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20 Emerging Technologies Helping Reduce Food Waste

20 Emerging Technologies Helping Reduce Food Waste

This article was co-authored by Christian Mouysset, co-founder of Tenzo.

According to the United Nations, 17% of the world’s total food production is wasted every year. That’s an astonishing 1.03 billion tonnes of wasted food, a number so big it’s impossible to wrap your head around—so we’ll try to put it in other terms: 

1.03 billion tonnes is the same weight as 2,823 Empire State Buildings.

2,823 Empire State Buildings is a lot of wasted food, and that food has an enormous environmental impact. In fact, if food waste was a nation, it would rank as the third highest national emitter of greenhouse gasses after the US and China.

The land used to grow food that is subsequently wasted makes up an area 58 times the size of the UK (or almost three times the size of the Amazon Rainforest). What’s more, according to the UN, the wasted food could feed 1.26 billion hungry people each year.

Luckily, food waste is most definitely a solvable problem if consumers, businesses, farmers and governments come together for a sustained effort. One big part of the solution, however, is emerging technology. Many amazing tech companies have come up with creative ways to reduce food waste. In this article, I’ll cover some of today’s top food waste technology.

Food is wasted at every point from farm to fork, so we’ve split this list into sub-lists based on what point in the supply chain the company is focused on improving:


  1. Apeel

Manufacturers have been waxing fruits and vegetables to improve their shelf-life since the 1920s, but California-based company Apeel has taken the concept to new levels.

Apeel’s invisible, edible coating is made from wasted agricultural products like leftover grape skins from wine production. Apeel’s coating can extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables by five times! According to the New York Times, Apeel can even deliver a day-of-the-week bunch of bananas, each ripening on a different day.

This is an especially promising food waste technology for farmers in the developing world, where the difficulties involved in getting produce to market before it spoils are the major cause of food waste. But even in the Western world, if the product performs as promised, it could massively cut vegetable food waste in restaurants, supermarkets, and homes.

This is how a strawberry ages with and without Apeel coating

2. Full Harvest

Over 9 million tonnes (25 Empire State Buildings) of “ugly” produce go to waste in the U.S. alone every year, rejected by stores because of consumers’ superficial preference for perfect-looking fruit and vegetables.

Full Harvest is rescuing that waste by building the first B2B marketplace where growers can connect with food companies to offload surplus or imperfect produce. Buyers of the “wonky” goods can save up to 40% compared to traditional distributors.

3. Hungry Harvest and Imperfect Produce

Like Full Harvest, Hungry Harvest and Imperfect Produce are two companies on the front line of the battle to rescue “ugly” fruit and vegetables from rotting in fields.

Operating in the US, they take a direct-to-consumer approach by delivering food boxes of imperfect produce to unfussy subscribers. Imperfect Produce claims to have saved over 18,000 tonnes of food, and 1.2 billion gallons of water.

4. Hazel Technologies

Intended for fruit producers, Hazel Technologies’ little sachets release a chemical called 1-MCP, a potent plant hormone which sends a strong signal to fruits that it is not yet time to ripen. Producers simply need to toss a Hazel sachet into a box of their fruit. Over a three week period, that sachet releases a safe chemical that slows down the ripening process.

Given that around 45% of all fruit grown is wasted, technology that allows more time for produce to get to the market could have a huge impact, especially in the developing world.

5. Outcast Foods

Canadian company Outcast Foods does its part to reduce GHG emissions and food waste. They’ve created their own supply chain by working with farmers, suppliers and retailers to prevent produce from making it to landfills. They then turn that nearly-rejected food into plant-based products including protein powders and supplements.


6. OneThird

Since one-third of the world’s food goes to waste, OneThird is aptly named. The company provides suppliers (including growers, retailers and distributors) with cloud-based software and handheld produce scanners to predict the shelf life of produce using AI. They also provide quality assessment to help suppliers make better decisions when it comes to reducing waste. 

