UK-based tech startup Winnow announced today it has raised a $12 million Series B round for its food waste solution for commercial kitchens. The round is backed by IKEA partner Ingka Group as well as The Ingenious Group, Mustard Seed, Circulatory Capital, and D-Ax. It raised an $8 million loan from The European Investment Bank (EIB), bringing the company’s funding in the last month to $20 million and total funding to $31.6 million. Winnow will use its new funds to improve its technology and product development, including investing in new QA engineers and front-end developers.
Winnow’s approach to fighting food waste focuses on making the actual kitchens “smarter” about tracking and managing food that gets thrown out. Its Winnow Vision product, launched in March of this year, uses a combination of cameras, smart scales, and machine learning to recognize the food being thrown out.
In a Winnow Vision-equipped kitchen, garbage bins sit atop scales that can measure how much food is actually getting thrown away. Meanwhile, the cameras and machine learning can recognize which foods get tossed and report that information back to the kitchen staff. If, for example, large amounts of asparagus get chucked out on a regular basis, the chef can adjust inventory to order less. Cloud-based software records the day’s waste and sends reports to the kitchen staff that show the value of each item being thrown out.
According to the news announcement, companies using Winnow see a 40–70 percent food waste reduction in 6–12 months, which saves them 2–8 percent on food costs. Current customers include IKEA, Club Med, and several major hotel chains.
Part of the goal behind tracking food waste more precisely is to help kitchen staff better understand their behaviors around food waste and, if need be, change them. On that front, Winnow isn’t alone using tech to help. LeanPath, a company that’s been around since 2004, also offers a connected scale and camera system used in high-volume kitchens. Another UK-based company, Tenzo, also uses AI in the kitchen to analyze, among other things, food inventory so kitchen staff can better track what gets used, what doesn’t, and what needs to change.
With 40 percent of food wasted in the United States alone, we’re in need of a major behavioral shift to curb that number in schools, restaurants, cafeterias, and other high-volume locations (not to mention, in the home). AI and other tech isn’t a cure-all for the issue, but more data that can track the magnitude of the problem will hopefully spur kitchen managers into action when it comes to changing behaviors and attitudes around food waste.