5 New & Innovative Technologies Helping To Cut UK Food Waste

From transforming date marks to developing handy apps, technology whizz-kids are fighting the battle against food waste and changing the way we see food for good.

When considering the top ten consumer reasons for throwing food away, there still appears to be much over-stuffing of trollies and confusion over date labels. But with an estimated 60% of the nearly 2 million tonnes of surplus food created being avoidable, the chance for technological intervention is massive.

So with this in mind, we’ve put together what we think are the top five amazing fledgling food waste solutions that UK innovators have to offer.

Number 1: Smart fridges

The idea of smart fridges was actually floated as early back as the late ‘90s when a Japanese inventor unveiled one, complete with microphone and touchpad, at an exhibition in Tokyo. But only years later in 2015 did Bosch take up the idea with its Smart Connect model.

It works using cameras inside the fridge, which users connect to using the Home Connect app. This means they can see what they’ve got and can plan dinner whilst on the move. Apparently around 40% of us have no idea exactly what’s in our fridge at any one time, so this could be a real saver of money - and food - by cutting out unnecessary ‘top up’ shops.

How’s it doing so far? With not much change from £900 the Bosch Smart Connect is pretty pricey. However, it’s not totally out of reach for many and the hope is that over time the technology will become cheaper. Bosch has actually recently teamed up with Sainsbury’s to provide the fridges to twenty UK families already.

Number 2: The Olio app

Founded by students Tessa Cook and Saasha Celestial-One, the Olio app was launched in 2015 as a way of using up leftover food. It works by connecting neighbours, local businesses and the local community to surplus food that’s on offer for sharing. Details about the leftover food on offer, including a picture, are posted on the website and people can message to claim it.

How’s it doing so far? Since launching, Olio has been downloaded more than 110,000 times with over 140,000 items of food shared. The app has now gone global too, with users in India, Africa and China.

Number 3: Using flies to turn food waste into fish food

Okay this one sounds revolting but it’s actually a great idea. It’s the brainchild of four Cambridge University graduates with backgrounds in engineering, biology, biochemistry and business, and essentially works by using an insect called the Black Soldier Fly. The fly’s larvae are fed organic waste, then converting 95% of it into complex fats and proteins during digestion. This then builds the waste up into more complex and valuable compounds, instead of it literally remaining as waste. The compounds are ideal for use in both fertiliser and animal feed, which allows for scaling up their production in a cheap, sustainable manner. For example, farmed salmon is currently fed on wild caught small fish. However, the company says that by using the flies, food waste can be turned into aquaculture feed that’s rich in Omega-3 and protein, enough to satisfy farmers and remove the requirement for this additional fishing

How’s it doing so far? Although it’s still fairly early days, the company is already collecting waste from Sainsbury’s stores in Cambridgeshire for use with its in-house demonstration system located at the county’s National Institute of Agricultural Botany. It’s also won numerous tech awards as well as a £60,000 research grant.

Number 4: April the robotic chef

April was developed by UK-based engineering company OAL, alongside experts at the University of Lincoln. The robot works by emulating a professional chef on an industrial scale - in fact April can handle ingredients, move pans and much more, just a human chef would do. According to OAL, it creates “unprecedented flexibility” during food manufacturing, offering a scalable solution as demand rises. April can essentially boost food production efficiency and precision, helping to reduce waste by eliminating ingredient errors and spillages.

How’s it doing so far? The first fully working robot is due to start work with a company in mainland Europe at some point during 2020, with the hope that UK manufacturers will start to place orders soon too.

Number 5: The Bump Mark

Inventor Solveiga Pakstaite came up with the Bump Mark as a way of helping people who are visually impaired to read date labels on food. It works by adding a gelatine label to a foodstuff which will then track its decaying process. Customers simply then need to sweep the label with their finger; a smooth surface indicates that the gelatine (and food) is still whole and good to eat, whilst a bumpy texture warns that the gelatine has deteriorated. This deterioration of the gelatine occurs at the same rate as foods that are protein based.

How’s it doing so far? Solveiga actually scooped a James Dyson Scholarship for her design back in 2014. Numerous further grants have also been secured to help in commercialising and marketing the product going forward.

Speak to the R&D experts behind Tax Cloud UK

All this innovation is great, but it’ll certainly have come at a price. The good news is however that the UK government recognises research and development can be very expensive, which is why it offers research and development (R&D) Tax Credits. The relief is offered either as a reduction on a company’s Corporation Tax, or as a cash lump sum. The scope for claiming is purposefully huge, and it’s open to all UK companies regardless of sector or industry.

Find out more on our R&D Tax Credits webpage or feel free to speak to Myriad Associates on 020 3994 2236. We are experts in all things R&D and would be happy to guide you through the claims process answering any questions you may have. We also recommend trying our Tax Cloud portal for businesses, where you can enter your own company’s figures to see what you could claim. We look forward to hearing from you.

Barrie Dowsett, ACMA, GCMA
Author Barrie Dowsett, ACMA, GCMA CEO, Tax Cloud
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