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UAE commercial kitchens use Artificial Intelligence to track food waste

‘Winnow Vision’ helps save 1.6 million meals per year from going waste

Dubai: The UAE hospitality sector is saving 1.6 million meals per year from being wasted by using a AI-powered camera that automatically recognises what food is thrown into the bin, it was revealed on Monday.

At an official launch event in Dubai, Marc Zornes, co-founder and CEO of Winnow, said the company’s ‘Winnow Vision’ uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to detect the type and quantity of food items getting binned. The data allows commercial kitchens to track their food waste and make necessary changes to their food purchases and menus.

Zornes said: “Fifty of the largest kitchens in the UAE have signed up” for the system, which requires almost no staff training or data entry. He added that Winnow Vision is saving the UAE’s hospitality industry around Dh10 million per year, in terms of food wastage costs. In total, around 100 kitchens in the UAE are currently “live” with Winnow. “Some of them are using our old technology and some of them are using our new technology,” Zornes said.

‘Highly accurate’

The system is around 90 per cent accurate and can be “trained” by staff, who can confirm or reject on a touchscreen what the camera says it has recognised.

His comments came during the launch event at Emirates Towers, which included a panel discussion on using AI to reduce food waste. The panellists included Dr Thani Bin Ahmad Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment; Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence; and Zornes.

The event was organised by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) in cooperation with Winnow.

Zornes said Winnow Vision can not only help reduce food waste, but also give facilities like all-day dining buffet restaurants “a good sense of what guests like to eat, versus what they don’t like. So you’re able to better match what you’re with your guests’ tastes”.

UAE pledge

At the event, representatives from UAE-based hospitality companies also signed the ‘UAE Food Waste Pledge’ to save two million meals in 2019 and three million meals in 2020.

MOCCAE in cooperation with Winnow launched the pledge in mid-2018 to support the national target to halve food waste by 2030 and meet the food waste reduction target outlined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Through the initiative, UAE-based hospitality companies undertook the challenge of reducing food waste and pledged to save a million meals in 2018.

The signatories to the pledge at the event included Dubai Municipality, Etihad Airways, Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel, JA Resorts and Hotels, and Mayar Facilities Management Company.

Global target

Dr Al Zeyoudi said: “Today, I am pleased to reaffirm the UAE’s commitment to meeting the global target to cut food losses and waste by 50 per cent by 2030 in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. To ensure that we can achieve the transformative change, I invite the entire hospitality sector in the UAE to join our pledge and commit to reducing food waste in its operations now.”

He added: “The fast pace of technological advancement brings us a wealth of innovations that we can leverage to drive our sustainability agenda forward. Employing artificial intelligence as a powerful tool to manage and eliminate food waste adds significant momentum to our efforts and makes our task that much easier and more seamless. Efficient collaboration between hospitality and tech companies will inform food waste management decisions and deliver substantial benefits.”

Al Olama said: “The UAE strives to leverage AI technologies to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and improve its performance in the global competitiveness indexes. Doing so requires synergies between the public and private sector across the board.”

He added: “Curbing food waste is an area where AI can be a useful tool and bring in tremendous benefits to sustain the sector for current and future generations.”

Using AI to fight food waste

Winnow Vision is an AI-enabled system that automatically recognises what food item is getting binned.

A camera is fixed on the wall, overlooking the bin. As a food item is thrown in, the camera recognises the item. Staff can confirm or reject, on a touchscreen, what the camera says it saw go in.

The company explains on its website (www.winnowsolutions.com): “From day one, Winnow Vision offers improved data accuracy by validating each food waste entry, providing richer insight to help teams reduce waste.

“As more image data is gathered, Winnow Vision becomes smarter. When recognition capability is turned on, a state of semi-automation is reached where users are only required to confirm the suggested food. This reduces human error and saves users time.

“Eventually, full automation will not require any input from the team.

“Winnow Vision surpasses human levels of accuracy in identifying food waste, additionally validated to ensure data quality.”