Winnow Scores Seed Funding For Its Food Waste Smart Meter

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Winnow is on a mission to help the hospitality industry cut down on food waste by making the kitchen ‘smarter.’ It does this via the Winnow smart meter, a set of smart scales and accompanying tablet app that lets kitchen staff easily log what food is thrown away. That data is then uploaded to the cloud, analysed by Winnow’s algorithm, and disseminated so that food waste can be reduced.

To support its mission, the U.K. startup has raised a $900,000 seed round led by Mustard Seed’s Social Investment Fund. D:Ax, Axel Johnson’s digital venture capital fund, also participated, along with a number of private investors, including Alan Parker (former CEO of Whitbread) and Jeremy Oppenheim (head of McKinsey’s Sustainability and Resource Productivity practice).

But how big a deal is food waste? Citing data from WRAP, Winnow says the amount of food thrown away in the U.K. costs the hospitality industry over £2.5 billion annually, and that globally this figure is estimated to be at least £44 billion.

“I started Winnow because I saw a massive opportunity in solving the problem of food waste. I believe that food is too valuable to waste, and that technology can help us change the way we make food,” Marc Zornes, co-founder and CEO of Winnow, tells TechCrunch. “I started my career at a large wholesale grocers, and food and sustainability have been my two passions ever since.”

Zornes is also the co-author of the Global Institute report ‘Resource Revolution: Meeting the World’s Energy, Materials, Food, and Water Needs’, which he wrote while working as a consultant at McKinsey.

Replacing the traditional way that chefs record food waste — i.e. pen and paper — the Winnow smart meter comprises a set of scales that sits under the kitchen’s bin and connects to a tablet running the Winnow app via Bluetooth.

Kitchen staff then throw waste away as usual but use the app to log the waste via tapping on predefined food categories. The food waste data is then uploaded to Winnow’s cloud analytics platform where it is aggregated and analysed.

Finally, daily reports are sent to chefs via email which detail the top areas of waste by value giving them the insight needed to make adjustments to their operations which, Winnow claims, add up to significant savings.

In fact, the startup claims that since launching in May 2013 the Winnow smart meter, which is currently active in over 100 sites, has saved caterers, hotels, schools and restaurants over £1 million in reduced annual costs, or typically a 2-6 percent improvement in gross margins.