The company prides itself in being highly accurate in its shelf life prediction (using data analysis and other techniques) to ensure products are delivered on time, from farm to fork. Suppliers can use their handheld scanners as well as AI-based quality-inspection cameras, and finally a data-sharing platform.

7. Wasteless

UK supermarkets’ efforts to price down items which are near their sell-by date seem to fall into two categories:

  1. Mark down their price and hope people buy them
  2. Wait until they’re rotten

Israeli startup Wasteless aims to bring a more data-driven approach, using small screens to display dynamically changing prices for each item on the shelf. It uses machine learning to optimize these prices. They claim to reduce waste by a third while increasing revenues.

With many supermarkets recently pledging their intentions to drastically reduce their waste, you may start seeing more of Wasteless’s nifty little AI tags in stores.

Wasteless says stores may see at least a 50% decrease in food waste and 20% increase in revenue by using their product.

This is beneficial for a business of any size, but for chains and larger companies, this could mean massive savings across the board.


Image from Wasteless, showing their AI price tag on a supermarket shelf.


8. Neurolabs

Like Tenzo,  Neurolabs reduces food waste by accurately predicting demand with AI. Unlike Tenzo, Neurolabs’ focus is on predicting sales for supermarkets, rather than restaurants.

The Neurolabs team, based in Romania, are currently working on perfecting their algorithms and are planning to launch the product in Autumn 2019. Initial results indicate that they can reduce supermarket waste by up to 40%.

Neurolabs provides real-time shelf monitoring for supermarkets so gaps in inventory can be identified.


9. Tenzo

Tenzo is a restaurant management and sales forecasting app that makes it easier for restaurants to aggregate, understand and make decisions based on their data. And full disclosure—this is my baby. After running my own chain, Hummus Bros, for several years, I realized just how wasteful the industry was. With the technology that existed at the time, I found it impossible for our teams to get their food ordering or labor scheduling right.

Getting together with Adam Taylor, a friend from my days studying Computer Science at Cambridge, we founded Tenzo to build the software that restaurant teams really need.

One big part of that mission was allowing restaurants to predict exactly how much they would sell by creating a hyper-accurate AI sales forecasting algorithm. 

The forecasting uses weather data, growth trends, and all of a restaurant’s past data to generate forecasts that are 50% more accurate than you can get using traditional methods. It also allows you to forecast down to the menu item level, allowing you to dramatically slash food waste. Tenzo integrates seamlessly with Lightspeed Restaurant POS


Check out Tenzo’s five tips for reducing food waste

10. Winnow

As the old saying goes: what gets measured, gets managed. Yet restaurants collect very little data on what food they throw away and why, and as such have no idea about how to reduce their waste. Winnow Solutions’ products aim to solve that problem by allowing kitchens to monitor their waste.

One of their food waste technology products is super convenient: a weighing scale and an AI camera equipped with computer vision algorithms record the weight and the type of food as it is thrown into the bin (for example, 30 grams of steak, 500 grams of fries). The staff member then selects an option from a touchscreen on the wall above to indicate the reason for the waste (for example, kitchen error or a customer complaint).

The result is data that can help restaurants better understand what they waste and how to get better. Plus, they tailor their analytical solutions based on kitchen size: small, medium or large, as well as cafes and kiosks.

11. Too Good To Go

Too Good To Go is food waste technology you can start using today. Simply download their app to find participating food vendors near you.

Restaurants and cafes can use the platform to sell off about-to-be wasted food at a marked-down price, typically at the end of each day. They get to sell off their surplus stock while attracting new customers to try their food. Hungry, price-conscious consumers can help in the battle against food waste while enjoying delicious food at bargain prices. 

Launched in 2016, this Copenhagen-based app has rapidly grown to reach millions of users in 17 countries. The company saves more than a whopping 100,000 meals a day. 

12. Flashfood

Similar to Too Good To Go, Flashfood is a Toronto-based company that works with grocers. Users search through food items nearing their best-before dates, buy them at a discounted price and pick them up in-store. 

Not only do consumers save money and help contribute to reducing food waste, grocers cut down on costs related to loss of inventory and reduce their carbon footprint at the same time. It’s a win-win for everybody.

