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Author Miguel Amado
Miguel Amado
Updated on Nov 22nd, 2022
Fact checked by Deborah Leigh

Winnow 2023: Technology to Reduce Food Waste 

As the food service and hospitality industries invest more and more in technology to help them cut down on waste, we caught up with Marc Zornes, co-founder and CEO of Winnow, a food waste solution that uses AI to tackle this important issue. 

Tell us a bit more about Winnow…

Winnow was founded with the simple belief that food is too valuable to waste. Measuring food waste is a challenge for all commercial kitchens, with up to 20% of all food purchased now ending up in the bin.

Winnow develops AI tools to help chefs in large businesses such as hotels, contracting caterers, casinos, and cruise ships to run more profitable and sustainable kitchens by cutting food waste in half. Our analytics platform and reporting suite helps teams pinpoint waste quickly, allowing enterprises to drive significant waste reductions at scale.

How does AI work to help with food waste?

Simple and intuitive to use, our Winnow Vision product comprises a motion sensor camera and connected digital scale. The bin is placed on the scale, team members throw food away in the usual way, and the camera captures pictures of the food that’s been binned. 

The Winnow app and analytics underpin all of our solutions. Our reporting suite pinpoints waste in the kitchen, and gives teams the intelligence to drive operational improvements while creating engagement across the team.

Daily reports help chefs focus on the most costly areas of waste. Weekly reporting helps site managers review trends and track reductions. Cross-site reports help analysts compare performance and create benchmarks. Food waste pictures help teams reduce preparation waste and increase the yield of each ingredient.

Food waste is a problem for the environment that doesn’t get talked about enough. What kind of impact has Winnow had so far?

It’s certainly a huge issue – close to a third of all grown food ends up not being eaten.

Winnow is now present in more than 1,400 locations across 40 countries around the world. The Winnow Vision system recognises more than 600 food types. Together we’re saving 36 million meals from going into the bin each year – financially, that’s $42 million per year that our clients have saved.

This year we’ve prevented 61,000 tonnes of CO2e from entering the atmosphere, which is similar to around 4,000 cars being taken off the road. By using technology we can all drive efficiency while being sustainable.

What causes so much food to be wasted? For example, is it just bad planning?

The reason food is wasted often correlates with location. In developed countries, food is considered a nearly unlimited resource. As a result, there are exacting retailer standards based on the shape and size of food, so food is wasted purely for aesthetic reasons.

In developing countries, poor infrastructure, lack of storage facilities, and inefficiencies along distribution lines means that a lot of food loss occurs at this stage. By expanding the cold chain – a temperature-controlled supply chain – in these areas, an estimated $270 billion could be saved.

In the hospitality industry, at least $100 billion in food goes to waste each year. The best way to prevent food waste is by measuring and monitoring what goes into the bin.

For a restaurant owner, food waste is also a big profit killer – how much time does it take for the Winnow Vision to pay for itself?

Reducing food waste definitely improves profitability – kitchens that use Winnow are usually able to cut food purchasing costs by up to 8%. 

We see results usually within the first month of installation. Hilton Tokyo Bay was the first in Japan to bring AI into its kitchens. Within the first four weeks of usage, the team had successfully cut food waste by 30%. In the long term, that’s equivalent to saving more than 17,016 meals, and more than $31,000 annually.

What’s next for Winnow?

We’re working hard every day to make our technology smarter, faster, and easier to use. Working with pioneers like Iberostar, we hope to see system-level change before 2030.

In the future I believe every commercial kitchen will be fitted with an AI device to measure food waste and maximize productivity. In doing so, we’ll solve the problem of avoidable food waste forever and meet the Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to halve food waste worldwide.

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