Against food waste, artificial intelligence photographs and analyzes garbage

Against food waste, artificial intelligence photographs and analyzes garbage

Against food waste

A collective catering company has placed special cameras above the garbage cans that, thanks to AI, examine the food thrown away

AI cameras in the kitchen (photo: Elior) When the lid of the bin lifts to accommodate leftovers and waste, a camera records the images and, through artificial intelligence, analyzes consumption and waste. Objective: to improve efficiency in the kitchen by preventing potentially good food from being thrown away. The project, launched on the occasion of the World Environment Day which is celebrated on June 5, is the result of the collaboration between Elior, a company that operates in the collective catering sector, and Winnow, which deals with applying AI to kitchens.

The pilot project involves the installation of special cameras in Elior's kitchen and restaurant in Milan. They are placed on top of garbage cans and capture images of food waste, learning over time to recognize the various foods that are thrown away. In this way the food waste registration process is automated, allowing you to keep track of waste and offering chefs data and analyzes that allow them to understand how to intervene. Which vegetables do you throw the stems that could be used for the broth? Which cuts of meat allow you to create less waste? Which pasta recipe is less appreciated by customers?

Thanks to this system, Elior aims to reduce food waste by 30 percent and CO2 emissions per meal by 12 percent by 2025. Another goal is to sensitize customers on the subject: emptying the plate under the eye of the camera and measuring how much food is not consumed helps to become aware of the leftovers, as well as giving indications to the chef on what is more or less appreciated (and left in the dish). “Food waste is a global challenge that we must collectively solve”, explained in a note Marc Zornes, CEO and co-founder of Winnow. "Elior has established a clear and ambitious vision to leave a positive nutritional footprint by 2025".

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FAO calls for action against food loss, waste in Asia-Pacific

According to the FAO's most recent estimates (2019), the amount of food either lost or wasted range from 5-6 per cent in Australia and New Zealand and 20-21 per cent in Central and South Asia. Globally, food losses and food waste represent nearly a quarter of all blue water used in agricultural production and approximately US$940 billion (Bt29.2 trillion) in economic losses.

“The Asia-Pacific region continues to lose and waste too much food,' said Anthony Bennett, FAO senior food systems officer at the regional office for Asia and the Pacific. 'Government and non-state actors, working together, must deliver on Sustainable Development Goal 12, which aims to halve global food waste at the retail and consumer levels, and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses by 2030.”

Covid-19 has contributed to regional food losses, but solutions are becoming clearer.

The pandemic has highlighted existing gaps in food systems that lead to food loss and waste, such as unreliable infrastructure for storage and transportation, and access to electricity. The region also faces challenges in terms of logistics for local producer-to-consumer markets and scaling-up of networks for recovery and redistribution of safe and nutritious food for human consumption.

Food losses and food waste from all food systems lead to an increase in greenhouse gasses and also impact heavily on smallholders who rely on their produce for both their livelihoods and their families’ food security.

However, food security can be improved through reduction of food loss, particularly on small farms in low-income countries, the FAO meeting felt.

These reductions can help farmers improve their own diets due to increased food availability and gain higher incomes when selling part of their produce.

China’s clean your plate campaign

Indeed some Asia-Pacific FAO members have taken numerous steps to scale up measures to counter food loss and waste at the retail and consumer level – among them being China.

“Measures for food loss and waste reduction are being implemented in China,” said Zhang Chengzhi, deputy director-general of the Department of Storage Safety and Science, National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration, China. “Public education activities such as ‘The Clean Your Plate Campaign’ are working very well to activate anti-food-waste behaviour. Food business operators are adapting their models to encourage consumers’ change of attitude toward food consumption with the support of technology,” he said.

“Lower food loss from production to wholesale, and less food waste from retail to households, mean more income for consumers to spend on other purchases and more profit for involved businesses. It’s a win-win strategy that should involve all society,” Zhang added.

The FAO’s Asia-Pacific Food Loss and Waste Strategy

based on a thorough literature review and appraisal of other regional approaches, new data and analysis on food loss and waste in Thailand, China and Nepal has five key pillars:

&gt; Raise awareness and enable state and non-state collaborations and partnerships on food loss and waste prevention and reduction.

&gt; Identify and address food loss and waste critical points along supply chains and at the consumer level.

&gt; Enable investments for food loss and waste prevention and reduction.

&gt; Monitor and facilitate national and regional progress towards SDG 12.3.1.

&gt; Support Asia-Pacific member countries towards coherent governance frameworks integrating or directly addressing food loss and waste prevention and reduction.

Participants in the regional consultation agreed that it is essential to improve measurement of food loss and waste, as well as data comparability, quality, and availability. Improved data supports prevention and reduction of human nutrition losses and impacts on climate change.

The FAO’s Asia-Pacific office has also developed a road map for the implementation of its strategy to counter food loss and waste, based upon the direction of its members.

It says it will also continue to work with regional organisations, such as Asean, in developing, sharing, and applying better knowledge and practices on prevention and reduction of food loss and waste on the production and distribution side as well as by consumers.

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