Can kitchen tech reduce excessive food waste?
Every year, an estimated 1.3 billion tons of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted.
But innovative new products that turn a regular fridge into a smart device promise to help consumers reduce food waste and save money.
The lightbulb moment behind Chicago startup Ovie came when co-founder Ty Thompson found himself throwing out a pasta dish. Determined to reduce his food waste and inspired by a system of LED lights used to show available spaces in a parking garage, Thompson set about creating a smart food storage system.
Ovie has just completed a crowdfunding campaign, raising $64,000 to finalize development of a product that tracks food expiration dates using a Bluetooth button.
“We’re trying to solve a friction point in people’s lives. Nobody intends to throw out food, but life gets busy and chaotic,” said Ovie co-founder Stacie Thompson.
The idea behind Ovie has evolved substantially.
“It went from simply a light system in your fridge to help you waste less food to a fully integrated solution that reminds you when food needs to be used up, suggests recipes and lets you shop for ingredients,” she said.
Ovie’s food containers are fitted with a “smart tag” that allows them to track food freshness. A light on the tag changes color — from green to yellow to red — depending on the freshness of the food in the tub.
The tags detach from the containers and can be used with existing storage items or clipped on fresh vegetables.
Kits start at $90, and the first products are set to ship early next year. “Smart fridges are still not accessible to a lot of people, so we want to make regular fridges smarter,” Thompson said.
The kitchen of the future
Smarter, a company based in London, is trying to do the same thing.
It will soon begin shipping FridgeCam, a wireless camera that fits inside a fridge and allows users to see its contents from anywhere via an app. According to the company, over 1 million units have been pre-ordered across Europe.
The device takes a picture each time the fridge door is closed. “If people are in store, they can open the app and see what’s in their fridge. Or they can use it for reminders,” explained Smarter chief executive Christian Lane.
The app also has a “best before” tracker and can add items that need to be replaced to a shopping list. Smarter has developed a partnership with Tesco, allowing users to connect its app to the supermarket chain’s online shopping platform.
“Longer term, I think we will move away from people checking the fridge or even checking the app to see what they need,” Lane said. “Instead, everything will happen automatically in the background. We want to build a powerful replenishment platform.”
The company is raising money to bring FridgeCam to the United States.