Food waste in restaurants and food services is one of those problems where the solution already lies in our hands. That is now truer than ever, as the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) has collaborated with Mediasignal to develop the Lukeloki app, which investigates and monitors food waste nationwide.
Around 70 restaurants around Finland are participating in Luke’s food waste study. The study includes staff and school canteens, restaurants serving plated meals, and fast food outlets. The researchers monitor food waste using the application and see the situation in real time. The outlets and companies participating in the research receive a summary of their own information so that they can consider suitable methods of reducing food waste.
Large volumes of data must be collected to curb food waste
Up to 20% of restaurant food in Finland ends up as waste. According to Luke research scientist Kirsi Silvennoinen, food waste was previously monitored using various methods, and both recording and examining the information required lots of hard work. The research that is underway helps to provide information on the volumes of food waste at different outlets, and to develop a research method that is suitable for food services. Based on the results, Luke will propose methods with which Finland can achieve the level required by the EU’s waste directive. The EU plans to halve food waste by 2030.
Data that is monitored over a period of three weeks includes the daily menu, how much food is prepared, how much is thrown away, how many customers visit the restaurant, and how much food they leave on their plate. The restaurants receive the results so that they can consider how their menu, certain ingredients, and even the day of the week can affect food waste.
User feedback is valuable in development work
Luke feels that it is important to utilise options offered by digitalisation in its sustainable development projects. Mediasignal acts as a partner in many projects. According to Silvennoinen, the development work on the food waste application went well – user feedback was obtained after the first few trials and was used to fine-tune usability.
Companies have been enthusiastic to participate due to the social significance of the matter and how smoothly the application runs on computers, tablets and phones. The food waste in canteens that serve high volumes of customers is extremely significant economically, but restaurants also see waste as a reduction in financial and reputational advantage. According to Kirsi Silvennoinen, the application may be made available for use by companies to carry out longer-term measurements. This means that data collection and monitoring would continue after the current project – with as many actors as possible cutting their food waste down to a minimum.
National food waste reduction requires commensurable data
Marko Kujala, who led the development work on the food waste reduction application at Mediasignal states that this is an excellent example for the coding generation of how you can benefit the whole society through your own work. Food waste is a waste of natural resources and involves multiple kinds of unnecessary consumption. If it can be managed through technology, we are proud to be able to act as Luke’s partner in doing so.
The most important thing in the development work on this kind of project is that we understand the customer’s goal and the environment in which the solution will be used right from the start of the project. When designing the food waste application, it was vital to solve how kitchens could report waste in practice, and to find the most logical way for employees to log their waste without disrupting their work. Luke requires commensurable reporting data which can be used to compare the different kinds of food waste that is created in very different restaurants.
But another matter is the implementation itself, which must correspond consistently with all of the observations and decisions made during the aforementioned design and specification. The application must be approachable and easy to use in the environment and on the devices that are available. This is also the area where differences are made – good design alone is not enough; you also need first-class implementation.
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