This food waste technology is particularly great for larger chains because the more food they produce, the more is likely going to waste. It may as well be put to good use, and Flashfood is there to do that. 

13. Copia

“Hunger is the world’s dumbest problem” states Copia’s website, and they’re not wrong. In the US, for example, three times more food is wasted than it would take to feed every single hungry person. It’s Copia’s mission to solve that problem.

Copia’s platform allows businesses to redistribute food surplus to feed people in need by connecting them to local shelters, after-school programs, and other nonprofit organizations. Their software also allows you to track surplus trends, and more easily access tax savings, delivering a hefty ROI to the business and food to the needy.

14. Food Cloud

Dublin-based Food Cloud provides a similar service to Copia, connecting surplus food from businesses to over 7,500 charitable groups. In 2021 alone, the company fed 39 million meals (16,380 tonnes of surplus food) to people in need across the UK, Ireland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

15. Maeko

According to its website, Maeko was created with a singular purpose: to help the world achieve zero food waste. The Malaysian brand sells composters to hotels, grocery stores, hospitals and other institutions. Their industrial composters turn organic waste into usable compost so that it doesn’t go into landfills. 

Check out the nifty food waste counter they have on their website—at the time of writing, they’ve converted more than 17 million kg of food waste into usable compost. 

Because they have a range of composters each with their own specifications, businesses of any size won’t have trouble finding the one that will meet their needs.

16. TotalCtrl

TotalCtrl is an innovative inventory management platform for hotels and restaurants, nursing homes, schools and households. The company tracks inventory, automates manual tasks and provides reports to help reduce food waste and carbon emissions, as well as save time and money, among other benefits. It also keeps track of when inventory expires, so restaurants have a better overview of where they can change their habits to reduce food waste.

TotalCtrl food waste technology is great for merchants with large customer bases, more than one location and high GTV who are looking to cut costs and food waste. Because larger businesses have more complex operations and processes, this platform streamlines crucial aspects of the business for you, so you can save time and money.  


17. Olio

Shockingly, a huge 70% of post-farm gate food waste is wasted in households, rather than in restaurants, shops or the manufacturing sector. Any tech that can help us to stop food making that all too familiar journey from the fridge straight to the bin could make a huge impact.

Olio is a platform which is trying to do just that. It’s a free app that connects neighbors with each other to flag and share surplus food. Users simply upload a photo and description, and then people in the neighborhood can claim the food before it goes to waste. They are now the biggest food-sharing network in the world with over 7 million users.

Olio also works with businesses to reduce food waste through their “food waste heroes” volunteering scheme. Contact Olio to find out if there are volunteers in your city that can come pick up and redistribute surplus food.

18. FridgeCam

In the US, the average household throws away one-third of all purchased food (around $1,500). The average household in the UK throws away £700 of food a year.

Smarter’s FridgeCam is designed to be a low-cost way to help consumers permanently alter their habits and start using up what they already have.

The wireless camera can sit inside any fridge and it takes a photo every time you close the fridge door. You can then see the contents from anywhere via a mobile app. This allows you to more easily plan meals and shopping based on what you already have at home. The app also allows you to make inventories and shopping lists, and track best-before dates, giving you the knowledge to plan for a food-waste free lifestyle.

19. Bluapple

Most people know that storing bananas with other fruits and vegetables is a bad idea. That’s because our potassium-rich friends release large amounts of ethylene gas, which speeds up the ripening process.

Bluapple is a blue, apple-shaped product that sits in your refrigerator and absorbs ethylene gas, allowing consumers to store fresh produce for longer. It lasts for three months before it needs a refill, and is capable of extending produce shelf life by up to three times.

20. SuperCook

Faced with a fridge full of random ingredients that you need to use? Simply tell the SuperCook app which ingredients you’ve got and it will suggest a recipe which will use them up.

Recipe suggestions are an old idea, but this app has innovative and user friendly features that take the technology to the next level. For example, you can even just say the ingredients you have in the fridge out loud, and the app will return multiple recipe suggestions.

