Research Roundup: Food Waste & Technology

by Anna Speck
organic waste


Food loss and waste (FLW) is a problem recognized at all levels of the food system. Farmers, processors, suppliers, and consumers all have access to technology that can prevent and/or reduce FLW at their particular point in the supply chain. As consumers, we can reduce personal food waste through educating ourselves about date labels, proper food storage, and apps that help track freshness. In addition, we can learn about managing leftovers and planning our food shopping to minimize waste. Community sharing can also provide avenues for consumers to reduce food waste and ease the financial burden for those facing food insecurity. For farmers, food loss mostly comes in the form of lost crops, be it due to extreme weather events, pests, poor soil, or damage during harvest. Being able to accurately measure this loss using tools like this one developed by the World Wildlife Fund is the first step to reducing it. Reducing crop loss and communicating the reasons behind it can lead to more transparency in the food supply chain, and allow farmers to collaborate to find solutions for problems that lead to food being left in the field. Grocers and other suppliers can use AI and other technology to manage their stock and minimize the amount of unsold food passing its sell-by date. t. Without strategies at all levels of the system, FLW cannot be reduced enough to reduce or eliminate the social, financial, and environmental burdens it currently creates.

In each section, articles are listed in the following order: general information regarding technological efforts to reduce FLW, consumer strategies, and distributor/farmer strategies.

News Articles:

Reducing Food Waste (World Economic Forum)

The World Economic Forum has concentrated on food loss and waste because of its detrimental effects on the economy and environment; stating that “if food waste was a country, it would be the 3rd biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions” and “cost the global economy $936 billion” per year. The solutions presented in this article, based on the results of the awareness campaign they conducted, include both raising awareness about the scale of food waste and its repercussions and instituting practices to reduce it. The awareness campaign was conducted in Bahrain during Ramadan.

Tech Solutions to Reduce Food Waste: Food and Tech Series (

In addition to discussing household waste and how to prevent it, this overview includes strategies for commercial kitchens/food service businesses to utilize tracking software and other services available to commercial kitchens. It provides a review of the LeanPath app for tracking food waste; Winnow, which uses AI to help chefs cut waste; and Wise Up On Waste, which provides tips for preventing waste at different points in the food’s journey. 

12 Apps Preventing Household Food Waste and Protecting the Planet (FoodTank)

FoodTank did a deep dive into the apps used in various countries to help consumers manage their food waste. Many apps offer recipes for users based on their receipts from food shopping. They also help consumers use food that is nearing its expiration date, and teach users how to store food appropriately to optimize its shelf life. Another common feature is food sharing among community members. These strategies can be employed globally to significantly reduce food loss and waste at the consumer level so long as the majority of people are willing to participate.

Q&A: Food Waste Reduction Strategies and Tips from Industry Professionals (Waste360)

Jean Buzby, the USDA’s Food Loss and Waste Liaison, and Priya Kadam, the FDA’s Senior Advisor for the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, answered questions in April 2023 at the Federal Food Loss and Waste Reduction Initiatives panel at the annual WasteExpo, and provided resources for consumers to help reduce their food waste. The USDA’s Foodkeeper App provides information about best practices for food storage, and the FDA has an educational website for reducing food waste that uses infographics, tip sheets, animations, and other resources. Both emphasize composting, food donation, and understanding date labels.

5 Ways Tech Can Help Reduce Food Waste (World Economic Forum)

Technologies highlighted in this article include food freshness platforms that monitor quality “from farm to fork,” apps like Too Good to Go that help businesses to get rid of excess food, consumers to get a bargain, and provide waste management strategies like composting. These technologies address separate, yet connected, causes of the same issue. The goal is to create a circular economy to address the “triple challenge of poverty, hunger, and climate change,” per resources cited from the UN. 

