Fitbit for Cows — 5 Good Food Ideas

Donate Food Waste to Anti-Hunger Organizations: Food waste is a monumental problem around the world. In the US, 40% of the food we produce is never eaten. 95% of that uneaten food ends up in landfills. Fortunately, there are smart and dedicated people studying the problem and identifying ways not just to prevent waste, but also to repurpose food so that it can still provide for people. Zero Percent is one of those ways. For a fee, the startup will pick up leftover from restaurants, grocery stores, and corporate caterers and deliver it to nonprofits. Both sides of the table are connected through Zero Percent’s platform. The nonprofits do not have to pay for the service. Since its launch, the company has helped prevent 1.6 million pounds of food waste. Based in Chicago, Zero Percent currently works with close to 100 food providers and delivers to around 80 nonprofits. The company is looking to expand and has recently partnered with the city of Nashville as part of the Nashville Food Waste Initiative.

Fitbit for Cows: Cowlar, a company started in Pakistan, but now based in California, recently joined Y Combinator. The startup equips cows with wearable technology to track and monitor body temperature and behavior so that dairy farmers can know the best time for insemination. The technology is particularly useful in developing countries where milk production yields are far below those of the US. If the farmer misses a cow’s heat cycle, then he has to wait another 21 days or more before the next cycle occurs; thus delaying milk production. With Cowlar, the dairy farmer is equipped with more precise information and can better anticipate those cycles.

Make Food Production Data Open Source: The Open Agriculture Initiative at the MIT Media Lab is calling for all food and agriculture data to be publicly available. Caleb Harper, the founder of the Open Agriculture Initiative, believes that by making all of this data public we can begin to solve big global problems associated with food production and distribution. Open public data can help us learn what temperatures and conditions are needed to grow the best tasting ingredients; help transfer knowledge from an aging farmer class to the next generation; and ensure transparency throughout the entire food supply chain. While much of the available data is proprietary now, the spread of IoT applications across the food and ag sectors is opening up new data streams and possibilities for greater supply chain transparency. Harper’s vision of how it might play out is akin to the Human Genome Project, where government data is released publicly, researchers collaborate, and public-private partnerships emerge to advance the cause.

Fighting Illegal Fishing with Big Data: One way to prevent overfishing and protect against the continued depletion of our oceans’ seafood supply is to cut down on illegal fishing. Nearly 1/3 of ourfish supply is illegally obtained. Global Fishing Watch, a data and research platform founded through a partnership between Google, Oceana, and SkyTruth, studies satellite signals to determine when a fishing vessel transfers its catch to another ship while still at sea. These exchanges are called transshipments and often indicate a transfer of illegal cargo. Global Fishing Watch further narrows down the possibilities by looking at ships in international waters far away from the coasts of the US or Europe where regulations are stricter. There are many other layers to the data that helps Global Fishing Watch identify common culprits. They can then make that data publicly available to help countries that want to better enforce these laws.

Positive Price Discrimination Improves Food Access: Everytable is an LA-based fast casual chain that employs an interesting pricing model for its grab-and-go prepared meals. In an effort to provide healthy, fast casual food to lower income neighborhoods and not just the affluent ones, the company uses variable pricing to ensure its food is affordable for everyone. Menu prices are set based on neighborhood income levels. For example, in one part of South Central LA, meals go for $4, while in a wealthier section of the city, they charge $8. The two co-founders came up with the idea while working at the nonprofit, Groceryships, which offers nutrition education and temporary financial support to families in low-income communities with the aim of making food access more equitable.

Originally published at on March 6, 2017.