Food waste is one of the biggest problems in our society today. One-third of all the food produced is thrown away each year at every stage of the supply chain. Producers and retailers will throw away food if they are deformed as these foods are less likely to sell. Distributors will throw away food if they have been damaged when being transported or packaged and consumers will often throw away food that has gone past its sell-by date, even if the food is still can be consumed. With the population set to grow to 9.8 billion by 20504, Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to think of new ways the food and hospitality industry can reduce the amount of food that is going in our bins.
How could Artificial intelligence be used to reduce food waste?
The role of AI in reducing food waste is growing as we seek new ways to tackle this prevalent issue. One way AI could be used is to forecast what foods are going to be more popular. From social media accounts to consumer shopping habits, AI computers can be fed large amounts of data that are processed using complex algorithms. The more data AI is given, the greater the accuracy of the forecast it produces. This will prevent food waste since retailers will not need to overbuy certain products as they can predict sales and food-trends.
The benefits of using AI and machine learning make the idea of tackling food waste less complicated. Unlike traditional systems, AI is able to adapt and learn based on the data it is given, which enables it to spot patterns at a very fast rate. Furthermore, AI can improve the accuracy of its data by considering external factors such as the weather or national holidays meaning they can be modified to each company’s needs.
Winnow is a UK company that has been using Artificial intelligence to help places such as restaurants reduce the amount of food they are wasting. It uses a smart bin, scales and a camera that allows restaurants to keep track of the types and costs of the foods that are being thrown away. When kitchen staff throw away food into the smart bin, they record the food type using a touchscreen device and the Winnow camera can obtain the weight and a photo of the food. With only a few clicks, the device fits seamlessly into the busy atmosphere of a kitchen and provides real-time data that can be easily assessed by the restaurant. Winnow has the potential to cut a restaurant’s food waste by 40% -70% as it highlights where restaurants are wasting the most food, enabling them to review their impacts with regards to cost and the environment.
WInnow has the potential to cut a restaurant’s food waste by 40%-70%
Why do we need to reduce food waste?
The consequences of food waste are seen socially, environmentally, and economically. The food we waste could be used to feed those who cannot access or afford food as easily. This is ethically wrong because the food that we throw away is capable of providing sufficient meals to those who need it. Environmentally, food that has been thrown away makes up 25% of the freshwater used per year. Moreover, the food which ends up in landfill decomposes, releasing methane gas: a greenhouse gas that is contributing to global warming. The value of the food waste per year is equivalent to $1 trillion dollars – this comes to a weight of 1.3 billion tonnes. With the help of AI, the amount of food we waste can be reduced significantly as it helps us to not overproduce excessive amounts of food as well as exposing what is really going in our bins every day.