How Tech, Venture Capital Can Help Food Industry Meet 2030 Emissions Goals (Food Dive)

In this interview with Meryl Richards, acting program director of the sustainability nonprofit Ceres, Food Dive highlights how technology is helping to reduce food loss and waste, and discusses potential innovations that can be more widely implemented to simultaneously reduce FLW and greenhouse gas emissions. For example, Zelp is a startup working on methane-capturing devices for cattle that convert their gas into water and carbon dioxide. Many other innovations, such as nanofertilizers to replace regular fertilizers. Traditional fertilizers cause damage to the soil, resulting in crops that do not reach their nutrient potential. Nanofertilizers do not have the same effect, and therefore can help produce food that has more nutrients.

AI Plays a Role in Food Waste Solutions (Supermarket Perimeter)

This article discusses how AI can help improve inventory management in stores as a technique for reducing waste. As an example, they use Albertson’s, which has begun to employ AI-powered technology that analyzes perishability, historical sales, and customer demand to optimize store ordering, which is beneficial to both the environment and store profits.

The World Has a Food-Waste Problem. Can This Wireless Tech Help Fix It? (Princeton Engineering)

Newly developed high-frequency wireless technology, AgriTera, can determine fruit ripeness based on water and sugar concentrations at any point, allowing suppliers to sort fruit accordingly in order to optimize distribution and prevent food loss as much as possible by allowing good fruit to be found amongst bunches that are largely rotten. Now, instead of relying on visual inspection, distributors can use data from this tool to select good fruit instead of throwing out an entire bushel that may still include viable food.

Global Hotel Companies are Deploying AI Technologies to Reduce Food Waste (Hotel Technology News)Accor, a French multinational hospitality company, is using AI to reduce food waste and is working with the International Food Waste Coalition to create a widely applicable method to reduce food waste in commercial and contract catering. Orbisk, an international environmental consulting company based in the Netherlands, has developed a fully automated food waste monitor that scans leftover food being thrown away in order to adjust portion sizes and choices for future menus. In addition to the use of AI to reduce waste, employee and customer awareness is also being promoted to help change behavior.

More news articles:

Auchan, Aldi Harness Technology To Reduce Food Waste (European Supermarket Magazine) 

UV Technology To Turn Ikea Food Containers Into Tools that Fight Food Waste (Retail Technology Innovation Hub) 

ISS Reaches Major Sustainability Milestone Reducing Global Food Waste by 30% (Yahoo Finance)

Experts Weigh In on Clean Technologies, Employee Programs on Food Waste in New Study (Waste360) 

New Zealand Supermarket Rolls Out AI-Based Bot To Reduce Food Waste (European Supermarket Magazine) 

How AI and Machine Learning Are Revealing Food Waste In Commercial Kitchens and Restaurants ‘In Real Time’ (Fox News)

With Food Waste Reduction a Top Priority, Consumers Willing To Switch To Brands That Offer Better Shelf Life: Kerry (FoodTechBiz)

Peer-Reviewed Articles:

Perspectives on Food Waste Management: Prevention and Social Innovations (Sustainable Production and Consumption)

This article discussed food- waste- management techniques that promote a circular economy in order to reduce the social, environmental, and economic losses that accompany food waste. It includes information about composting, anaerobic digestion, and social and economic innovations that focus on cultural attitudes about food, and economic factors along the supply chain.

A Randomized Controlled Trial to Address Consumer Food Waste with a Technology-aided Tailored Sustainability Intervention (Resources, Conservation and Recycling)

Roe et al (2021) looked at how technology-aided tailored sustainability interventions (TATSIs) in conjunction with just-in-time adaptive interventions (JITAIs) and behavior modification techniques including portion control and dietary intake can positively affect individual/household food loss and waste while also providing economic benefits and improving personal health.. The researchers found that these interventions “yielded large and statistically significant reductions in plate waste,” with 78.8 percent less waste than the control group.

Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Five Challenges for Policy and Research (Food Policy)

Cattaneo et. al. describe the five most prominent challenges for reducing food loss and waste (FLW), and answer policy-related questions comprehensively and succinctly, in addition to addressing how interventions should be targeted. They conclude that, while eliminating all FLW is impossible, policies targeting this issue should be designed to incentivize people and businesses by raising awareness about the benefits, providing an economically viable framework, and improving the connection between rural and urban supply chains.

