How smart technology is helping to solve a $990 billion problem

Food waste is a big, big problem. Around 1.3 billion tons of food produced for human consumption is either lost or wasted every year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The economic impact of such wastage is significant, with the FAO saying that food losses and waste add up to roughly $680 billion in industrialized countries. For developing countries, that figure is around $310 billion.

Winnow – which has offices in the U.K., Singapore, China and the United Arab Emirates – has developed smart technology that allows professional kitchens to monitor and reduce food waste and lower costs.

“In commercial kitchens, it’s very difficult to understand what’s being wasted, where it’s happening and why,” Mark Zornes, co-founder and CEO of the business, told CNBC’s Juliet Mann. “These are busy operations, they’re very complex operations… We provide a data platform for the kitchen on what they’re wasting, to inform the chef on how they can run an operation better.”

The system developed by Winnow is relatively simple. A scale is placed under a kitchen’s bin and connected to a Winnow tablet. With a few touches on the tablet, kitchen staff identify the items they have just disposed of, and then get back to preparing and cooking food.

“We’re providing data in a place where data didn’t exist and we’re trying to provide that information in a way that will drive action,” Thorn said.

The impact of the technology on businesses can be significant, he added. “We find that when we put Winnow into kitchens and they implement our system to understand what’s being wasted and take action on that, that ultimately, they can cut food waste in half within their business.” This meant an operation could typically make a 3 to 8 percent food cost saving, he added.

Kitchens are hot, frenetic places. How then, do staff members have the time to weigh food while trying to make sure they keep on top of all their other duties?

“We focus our system on being dead simple to use, it takes only a few minutes a day for kitchen staff to use this system,” Thorn said. “If you then think about the time that they’re saving to not prepare that food that would have otherwise been wasted, ultimately… we’re actually making these kitchens easier to run, we’re actually saving net time in the kitchen as a result.”


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