example.

All who sell their food to another company must have detailed product specifications of what the product contains, all ingredients, declarations, certificates, allergens, how to store the product.

We wish to add an option for an utmost comfortable creation of the product descriptions. Also the calculation of calories will be added that is also a mandatory part of the description. This is an extremely awesome and the next big thing we currently have under way.

Article published in Delfi business portal

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