Could this Finnish tech by Foller be the answer to global food waste?

It’s an exciting week for Foller, the Finnish startup formed in order to enter the Elisa iOT Innovation Challenge in April this year. The results of the competition are out in Slush on Thursday November 12th, and we here at Ink Tank Media are certainly rooting for them. Why? Because Foller is tackling an issue that’s been troubling us for… well, forever. Food waste.

Erase the waste

Globally, a whopping 1300 million tons of food, most of it still perfectly edible, is thrown out every year. In fact, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, about a third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. All this overproduction at a time of global recession, with more and more hungry people queuing up at food banks and soup kitchens for their daily fare.

This is absurd, really, so why don’t we just stop? Doing so would be the equivalent of taking 1 out of 4 cars off our roads or saving 17 millions tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Reassuringly, 60% people in the UK are concerned about the amount of food waste, so perhaps we just need a little helping hand. Could that be Foller, we wonder?

food waste

Ethics with business potential

Foller is a collaborative venture by three Finnish companies, Link Design & DevelopmentStreamr and Trelab. Their ambitious aim, the result of a brainstorming session on worthy causes with real business potential, is to transform the current throwaway food industry.

“Our plan is to reduce food waste in Finland by 50% in five years,” says Tomi Kankainen, Manager at Foller. “This may sound like a lot, but Denmark has managed a 25% reduction just by educating people about how food is thrown out unnecessarily. Combine that with the right technology and it’s perfectly possible to make a huge difference.”

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Tiny tags that change everything

Foller has such tech ready and it’s already being piloted at the SIS Deli café chain in the Helsinki region. What’s more, the people at SIS Deli describe it as “an amazing service with potential to revolutionise the business.” So, how exactly does Foller work?

“It’s all based on RFID tags that monitor products on the shelf. If it looks like something’s not selling and is likely to eventually be wasted, the price automatically goes down. Alternatively, like at SIS Deli, staff gets notified if something needs to sell quicker. They can then put together pre-determined product bundles and advertise them locally to customers.” Kankainen explains.

Saving money and the planet

“We want to give people the incentive to buy food closer to its use by date, as well as prevent overproduction by stopping food ending up in the bin,” Kankainen says. “At the same time, we’ll make business operations more cost-effective, so everyone’s a winner.”

In the future, the Foller team plans to take the product out to other restaurant chains and food retailers, eventually across the globe. As RFID readers become more universally available, they’re planning to expand the service to people’s homes, too.

“The tags in your fridge will alert you when something needs to be used up, so you’ll no longer forget stuff at the back of the fridge. And once legislation catches up with our urgent need to stop food waste, we’ll see automatic sensors within food packages. They’ll eventually replace today’s misleading sell by dates altogether.”

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How big is your foodprint?

Do you waste food? Unfortunately I think we all still do, statistics putting it at around 24 kilos per person here in Finland. Ashamed as I’m to admit, I threw out some leftover Thai curry this morning, hidden behind a bag of salad since Saturday night… While waiting for tech like Foller to come to our rescue, we recommend this helpful kitchen explorer tool from Love Food Hate Waste to reduce your ecological foodprint.

P.S. Would you buy something close to its sell-by date if it were cheaper (hint: it’s the ecologically sound thing to do)? We’d love to hear the answer in the comments below.

Cover image credit: Metro Vancouver

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