Winnow addresses a Blind Spot in our Fight Against Climate Change

Keegan Pinto
4 min readJun 13, 2023

Keegan Pinto and Pauline Tsai

We are incredibly excited to announce our investment in Winnow. Winnow drives behaviour change in kitchens by lifting the veil on food waste, allowing culinary teams to understand how much they’re throwing out and how much it’s costing them. Borne of a love for food and a concern for the environment, Winnow’s team is leading the digitization of an industry that remains analogue, and doing so in a way that allows chefs to create higher quality food, increase customer satisfaction, run more efficient operations and, ultimately, cut their food waste by 50% or more.

Food is a massive climate problem

Source: Geneva Environment Network

It can be hard to talk about food. Because it is essential in a way that cars, electronics, and textiles are not, understanding that food alone is responsible for a massive portion of our GHG emissions — one quarter to one third or more, depending on who you ask — can be frustrating and demotivating. Given these massive numbers, “greening” our food supply is absolutely critical to avoiding a climate catastrophe, and there is good news: progress is being made to electrify farm equipment, decarbonize supply chains, develop alternative meats, harness AI to improve yields, execute more responsible agricultural practices, and more. However, the time it takes to scale these solutions globally is measured in decades, not years, and we’re running out of runway. To properly address food as a climate issue in the timeframe we have, per capita production needs to fall — and since consumption will only increase, we have to reduce our waste.

It’s easy to assume that we’re relatively efficient with the food we produce, but the exact opposite is true. About one quarter of the total calories produced globally for human consumption are lost or wasted. Food waste alone costs about one trillion dollars annually — put another way, about 1% of the entire world’s GDP is evaporated by food waste every single year. More than just an inefficiency or a cost-saving opportunity, food waste accounts for 8–10% of the world’s GHG emissions — that’s more than what is produced by the global production of cement, commonly considered one of the most critical industries to decarbonize if we have a hope of fighting climate change. The impact of food waste also goes beyond emissions, as 21% of all fresh water, 19% of all fertilizer, 18% of cropland, and 21% of landfill volume used globally is attributed to it.

Source: Standford, The Energy of Food

If food waste is this much of a problem, how have we not solved it? Why can’t we just stop wasting food?

Addressing food waste

The answer is a lack of data. At the source, we just don’t know how much we’re wasting, and this creates a blind spot. An excellent illustrative example is the commercial kitchen: while sophisticated in many ways, kitchens are still fundamentally analogue environments, and decisions on high-volume food production — everything from the fries at your local fast-food restaurant to the Sushi at a buffet in a high-end resort — are made on a mix of past experience and gut feel. While this nearly always ensures that everyone is fed, it often leads to overproduction and over-preparation. Food that hits plates is wasted, food left at the buffet is thrown away, and food taken out to thaw is never used. While data from a point-of-sale system can help to triangulate some of this, the majority cannot be traced and the results are always backward looking, untimely, and ultimately not actionable. This is how Winnow changes everything.

Winnow has developed an AI-driven, hardware-enabled software tool that allows kitchens to do something that seems simple: deeply understand food waste. Winnow’s hardware sits on top of a garbage bin and utilizes computer vision, along with a few key inputs, to analyze waste at various stages of preparation across the key areas of a restaurant. Not only how much is wasted, Winnow can deliver the when, the where, the what type, and drives the why. This transforms the way production decisions are made, and allows teams to operate more efficiently and profitably, all while serving higher quality food to more satisfied customers. On average, Winnow pays for itself between two and ten times over every single year, and the benefits it provides regress if it is removed from the kitchen. This is not theoretical: Winnow has already created massively successful outcomes, such as helping IKEA cut its waste in half across its 400+ global retail stores, saving tens of millions of meals (and dollars). Winnow is proving itself as standard-issue equipment.

Eventually, we see Winnow as the best-positioned provider of a “connected kitchen”: an integrated suite of tools for stakeholders to manage all aspects of their operation, from procurement to production to plating, achieving the greatest efficiency for their bottom line, the greatest quality for their customers, and the most sustainable practices for everyone. The team bringing Winnow to bear is stacked with an incredible set of complementary talents to address this unique yet critical problem, brings with them a strong history of execution, and is laser-focused on eliminating food waste. We are delighted to help support them in their mission.

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