Future technologies for food waste reduction

AI and IoT stand at the forefront of the battle against food waste, promising transformative solutions across the food supply chain. 

AI Use Cases IoT Use Cases
Predictive analytics for supply and demand Smart agriculture
Intelligent food sorting systems Supply chain monitoring
AI for food recovery networks Smart fridges and appliances
Enhanced food storage solutions Dynamic pricing in retail
Consumer apps for reducing household food waste Consumer apps for food management

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT)

AI’s capability to analyze vast amounts of data can optimize food production, distribution and consumption processes, identifying inefficiencies and predicting where waste is most likely to occur. 

For example, AI algorithms can forecast food demand with remarkable accuracy, allowing retailers to adjust their inventory and reduce overstock. Here are a few AI use cases we may see in widespread use in the coming years:

  • Intelligent food sorting systems: In the agriculture and food processing sectors, AI-powered robots and machines can be used to sort through food items quickly and efficiently. These systems can identify and separate out produce that is ripe and ready for sale from those that are not, minimizing waste. They can also detect early signs of spoilage or disease in crops and livestock, allowing for early intervention to save the rest of the batch or herd.
  • AI for food recovery networks: AI can optimize food recovery and redistribution efforts by matching excess food with need in real-time. For example, an AI system could analyze data from food banks, shelters and surplus food from restaurants and grocery stores to efficiently route food donations where they are most needed, ensuring that surplus food feeds people rather than ending up in landfills.
  • Enhanced food storage solutions: AI can monitor and control the environment in which food is stored, adjusting temperature, humidity, and other factors to extend shelf life. As such,  AI systems could predict and automatically adjust storage conditions for different types of food, reducing spoilage rates. This technology could be particularly transformative in warehouses and refrigerated transport.
  • Consumer apps for reducing household food waste: As you’ve seen above, we’re already using AI-driven apps to help manage food more effectively at home. But there’s so much more potential here than what’s currently available on the market. For example, AI-powered apps could track food purchases and consumption patterns, remind consumers to use items before they expire, suggest recipes based on what’s in the fridge and even advise on proper food storage techniques. That way, people are able to better manage their food and  cut down on the amount of food wasted in households.

Simultaneously, IoT devices, such as smart sensors, can monitor food storage conditions in real-time, alerting people to any issues that could lead to spoilage and help to prevent waste before it happens. Here are just a few IoT use cases that could become far more widespread in the coming years:

  • Smart agriculture: IoT sensors can monitor soil moisture, temperature and nutrient levels to help food producers optimize watering, fertilizing and harvesting times. This precision farming approach ensures crops grow more efficiently, reducing waste due to over or under-watering and fertilizing. By predicting the best harvesting time, it also ensures fruits and vegetables are picked at the right time to reduce spoilage.
  • Supply chain monitoring: IoT devices can track food products from farm to store, monitoring conditions like temperature and humidity during transport. This real-time data helps ensure that foods are stored and transported under optimal conditions. If a shipment is at risk of spoiling, it can be rerouted to a closer destination where it can be sold or distributed before going bad.
  • Smart fridges and kitchen appliances: In the future, refrigerators and other kitchen appliances could be equipped with more advanced sensors and AI capabilities to track what’s inside them and how long it’s been there. These smart appliances could notify you when something is about to expire, suggest recipes based on the ingredients you have, and automatically adjust temperatures for different types of foods to keep them fresh longer.
  • Dynamic pricing in retail: IoT can enable dynamic pricing where the price of food is adjusted in real time based on its freshness and approaching expiration dates. For example, a carton of milk close to its expiration date could be automatically discounted, encouraging quicker sale and consumption.

Challenges and opportunities for scaling AI and IoT solutions

While the potential is vast, applying innovative solutions across the supply chain faces several challenges. High initial costs and the need for technological infrastructure can be significant barriers, especially in developing countries. Successful implementation of AI and IoT solutions also requires buy-in from stakeholders across the food supply chain—and sometimes it’s hard for people to divest from familiar mindsets and “the way things have always been done”. 

