Singularities Solution Can Stop Food Waste In Restaurants

"Fresh Food In Garbage Can To Illustrate Waste" flickr photo by USDAgov shared under a Creative Commons (BY) lice

US households and food service operations alone throw away 86 billion pounds of food in a year. Singularities has developed an AI solution that can significantly reduce this waste.

Food waste is a huge problem. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, each year, 1.3 billion tons of food worth about $990 billion, are lost or go to waste—one-third of the total amount of food produced globally.

The UN has set a target of halving food loss and waste by 2030 in its Sustainable Development Goals, and prominent industry players are committed to doing their part, though it’s not an easy job. Tesco, the United Kingdom’s biggest retailer, had pledged to eliminate food waste in their operations by 2018. It has fallen short,though the company still wants to eliminate yearly food waste of over 50,000 tons.

Starbucks has also committed to the challenge, recently announcing their “Greener Stores” framework, designed to set a new standard for designing, building and operating Starbucks stores to reduce utility expenses, and waste.

From farm to table, food goes to waste in every step of the way, with most of it lost at both ends of the food supply chain –that is at production, on one end, and at retail and consumption, at the other–, finds a recent report by Boston Consulting Group.

According to the USDA, households and food service operations (restaurants, cafeterias, fast food, and caterers) together lost 86 billion pounds of food in 2008. Buying the exact amount of perishables you will need is a smart way of avoiding that loss, but projecting those amounts is no easy task. That is where Artificial Intelligence can come in handy, and where Singularities has come into play in this crucial problem.

Using Aleph, its unique machine-reasoning engine and incorporating state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms, Singularities has created a solution aimed at successfully predicting future sales of restaurants, and therefore projecting the correct amounts of perishable foods the business needs to buy to fulfill its sales –with minimum waste.

Initially, the solution was built tailored to the needs of a Costa Rican restaurant chain with over 25 establishments in the Central American nation, but has now evolved into a broader tool that could be used by all players in the industry. The off-the-shelf solution will be available by December 2018.

To work, the solution requires a year worth of transactional information from the restaurant. The minimum data it needs to operate is date and hour of each purchase, and what was bought. With that information, Aleph can learn the preferences of individual customers and predict future sales. However, the more information is added to the data set, the more precise Aleph’s predictions can be, and the more questions it can answer.

In the specific case of the Costa Rican restaurant chain, Aleph’s waste reduction solution diminished food loss by 55 to 80 percent, and produced average monthly savings of $20,000 per branch, says Andrés Mora, Tech Lead at Singularities who worked developing the AI solution.

“We have found that Singularities can contribute to solve the food waste problem,” says Dr. Carlos Araya, founder and CEO of Singularities. “Our technology can deliver not only important savings for restaurants, we believe that it can branch out to bring solutions to other aspects of the problem,” he adds.

Singularities plans to focus on adding features to the restaurant AI solution – ‘menu engineering’ and ‘know your customers’, among others–, but at the same time will work in making it available to other businesses that rely on perishables, such as supermarkets and convenience stores. They also aim to create an AI solution to allow an efficient management of the supply chain of the industry, contributing even more to solve the food waste problem.

Artificial Intelligence can be applied at all levels of the economy, and can solve old problems in new ways,” Dr. Araya concludesAleph allows us to solve complex problems that before would have required the services of an industry expert, a guru, but now can be at the reach of many.”