Clean Technology and Food Waste Reduction in On-Site Foodservice Management Companies (Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research)

To achieve a reduction in food waste, it is essential to create actionable goals and put plans in place to achieve them. Legendre, et. al. (2023) analyzed how reducing the perceived psychological distance from their corporate sustainability goals by using the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) approach improves employees’ adherence to organizational food waste reduction goals. The article discusses how food-procurement-tracking software, food-waste-tracking systems, and food-composting technology can be more effectively incorporated into day-to-day processes with SMART action plans.

Sustainability in Food-Waste Reduction Biotechnology: A Critical Review (Current Opinion in Biotechnology) 

Preventing the opportunity for food loss and waste as much as possible is the most effective path to reduction. If developed efficiently, certain biotechnologies offer paths to increasing shelf-life while reducing environmental burdens caused by standard packaging. However, there are also aspects of the supply chain that must be preserved in order to increase sustainability, and technological innovation must take consumer behavior and economic factors into account.

More peer-reviewed articles:

Hydrothermal Carbonization of Food Waste For Sustainable Biofuel Production: Advancements, Challenges, and Future Prospects (Science of The Total Environment)

An Optimization Approach for Food Waste Management System Based on Technical Integration Under Different Water/Grease Proportions (Journal of Cleaner Production)

A Comprehensive Review on Food Waste Reduction Based on IoT and Big Data Technologies (Sustainability)

Methane Mitigation Strategy For Food Waste Management: Balancing Socio-Economic Acceptance and Environmental Impacts (Sustainable Production and Consumption)

Food Waste-Derived 3D Printable Materials: A Carbon Neutral Solution to Global Foodloss (Trends in Food Science & Technology)

From Farm to Kitchen: The Environmental Impacts of U.S. Food Waste Part 1 (EPA) 

Cultivating Innovation: Practical Solutions for Comapnies to Reduce Agricultural Emissions (Ceres)

Are Food Supply Chains Taking Advantage of the Circular Economy? A Research Agenda on Tackling Food Waste Based on Industry 4.0 Technologies


Opinion: We’re Thinking About Food ‘Waste’ All Wrong (Washington Post)

Tamar Adler, author of books focused on how to cook and use leftovers, discusses the language we use to talk about food waste and how to reduce it by becoming passionate about food use. She emphasizes the fact that we as consumers decide when food becomes waste. Using food after its peak freshness has led to many wonderful results, including cheese, wine, and ribollita, a soup the author discovered in Florence that often relies on using leftover vegetables and stale bread. Adler argues that using the food we already have will impact the entire supply chain, benefiting the environment and those who work in the food system.

The War on Food Waste is a Waste of Time (The Outline)

While this article does not offer technological solutions to the food waste problem, it discusses how and why the focus on food loss and waste is an informational misdirect. The author explains how, in this case, downstream efforts to reduce waste from businesses may, in fact, be disingenuous (see: Walmart, & Kroger’s contributions to campaigns to end hunger while not paying employees enough to afford food), and that consumer efforts will not change the way the food system functions. Without change in production methods, crop subsidies, and better treatment of farmworkers and farmers, food waste will continue to be an issue that has serious social, environmental, and financial impacts.

Op-Ed: How Reducing Food Waste Can Help Solve the Climate Crisis (Los Angeles Times)

Dana Gunders, the executive director of ReFED, an organization that identifies comprehensive food waste recycling solutions for businesses of all sizes, is the author of this article, which details technological solutions to food waste as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Demand-planning software, consumer-education programs, and composting infrastructure – all of which require economic investment – would ultimately be socially, environmentally, and financially beneficial because of their impact on food waste in landfills.

Why Food Waste Is At The Top Of Your Customers’ Minds And What To Do About It (Forbes)

From the business owner’s perspective, food waste has a massive cost, causes bad publicity, and creates unhappy consumers. The solutions offered to resolve these problems include engaging consumers through programs about avoiding food waste; leveraging technology to help with forecasting demand, temperature monitoring, inventory management; setting goals, and monitoring progress. Making food waste a performance metric will incentivize employees to adhere to the goals.

