For tackling food waste, one garbage can at a time
One-third of food produced globally for human consumption ends up filling trash bins instead of stomachs. The total amount wasted—about 1.3 billion tons per year—could feed more than twice the number of undernourished people worldwide, according to the U.N. World Food Programme. As a finance undergrad, Rayner Loi noticed an uptick in organizations focused on recycling food waste—but he wondered why more of them weren’t trying to prevent it in the first place.
Restaurants and hotels are responsible for a remarkable share of the problem: In the U.S., for instance, the hospitality industry accounts for nearly 40 percent of food waste. So Loi went straight to the source: using AI and data analytics to help large commercial kitchens slash the amount of food destined for the dumpster.
Lumitics, the Singapore company he co-founded, makes a device that sits on top of trash cans and identifies the type and volume of food thrown away, using a combination of weight sensors and AI image detection. It can discern whether the discarded food consists of an uneaten meal, spoiled produce or kitchen trimmings. That data can then drive actionable insights on how to adjust everything from supply chain management to menu creation.
"Tackling food waste is one of the largest cost-saving opportunities for any business producing and serving food," Loi says.
Hyatt, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Airlines and Etihad Airways are just a few of the big brands that have run pilot projects. And Lumitics’ data shows its AI-powered garbage bins have helped some clients cut waste up to 40 percent and shave food costs by as much as 8 percent. That’s food for thought as companies look for ways to help the Earth—and their bottom line.