Wiping Out Waste: How Winnow Is Making Kitchens Smarter

Our readers in Toronto and Ottawa may be familiar with the exhibit Anthropocene, a multidisciplinary project that investigates human impact on Earth and its troubling trajectory for the planet’s future. The title stems from the word for the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.

For those not in Toronto or Ottawa, the massive project has also been released in documentary form. Large-scale, haunting aerial images capture lithium mines, plantations, and saw mills that interrupt their surrounding habitats and pervert the landscape. One memorable image, entitled Dandora Landfill #3, Plastics Recycling, Nairobi, Kenya, shows workers sifting through colourful plastics in mountains ­­— mountains — of waste. The sheer scale of the image, as with so many others throughout the exhibit, is dizzying. Humanity’s altercations of the planet have led us to a critical junction, and landfills have been a significant factor in leading us here.

One company is offering a step towards a solution. Winnow is a tech-based company with a singular vision: connecting the commercial kitchen in order to create a movement of chefs that will change the way we view food waste. It’s a valuable entity, the company believes, and the key to transforming our approach to its usage and disposal is — you guessed it — technology.

Winnow sites some important statistics when it comes to the hospitality industry alone; kitchens, it says, can waste up to 20% of food purchased, and at an annual cost of over one hundred billion dollars, this can often be the equivalent of total net profits. Chefs, the company claims, simply don’t have the right tools to accurately measure and manage the volume of scraps and cast-offs.

And that’s where Winnow comes in. They key is all about intelligent usage of data, and the company’s technology allows chefs to gather information and make better decisions about food waste and cost efficiency.

When used in a commercial environment, the technology works like this: the kitchen team uses a touch screen tablet to identify the food that’s about to be tossed. An electronic scale measures the weight of this waste and calculates the cost, and then proceeds to send this information to the user. The metre uses cloud software to record and analyze the total amount of waste per day, allowing chefs to assess exactly where and how methods could be improved. The result? Money saved, certainly, but also a drastic reduction in the kitchen’s environmental footprint.

Winnow’s reach is rapidly expanding, with over 1,000 global sites installed and 5 offices around the world. Perhaps the company’s most notable “in” has been its introduction to IKEA’s kitchens in all of its UK and Ireland locations, according to Cool Hunting. AI photographs the food and helps workers assess the cost of all those wasted Swedish meatballs — and how exactly they can make a difference.

Perhaps one of the cleverest innovations in this technology is that it functions as a separate apparatus from the trash can itself; implementing this technology into a kitchen doesn’t require tossing old waste bins and replacing them with high-tech robotic versions, which would in itself mean a massive amount of waste as this tech spread around the world.

According to Reuters, Winnow claims its first model has saved kitchens an estimated thirty million dollars — that’s twenty-three million meals per year. A second-generation model, the one present in IKEA, has already reduced food waste by an estimated fifty percent. We don’t need to crunch the exact numbers to know that this amounts to a lot of lox. Other notable establishments around the world now implementing this technology are the Armani Hotel Dubai, Compass Singapore, AccorHotels, Club Med Bali, and more.

The added bonus? “We empower chefs around the world to spend more time being creative with food,” says the company website.

Hopefully, as this technology evolves and spreads, the future of the Anthropocene will be very different.



Images via Winnow Solutions.