The Food Industry Has A Waste Problem. Can AI Solve It?

Are food consumption and food wastage striking a proper balance? No.

More than 30 per cent of the world’s food is lost or wasted every year, and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that the Near East and North Africa region wastes an average of 250 kg of food per capita each year, or about a third of food overall. Well, does it affect the economy? Yes. The UAE estimates that food waste costs its economy about $3.5 billion annually. Basically, we are biting off more than we are chewing.

The USDA’s economic research service report claims that in the US, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 per cent of the food supply. Nearly 50 per cent of food loss occurs during transit, storage, and by the consumers. The situation is an immediate concern, and aggressive measures are required to overcome the food loss crisis. In such a scenario, Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology can help.

The UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment collaborated with Winnow to reduce food waste. Winnow, a tech company 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. Emirates Flight Catering has partnered with Winnow to reduce food wastage across its Dubai operations by over a third. So, how is AI technology helping? It uses intelligent cameras, smart scales and meters to analyse ingredients used during food preparation, to assess which food items are most wasted and in what quantities to calculate the financial and environmental cost of that discarded material that the commercial kitchens have to pay.

Winnow has been fighting food wastage by significantly leveraging its kitchen operations. The ML model tracks and identifies food items and prepares a menu for the staff to select and prepare.

During the training phase, Winnow Vision takes human input, and over time, the system continues to improve until it starts to recognise food with no human intervention. Based on the insights of Winnow Vision, the AI system, food production levels are fathomed and adjusted to avoid overproduction.

Focusing on adjusting the production volume to find the right balance has been a boon from this technology’s end. AI also has given chances to gain better visibility over kitchen operations. Winnow Vision surpasses human levels of accuracy in identifying food waste, additionally validated to ensure data quality. It is used in more than 75 kitchens in the UK and Ireland.

Sustainability has gained ground as a salient facet in any business. And startups are tackling the food waste issue, using innovative solutions. For example, While EreoGo is a conscious grocery shopping app, Uvera uses FDA-approved UV light exposure to extend the shelf life of meat, baked goods, and fresh produce by 20-60 per cent.

Wasteless focus on reducing waste in food retail by 50 per cent and increasing revenues via markdown optimisation. It provides an all-in-one solution by dynamically pricing items with a shorter expiration date at their optimal price point using AI and ML at supermarkets. Their patented algorithm helps retailers optimise markdowns to increase their profitability substantially.

Greyparrot, automates waste composition analysis using AI-powered computer vision software. They utilise their AI-based waste recognition system on conveyor belts to sort and facilitate recovery from large waste flows. Their first product is an Automated Waste Monitoring System with a monitoring unit that instantly captures and analyses live image data of large waste flows on conveyor belts. The AI vision then identifies over 40 types of wastes using its recognition capabilities. The image data is displayed and exported to showcase the detection results in real-time on the live dashboard that can control the plant’s systems. Greyparrot enables the capture of valuable resources better and reduces the number of products disposed of.

Meanwhile, The 77 lab smart bots are using ML and can determine the ripeness level of fruit, distinguish fruits from other plants in a better manner, and handle fruits more carefully. The robot identifies and removes damaged billets of sugarcane and then consistently distributes healthy billets in the rows. The whole idea behind precision agriculture reduces crop wastage and gives a push forward to sustainability.

Agri-tech company Gamaya is using drones with hyperspectral cameras, which detect changes in water, fertiliser, pests, and crop yields. AI algorithms can detect potential threats related to crops or the wastage of seeds or plants and alert the farmers or farm business owners. Gamaya also provides mapping and diagnostics of farmland based on the airborne and space-borne imaging data they collect using drones.


AI is repairing the broken food system by anticipating food wastage, tackling the challenges of the ineffectiveness of human farm labour and saving time by picking the best food directly from the crop plant that enhances sustainability. The potential of AI has been recognised by the food industry, and it is an unparalleled opportunity to transform the food economy.

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