From film to food waste: bringing AI to SXSW

Posted by Claudia Light / 11-Mar-2024


Winnow were thrilled to receive an invite from Canada House to take part in SXSW this March, Austin’s annual celebration of the convergence of tech, film, music, education, and culture. Showcasing our AI food waste measurement solutions at Canada House’s Innovation Zone, we were able to bring our mission of reducing food waste to the forefront of technology and sustainability discussions. We also partnered with Eurest, Canada House’s catering partners, to track visitor plate waste throughout the event.

As part of Canada House’s Tech Nourish day, hosted by Simon Fraser University, Winnow founder Marc Zornes joined a panel discussion that delved into the transformative role of technology in the food system. Sharing the floor with Apeel Sciences and ProductShots.ai, the conversation deep dived on how Artificial Intelligence (AI) has accelerated progress towards a more sustainable industry, and where there is still work to be done. These were our four key takeaways: 

1. AI has been a game changer for accelerating progress on food waste.

Marc reflected on Winnow’s early days and the evolution of our technology from IoT (Internet of Things) to AI. Whilst IoT laid the groundwork of data for what was to come, AI has allowed us to streamline kitchen operations and dramatically enhanced a kitchen’s ability to reduce food waste. In short, AI has opened the door to scalability: Winnow is now saving over 45m meals per year and operating in over 2,000 kitchens in 77 countries around the world. 

2. Large organisations are crucial in sharing a template for success.

Marc shared the story of IKEA, one of Winnow’s earliest clients. Using our AI technology, IKEA became the first global retailer to cut its food waste in half. This achievement wasn’t just a milestone for IKEA and Winnow; it served as a beacon of possibility for the entire industry, demonstrating that substantial food waste reduction is achievable on a large scale. In using AI to reduce their food waste, IKEA is saving $37 million per year. 

Read how IKEA halved food waste here.

3. Regulation is the missing piece of the puzzle in the fight against food waste.

Winnow’s journey has been significantly supported by organisations like WWF, ReFED, and WRAP. These groups have been instrumental in convening the industry and driving forward meaningful change. Yet, as we look towards the future, we recognise that voluntary actions may not be enough to achieve the scale of change required to meet our climate goals. We need robust, enforceable frameworks that can guide, and when necessary, mandate reductions in food waste across the board. Legislation emerges not just as a helpful tool but as an essential partner in our collective efforts to safeguard our planet.

4. The time for action is now. 

The conversation also touched on the urgency of addressing food waste in today’s context, with fluctuating food prices and looming 2030 SDG deadlines. The reality is that as temperatures become more unpredictable, the strain on our food systems intensifies. Wasting a third of the food that we produce shifts from being irresponsible to being catastrophic.

The technology, however, is there. Through the collective effort of corporate responsibility, individual action, and necessary legislation, let us ensure that we make the most of AI to drive impact at scale and deliver a food system that works for people and planet.

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