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In an analysis of the contributors to food waste, Rethinking Food Through Economic Data (ReFED) recently identified opportunities for digital innovations to reduce food waste. In this post, following their lead, we take a look at some remarkable app technologies that can be an affordable and profitable gateway for companies in both the grocery and restaurants sectors that wish to participate in the growing world of sustainable food retail.
Restaurants rarely collect accurate data identifying the kinds of food they dispose of and the reasons for it. Without this basic information, managers can only guess how to reduce waste. Winnow Solutions uses cutting-edge AI technology to solve that problem by empowering staff to monitor their waste, cut costs, save time, and run more profitable and sustainable kitchens.
Winnow uses a platform called “Vision” that includes a weighing scale and an AI camera equipped with computer vision algorithms to record the weight and type of food thrown into a trash bin. An employee then selects an option from a touchscreen to indicate the reason for the waste (for example, kitchen error or a customer complaint). The result? Data that can cut food waste in half.
Similar to Winnow, LeanPath is a food-waste-prevention system that combines automated software with a smart scale and camera to track, monitor and calculate the impact of food waste in commercial kitchens. Staff use the scale to weigh and classify everything that is discarded, from a piece of produce dropped on the floor to the food customers leave on their plates, and the software performs robust analyses to identify patterns. LeanPath then delivers a report providing suggestions for reducing waste and thus increasing profit.
The LeanPath platform. Source: https://www.leanpath.com
Created by Unilever Food Solutions, Wise Up On Waste is a food waste database targeted specifically for professional food service employees. It offers user-friendly tips on preventing food waste that workers can readily consult without having to leave the kitchen. Perhaps its most valuable feature is an auditing program that lets chefs track and identify waste as resulting from spoilage, short-sighted prepping, or customer leftovers, while also calculating the potential cost savings of each.
Goodr redirects surplus food from businesses to nonprofits that can share it with people who are food insecure. Many restaurants, catering, and event companies often end up with plenty of leftovers, but don’t want the expense of figuring out how to donate and deliver them to the hungry, including those who may not have the time or transportation to access existing free-meal services or food banks in their area.
Goodr solves that through an app that allows its clients to signal that there’s a surplus ready to be collected. The company provides its own packaging and transport for each item. Goodr logs every part of the transaction using blockchain, creating a digital ledger that shows food providers who received and consumed their goods. Goodr also tracks the weight of each delivery to estimate each participant’s environmental impact (what’s not going to landfill) and financial bonus (both lower trash-disposal fees and donation tax deductions).
The Goodr app. Source: https://goodr.co
Efforts by supermarkets to reduce prices for items near their sell-by date are usually mark downs in price and the hope that consumers buy them before they spoil. Wasteless offers a data-driven approach instead, using small screens to display dynamically changing prices for each item on the shelf and automated machine-learning to optimize prices over time. The company claims to reduce waste by a third while increasing revenues.
How Wasteless works. Source: https://www.wasteless.com
ImpactVision combines the topics of food safety and food waste to enable a transparent food system. The app uses advanced imaging technology to evaluate the quality of food. For example, their Fruitcam assesses the ripeness of fruits, while their Fishcam marks the difference between fresh and frozen fish fillets, thus enabling wholesalers to make informed decisions about which ones to ship long distances and which to sell locally.
Future applications of ImpactVision. Source: https://venturebeat.com/2018/12/12/how-impactvision-is-using-ai-to-detect-unripe-or-contaminated-food/
Food for All eliminates last-minute restaurant food waste in Boston. The app connects customers to restaurants one hour before they close or meal discounts as high as 80%. Customers enter their location, explore nearby deals, and pick up their order at a time specified by the restaurant. In New York City, goMkt is a similar app service that also offers a platform that connects large food businesses to charities, composters, and anaerobic digestion facilities.
Food For All’s app. Source: https://www.uptoboston.com/local-startup-food-for-all-aims-to-reduce-food-waste-with-app/
goMkt’s app. Source: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/holtzmanm/gomkt-eat-your-conscience
Fridgely helps kitchen staff track the freshness of refrigerated foods so they can be used at peak quality. The app is equipped with a barcode scanner to allow employees to easily enter their items and set expiration dates. It then automatically sends push notifications to remind staff to use items that are expiring soon—and even suggests recipes based on those ingredients.
The Fridgely app. Source: https://fridgelyapp.com
Reducing and preventing food waste translates to significant resource savings. As food-waste-prevention startups grow and scale their apps, they could potentially have a significant impact on reducing food insecurity and the environmental burden of the food system. ReFED estimates the business profit potential of waste-tracking and analytics platforms at $1 billion, with a potential for diverting 570,000 tons of food waste per year. A 20% reduction in food waste over the course of a decade could divert 13 million tons from landfills and equate to a net societal economic value of $100 billion.
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