Winnow: A food tech startup that saves 36 million meals annually

Founded in 2013 in the UK, Winnow came to Dubai as a participant in Dubai future accelerators, an initiative by Dubai Future Foundation


Joydeep Sengupta

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Published: Thu 2 Dec 2021, 4:09 PM

Approximately 30 per cent of food produced for human consumption worldwide is wasted while more than 820 million people go hungry every day.

No wonder, the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12, titled responsible consumption and production, calls for halving food waste between 2015 and 2030.

This negative phenomenon also puts avoidable pressure on the environment and natural resources, such as soil and water, and generates unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions.

Few people know that the environmental impact of food waste is three times more severe than that of single-use plastics.

Enter Winnow, a food tech startup on a mission to cut down on food waste. Founded in the United Kingdom in 2013, the company developed a food waste monitor for commercial kitchens within the hospitality, restaurants and catering (HoReCa) sector, where food is prepared in advance.

Based on the premise that what gets measured, gets managed, this was originally an analogue solution that required manual logging of the food waste.


Winnow came to Dubai as a participant of the Dubai Future Accelerators (DFA) programme, an initiative by Dubai Future Foundation (DFF).

It has developed an artificial intelligence-enabled system that automatically identifies food waste and reports it back to the chef.

While Winnow had existing international clients when it joined DFA in Dubai, it managed to gain traction with key local private sector players, such as Majid Al-Futtaim and Emaar, who became worldwide beta testers for the upgraded technology. Known predominantly as a giant global furniture conglomerate, IKEA also operates one of the world’s largest restaurant chains, and in line with its commitment to sustainability, it was keen to reap the benefits of the startup’s food waste monitor.

Today, IKEA is one of Winnow’s largest clients as well as its investor. Through DFF, the startup also connected with the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment to jointly launch the UAE Food Waste Pledge.

The initiative challenged UAE-based hospitality companies to cut down on food waste in their kitchens, using Winnow’s solution to facilitate the process and measure its progress.

In 2018, the participants saved 1.5 million meals from the bin, while in 2019, the annual number rose to two million.

After the success of its pilot project in Dubai, the company decided to set up a base in the emirate, with its sights set on an expansion into the wider Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region.

Winnow’s founder Marc Zornes cites the forward-thinking mentality of Dubai’ leadership as the main reason for the decision.

He believes Dubai’s entrepreneurship ecosystem operates on the principle ‘less bureaucracy, more action’, which is exactly what an ambitious startup needs to take its business to new heights.

Besides the concentrated cluster of private sector companies in the emirate offers the company a wide potential client base, while the HoReCa industry remains a vital contributor to the UAE’s gross domestic product.

Clients using Winnow’s food waste monitor are saving between three and eight per cent of their food purchasing cost. The public sector can leverage the solution to inform food security strategies and smart investment.

Zornes appreciates the significant amount of exposure Winnow gained from its participation in DFA, as well as the ability to learn about how business works in this part of the world — “a place where all important people pass by”.

The startup is keen to pursue further opportunities for partnership with government entities in the UAE with the aim of signing global contracts with some of the biggest players.

Through its sustainability-oriented efforts, the company aspires to connect commercial kitchens, create a movement of chefs and inspire others to see that food is too valuable to waste.

Worldwide, an estimated $100 (Dh367) billion is wasted in commercial kitchens every year.

Winnow believes that in the future every commercial kitchen will be fitted with an AI device which improves profitability and minimises wastage.

The team is focused on scaling the technology making Winnow faster, smarter and easier to use. The startup is also looking ahead to its Series C raise in the next 12-18 months.

It is also drawing strong investor interests because data speaks for itself. Its innovative solution is saving 36,512,500 per year meals from the waste bin, resulting in the savings of $42 (Dh154.76) million per year and translating into 61,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions being saved.

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