Tackling Food Waste with Technology and Innovation

food waste management startups

Ap-peal-ing”startups in the food waste management space.

Nearly ⅓ of the food produced globally is wasted or lost each year. This means that 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted annually! Alarming… especially when we think about the 720 and 811 million people in the world facing hunger in 2020.

This food wastage takes place at various stages of the food value chain. Let’s take a look at some ways in which this wastage is mitigated today in the startup realm.

Ugly Food: Rescuing the ugly ducklings in the food world

When you enter a grocery store, you often try to find the shiniest apples to take home. However, the scuffed apples that don’t make it into your shopping cart get thrown away at the end of the day. This is where Ugly Food swoops in to rescue the not so aesthetically pleasing fruits and vegetables.

Ugly Food is a Singapore-based company founded in 2017 to eliminate food waste and revamp the food ecosystem. They sell groceries with minor defects at prices that are 40% lower than those in the store. They have been responsible for saving 400 tonnes of food that would have otherwise been discarded.

Ugly Food is particularly active on the comic publishing platform Webtoon. Their webtoon series, “Ugly Food: Adventures”, aims to increase the acceptability threshold of food with scuff marks or minor damages.

The company is in talks with investors to raise seed funding of up to US$1 million. Using these resources, they aim to expand their business to markets like Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Image courtesy of Uglyfood’s Instagram

Lumitics: Making food waste disposal more efficient

Have you ever cooked ramen and accidentally tossed the seasoning packet and the packing into the garbage bin? Now imagine cooking on an industrial scale. You would have the same problem, but at a much bigger scale.

The Singapore-based company Lumitics has devised an intelligent waste disposal system called Insight to avoid this mishap. Insight uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analytics to track and measure whatever is thrown into it.

Lumitics aims to increase the visibility of food waste generated to make it easier for chefs to optimize their kitchens. The company’s CEO Rayner Loi says, “From working with some of the world’s largest hotel chains, we have seen Insight helping our customers reduce their food wastage by some 30% to 40%, lowering food costs by about 3% to 8%.”

As of 2020, the company has secured US$742,000 in investment with grants from Temasek Foundation Ecosperity and Enterprise Singapore.

Image courtesy of Lumitics

CHOMP: Turning trash into treasure

Hungry but don’t have too much money to spare? CHOMP has you covered. CHOMP is a Hong Kong-based application aimed at changing how people think about food waste.

The company has devised a mystery box concept. This concept gives food and beverage outlets an easy opportunity to sell their remaining food at the end of the day at a discounted price. Thus, the mystery food box benefits the consumer, the retailer and the environment by preventing food waste.

CHOMP had a soft app launch on August 13, 2021. It has a group of partners, of which it has only disclosed one so far. The announced partner, Live Zero, is a zero-packaging bulk food store.

Image courtesy of CHOMP’s Facebook page

Carbon Masters: Generating energy with food waste

Naturally, not all food waste products can be saved and used to feed more people. So when no attempt at conservation is working, you can shift to repurposing. This is what India-based Carbon Masters has turned towards. The company creates renewable energy solutions under the name Carbonlites.

The company sells bottled compressed natural gas (CNG) by converting food and agricultural wastes into clean renewable energy. They aim to replace liquified petroleum gas (LPG) with the more sustainable CNG in restaurants and hotels.

The company produces portable biogas plants and organic fertilizers as well. Carbon Masters has received a top-up investment of US$30 million (INR 3 crore) in 2020, which reflects faith in the company’s ideas.

Image courtesy of Climate Solvers Hub India

These companies show that what you might discard as waste might not always be trash. Such steps in the direction of food waste management can lead to the realization of UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, to halve food waste and reduce food loss by 2030.

Food waste management would also help mitigate the threat of climate change. And, as per the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change( IPCC’s) recent warning, this is a pressing concern today.

Header image courtesy of Unsplash

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