Food Sharing Apps Won’t Solve Our Massive Food Waste Problem (Undark)

This article focuses on apps that provide methods to recover food in order to combat waste and discusses how societal norms, monitoring difficulties, and scaling prevent accurate measurement of impact. It also discussed the fact that these apps are most functional in urban areas, and are largely unable to be used in rural areas, meaning that rural food banks and shelters are not reaping their potential.

More opinions:

Opinion: When it Comes to Food Waste, Shoppers Aren’t the Only Ones to Blame (FoodTank)

How Technology is Shaping Food Waste Prevention (EIT Food)

How AI, Digital Innovation Can Help Grocers Reduce Food Waste (Grocery Dive)

Emerging Tech is Transforming Food Waste Into a Climate and Business Opportunity (Food Navigator)

Experts’ Opinions: Food Waste — Consequences and Solutions (Development Aid)

Conference Papers/Presentations:

Reducing Consumer Food Waste Using Green and Digital Technologies (United Nations Environment Programme)

The UN’s 2021 Environment Programme created a 96-page brief discussing food loss and waste, and the technologies that are in play or could be used to reduce it. The paper covers the current state of food waste and its consequences, the causes of consumer waste, green and digital technologies that are in use or in development to reduce waste, and actors, policies, and instruments being used to promote the reduction of food waste. Finally, it compares five major cities (Bangkok, Belgrade, Bogotá, Doha, and Kampala) to understand different cultural factors that contribute to food waste and the solutions that would be most effective. The authors conclude that cities in developed and developing countries are hot spots for food waste, that there is a large gap in data and assessment of consumer food waste from one place to another, and that there are many complex causes that could be addressed by using new technologies that raise awareness and change perceptions and behaviors around food waste.

How Digital Platforms with a Social Purpose Trigger Change towards Sustainable Supply Chains (54th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences 2021)

This paper explores how three categories of businesses, Alterationists, Redistributors, and Capacity Builders, work together and separately to combat food waste. Alterationists shift the traditional food supply chain and allow consumers to be closer to the source of their food; redistributors prevent the waste of surplus food; and capacity builders use technology to increase the consumer’s ability to use all parts of the food they buy. The researchers found that each of these provide valuable services to other businesses and to consumers while emphasizing social and environmental impacts, creating a “triple bottom line” by incorporating costs to people and the planet into their calculation of the full cost of doing business, in addition to financial output and gains.

Reducing Food Waste Using Information Technology: A Case from Switzerland (56th International Conference on System Sciences)

The researchers reviewed 181 articles, conducted a quantitative survey, and used the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) to explore whether information technology (IT) can lower food waste coming from Swiss households. The results indicate that survey respondents were most interested in using information technology for food storage and preparation, meaning that they wanted to be notified close to a food’s expiration date so they were reminded to use it before it went to waste and also to be told how best to store foods that are perishable. The survey results show that people prefer to have IT available on their smartphones and tablets, or on a web app.

VIDEO: Insights from the Farm: Cultivating Ideas to Reduce Farm-Level Food Loss (ReFED)

ReFED’s 2023 Food Waste Summit included several panels geared to different contributors and/or solutions to specific areas of food loss and waste (FLW). The panel featured here was moderated by John Larson of the American Farmland Trust and featured Rod Snyder from the EPA, Hallie Shoffner from SFR Seed, Leigh Prezkop from the World Wildlife Fund, and Nicole Partridge from FPL Food, LLC. By featuring farmers, a government agency, and a non-profit, the panel comprehensively covered not only the problems affecting farmers but also the actions already being taken to mitigate food loss at the farm level and the potential for more solutions to be derived from federal funding and grants. Click here for a full list of session recordings.

More conference papers/presentations:

ShareFood: CareHood: An Educational Mobile Application for Awareness on Food Wastage (AIP Publishing)

Halal Industrial Food Waste Management: Lesson Learnt from Japan (Annual Conference on Islamic Economy and Law)

CES 2023: These Start-Ups Are Using Technology To Help Reduce Global Food Waste (EuroNews.Next)

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