That said, the opportunities for scaling are equally compelling. Governments and organizations can play a pivotal role by offering incentives and support for adopting these technologies. Public-private partnerships can leverage strengths from both sectors, accelerating the deployment of innovative solutions. And, as more consumers demand sustainable products and practices, we can expect to see a market-driven push toward wider adoption of these technologies for food waste reduction and prevention. 

The importance of reducing food waste

An admission: in the depressing intro to this article, I was actually holding back. Here are two more not-so-fun facts that are essential to understanding the depth of the food crisis we are facing:

  • In the past 40 years, Earth has lost a third of arable land to soil degradation, erosion, and pollution, drastically reducing our ability to grow food.
  • Over the next 30 years, the human population is set to increase by more than 35%, adding another China, plus two United States-full of people to the global head-count.

The UN estimates that we will need to double global food production by 2050, partly because of the increasing demand for meat from resource-hungry livestock. And we need to do that without taking any more land from nature, on rapidly degrading soils.

It’s a tall order,  and to achieve these goals we need to do everything we can—both as individuals and as a society—to try to optimize our consumption. Cutting our levels of food waste is an easy win and a huge part of the puzzle. And thanks to the companies above, we now have the food waste technology we need to do it.

If you are in any way involved with food, reach out to the companies in this list that excite you. In all cases, you’ll be saving money and doing good.

Looking for a POS system that fits all your restaurant’s needs? Talk to an expert about Lightspeed Restaurant today.


What technology is used in food waste management?

There are many technologies currently in use for food waste management, including composting systems, anaerobic digesters for biogas production, IoT devices for monitoring and reducing waste in the supply chain and AI for optimizing food distribution and consumption patterns, among others. Smart bins and waste sorting technologies also play a crucial role by efficiently separating and processing food waste for recycling or energy production.

How can AI reduce food waste?

AI can reduce food waste through predictive analytics, optimizing supply and demand forecasting, intelligent food sorting systems to separate out spoiling or contaminated items, among other critical tasks. AI-powered apps can also help consumers and businesses manage food inventory, helping reduce spoilage or other unnecessary waste by suggesting when to use items before they go bad and offering recipes based on available ingredients.

How can agriscience and technology reduce food waste?

Agriscience and technology reduce food waste by improving crop yields and resilience through genetic engineering and precision farming techniques. Drones, IoT sensors and AI models can be used to monitor crop health and environmental conditions, allowing for timely interventions to prevent crop loss. Technologies like edible coatings extend the shelf life of fresh produce, reducing waste at the consumer level.

What is a food waste recycling machine?

A food waste recycling machine is a device that breaks down food waste into compost or a liquid form that can be used for gardening or as an effluent. These machines vary in size from small kitchen appliances to larger industrial-scale systems. They use processes like dehydration, grinding and microorganisms to accelerate the decomposition of organic matter.

What technology is used to reduce waste?

There are many technologies that are used to reduce waste, such as recycling robots that sort materials more accurately, waste-to-energy plants that convert waste into electricity or heat and biodegradable materials that reduce landfill contributions. IoT for smart waste management systems and AI for optimizing recycling processes and reducing production waste also have the potential to transform the food supply chain.

Is there a solution to food waste?

While no single solution can eliminate food waste entirely, a combination of technologies, policies and practices can significantly reduce it. These include improving food supply chain efficiencies, enhancing food storage and preservation, educating consumers  and enabling more sustainable consumption. Innovations in packaging, redistribution of surplus food and improved food waste recycling methods also contribute to the solution.

What companies produce the most food waste?

Typically, the largest contributors to food waste are found within the agricultural production, food processing, retail and hospitality sectors. Specific companies that produce the most food waste often include large supermarket chains, food and beverage producers and fast-food and restaurant chains due to the enormous quantities of food they handle. However, many of these companies are now actively working on strategies to reduce their food waste footprint through various sustainability initiatives.

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