OpenIDEO Challenge: Crowdsourcing for Food Waste Solutions

457 ideas for driving collaboration on SDG12.3
OpenIDEO Challenge: Crowdsourcing for Food Waste Solutions OpenIDEO Challenge: Crowdsourcing for Food Waste Solutions
Publ. date 15 Oct 2016
If global food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Production and distribution is responsible for two-thirds of the food that is wasted. The final third of food waste happens at the consumer level. This is the framing of OpenIDEO’s Food Waste Challenge kicked off on 19th July, generating 457 concrete ideas to combat food waste. OpenIDEO is a global community working together with leading organizations to drive collaboration and innovation leading to the design of solutions for the world’s biggest challenges.

OpenIDEO started the research phase  this summer by calling the global community to action through  sharing stories, reflections, interviews, and findings related to food waste. During the feedback phase, the OpenIDEO team dug deeper into posted ideas with comments and insights to encourage idea development, and selected the 40 ideas that moved on to the refinement phase in order to select the 'Top Ideas'.

The challenge focuses on generating ideas that:

  • Reduce food waste: Reducing wasted food is at the heart of this challenge. How does the idea tackle this issue with potential for great social, environmental, and economic change?
  • Are innovative: Thinking beyond the current structure of food systems is required and bring something new to the work that is already being done or ignite existing efforts in a new way;
  • Are human-centered: Leading with empathy by taking the end user as a starting point;
  • Think big and smart: Starting local can be really powerful, but multiplying your idea to a larger number of people makes it even more interesting;
  • Focus on relationships: Creating ideas that have an understanding of who is immersed in different parts of the food system, since food waste can not be solved in silos.

On 16th October 2016, World Food Day, the feedback on the final ideas is released. Below, we have collected the ideas that have, so far, gotten the most traction in terms of feedback and thumbs up from the OpenIDEO community.  

1. Two circular economy initiatives at producers level: brewing beer from bread, and baking bread from beer
The following ideas are implemented in the so-called “Processing and packaging, during industrial or domestic processing/packaging” phase and clearly demonstrate how value chain collaboration is key to developing the food waste solutions.

  • Craft beer brewed from surplus bread: Toast Ale
    Toast Ale is a waste bread beer brewery based in the United Kingdom that was inspired by the Belgian Babylone. The Brussels team was keen to collaborate and supported Toast’s journey to globalize the idea of bread beer as a tasty solution to bakery waste in the UK and around the world. Today, the open-source recipe is online for home brewers and Toast is challenging London Amateur Brewers to experiment with their own versions. As a next step, Toast Ale is aiming to build a global network of partners producing and distributing local Toast brews, with profits going to community-based food waste projects.
  • Bread from beer brewing by-product: RISE
    RISE bakes bread from brewers’ spent grain, the main byproduct of the brewing process, which is currently disposed at the landfill or used as livestock feed. Next to bread, other solutions are looked for in the food industry such as pasta makers and baked goods, and in the pet food industry. RISE is initially targeting the beer industry and food industry in New York City with more than 40 breweries, and a total spending between $576K to $1.9M on a yearly basis.

    The RISE concept is a circular economy approach aiming to recycle waste from industrial processes that traditionally went to landfills, incinerators, or treatment plants, and otherwise would have a negative impact on the environment and companies' bottom lines. From the circular economy perspective, waste from one industrial process serves as raw materials for another, helping to protect the environment, lower manufacturing costs and generating income from byproducts at the same time.

    A great crossover from the challenge is that RISE has connected to Toast Ale with one of its partner brewers to help them launch their first brew in America.

2. Three initiatives addressing consumers to tackle expiration date issues:, Expire and Shelf Life
The ideas refer to fighting food waste in the phase referred to by the WRI as “Distribution and market, during distribution to markets including wholesale and retail”. For consumers implementing these food waste minimizing activities would appeal to different levels of value. The customer value of these interventions both functional needs such as saving money, simplifying life and organizing routine tasks, and emotional needs such as rewarding good behavior in the value pyramid.

    Expired products represents a major source of food waste, often as the result of consumer confusion. The primary idea of involves using two dates, a 'soft, best-before date’, and a 'hard, consume-by’, which would enable consumers in making better informed decisions before discarding foods. The key element of is developing an ecosystem that allows consumers and retail stores to differentiate their behavior once the soft date is crossed. With dual dates, shoppers would not hesitate picking up products close to the soft expiry date at stores and consumers would feel comfortable consuming products close to the soft-expiry date. Retailers do not have to scramble to sell their products just before the expiration date with the soft date allowing them to keep it on the shelves for a longer time, as keeping it beyond the date, they would not fall foul of regulatory norms (if applicable). Once beyond the soft date products would not have to thrown away, but can be sold at lower prices, hence reducing waste, and possibly improving revenues for the retailer or donated (online) both by the consumer and retailer.

  • Expire
    "Expire" is an app that catalogs food expiration dates and reminds you when food is about to expire. It aims to reduce food waste by preventing consumers to forget “food that sits in the back of the fridge”. The app scans the receiptafter grocery shopping, and then automatically catalogs the product names and their corresponding expiration dates, and will later on remind its user before the food goes bad. For food without an expiration date such as fruit and vegetables "Expire" offers an expiration date suggestion based on pre-programmed information related to how long the food will typically last.
  • Shelf Life
    Has the same starting point as Expire but a slightly different technology since the app works with barcodes to overcome manual entry, which is a major prohibitor for use of already existing food apps. The barcode scanning device "Shelfies" is located in the kitchen waiting for items to pass by, adding and removing them from a database connected to a phone. The access to this real life kitchen inventory provides information about the food, when it goes bad, what is needed for re-buy, and what recipes can be made to prevent waste. Shelfies is operated with RFID tags or Smart Labels as a replacement to conventional barcodes.

Inspired to jumpstart food waste innovations at your company?
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About OpenIDEO
OpenIDEO is a global design company that creates positive impact through design and is the initiator of OpenIDEO. OpenIDEO is a global community working together to design solutions for the world’s biggest challenges partner with leading organizations to drive collaboration, innovation and impact around the world's toughest problems. One of the ways it operates is by launching challenges, which usually consist of a three to five month collaborative process that focuses attention on a specific issue and creates a space for community members to contribute, refine and prototype solutions. In the Food Waste Challenge OpenIDEO has partnered with The Rockefeller Foundation, ReFED, The Fink Family Foundation, and The San Francisco Department of the Environment for the Food Waste Challenge. Additionally, Closed Loop Foundation will offer $25,000 to one or more qualifying Top Ideas.

Image source: IDEO, Flickr

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