From apps connecting surplus food with charities to biodegradable best-before dates, here are just some of the ways in which tech is tackling food waste
We met co-founder Tessa Cook at last months ‘Women in Tech’ seminar, where she told us how Olio came about. Tessa convinced university pal Saasha Celestial-One to help her set up the Olio app in 2015 after failing miserably to find a home for leftover food.
Olio is a free app which connects neighbours with each other, and local businesses with their local community, to flag up surplus food available for sharing. To make an item available users add a photo, description, price (if applicable) and when and where the item is available for pick-up. Users looking for surplus can send a private message to organise collection.
Since it’s launch date, Olio has been downloaded 110,000 times with 140,000 items of food shared and up to 90% of requested products picked up. As of October, the app has been made available globally after “food waste warriors” in China, India and Africa contacted the founders.
Solveiga Pakstaite created the Bump Mark to help visually impaired consumers read date labels but the solution is now regarded as a “cost-effective food waste reducing technology”. The label uses gelatine to track the decay process of food. Customers can quickly learn the condition of their fresh food with a quick sweep of the mark, with a smooth surface indicating the gelatine, and food, is still intact and a bumpy texture warning them that time is nearly up as the gelatine deteriorates at the same rate as protein based foods.
Since scooping the James Dyson Scholarship for her design in 2014, Solveiga has secured a raft of further grants to help her commercialise the product. We’re looking to see how Bump Mark evolves throughout 2017.
Working as a consultant at McKinsey in 2011, Marc Zornes co-authored a sustainability report that flagged up the scale of the food waste problem. Joining forces with an old university pal, Zornes invented Winnow, a tech solution targeted at the foodservice industry.
By installing touchscreens next to kitchen bins, the Winnow software tracks each and every morsel that’s chucked away. Staff tap the screen to record the type of waste, and the weight and cost are automatically added, providing chefs or foodservice operators with a full picture of all the food they’ve wasted. “This gives chefs the information necessary to drive improvements in their production processes to cut food waste in half, saving money and reducing their environmental footprint at the same time,” says Winnow.
In only a few years Winnow has attracted some heavyweight fans, with waste campaigner and chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall crediting the tech with reducing waste in his River Cottage kitchen by one-third, enabling him “to identify dishes that were oversized as they come back under-eaten, or ingredients that are producing a lot of trim, byproduct or leaves.”
Major UK foodservice operators including Compass Group and Accor Hotels agree and have already adopted the tech to cut their food waste in half, with companies in 18 countries following suit resulting in Winnow having a “significant presence” in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.