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The first in our guest blog series is Liv Lemos from Winnow. Winnow's revolutionary technology helps the hospitality industry tackle avoidable food waste. She will be talking about the importance of food technology driving innovation in, strategies for growth, and Winnow's sources of inspiration

Worldwide a  third of all food is lost or wasted even before it hits our plates, costing us around 3 billion dollars annually. The environmental cost of producing all that food for nothing is staggering. Without accounting for greenhouse gas emissions in landfills, the carbon footprint of food produced but not consumed is estimated to amount to 3.3 Gtonnes of CO2. If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitting country in the world after China and the US.

Food waste contributes to climate change, and combined with a growing world population, poses a serious challenge to food security. According to the FAO, it will be necessary to produce 60% more food by 2050 to feed the 9 billion people that are expected to live on the planet.

Winnow was launched in 2013 with the belief that food is too valuable to waste, and that technology can transform the way we tackle food waste. Preventing food from getting wasted makes business and environmental sense. In fact, it’s one of the most cost effective investments you can make to reduce your carbon footprint.

At Winnow, we track food waste by putting a scale under the bin, which is connected to the cloud, allowing the team to record what is being thrown away and save the data. We then send a detailed report informing the weight, the value, when and where the waste was generated. This gives chefs the information necessary to drive improvements in their production processes to cut food waste in half - the equivalent of reducing total food purchasing costs by 3%-8%.

Offering a combination of product and service to reduce food waste whilst improving kitchen operations, presents a set of interesting challenges.  Although we are a young company, throughout our journey we have already learned many valuable lessons to help us grow organically.

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A Clear Vision and Strong Partnerships: Strategies for Growth

We believe business growth can happen organically when companies have clear values. It is extensively important to demonstrate your values to both the team and clients. The values tell the world what your company is about, gives employees a reason for what they do, and your customer a reason to identify with your brand. At Winnow, we believe that business can be a force for good. While charities and NGOs have an important role to play, it is important to have a strong business case if companies want to drive real change. We have recently become a B Corp certified company because we wanted to formalise our commitment to a wider mission, showing the world that our business practices are in line with our values.

Another strategy that has helped us, and it will certainly help you grow your business organically is to partner with companies that believe in your business’s mission. A company’s brand is central to its success and identity, so successful businesses are normally only interested in aligning themselves with partners whose brand fits with theirs. Compass Group, for example, is the UK's largest contract caterer and has been one of our closest partners right from the start. Our team has worked with Compass in over 250 schools, universities, hospitals, military defence bases and staff restaurants. Together we have worked together to create groundbreaking new technology which has the power to revolutionise the hospitality sector.

The Impact

Since 2013, we’ve successfully raised a $900,000 seed round, a further $3.3m in venture capital, and we’re currently in the process of closing the third round of investment. Due to these achievements, the Winnow system is now present in over 25 countries, preventing 10,000 meals from being wasted every day. Our clients are saving £8,000,000 annually on their food costs, not including the labour, waste collection, and energy cost savings associated with this reduced waste.

We’ve had great achievements, but in so many ways we are just getting started. In the UK alone, the hospitality industry wastes £2.5 billion each year. We’ve only helped solve a tiny fraction of the problem so far. We need a lot more businesses and initiatives addressing the many issues within the food supply chain, in order to disrupt the system.  

It is extremely important to bring large organizations on board. Big businesses are the great influencer, so by adopting food waste reduction commitments, for example, they can give a huge contribution to solving the problem.  Government intervention can also help accelerate the process. Policies, laws and regulation can enforce change so that all sectors operate to a minimum standard making it easier to reduce food waste.

It Takes a Village...

The good news is that there are other companies out there that have the potential to shake up the system. To finish in a positive way, we have selected just some of them that have somehow crossed our path in the past 4 years:

  • Too Good To Go’s (TGTG) app lets you buy surplus meals from local eateries at the end of their service that would otherwise be thrown in the bin. The app has already proved successful in Brighton, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds and it has 130 London places signed up to the service.
  • IKEA - It’s one of the world’s most popular home furnishings and food company, receiving close to 2 billion store visitor every year. Through its Food is Precious initiative, IKEA UK aims to cut food waste by 50% by 2020. The furniture giant opted to achieve this by using Winnow’s smart scale solution to understand the source of food waste and measure it.
  • Agrivi - Agrivi is a cloud farm management software that helps farmers to take control over their farm and make smart decisions to increase their productivity and profitability. It enables farmers to manage financials, inventory and mechanisation of their farms. Its agricultural knowledge base of best-practice production processes guides farmers towards better production.