Sustainable Startups Using Technology to Make Use of Food Waste

make use of food waste

The developed world wastes almost as much food as sub-Saharan Africa produces in a given year, according to the United Nations. This means there’s an opportunity for sustainable startups to try and make use of all that food waste. And there are already a few companies using technology to make that vision a reality.

Food Cowboy is one of those startups. The company runs an app that connects American food companies and transporters with food banks and similar charities.

Restaurants, shipping companies, and other food producers can tell the Food Cowboy app what items they have available. Food Cowboy then sorts through the data and sends notifications via text and/or email to local charities that might be able to receive the items. The receiving charities pay Food Cowboy 10 cents per pound of food, which is about a third of what food banks normally pay for such items. And the companies that supply the food can receive tax deductions for their donations.

Food waste isn’t exactly a new problem in countries like the U.S. But technology does offer a new opportunity to make use of food items in a timely manner. Roger Gordon, president of Food Cowboy, told Economist:

“When food companies need to get rid of food, they need to get rid of it quickly.”

In other words, restaurant owners don’t have a lot of time to search around for charities to take their would-be food waste and deliver it to them. Likewise, many food banks don’t have the time or resources to drive around picking up donations from businesses.

So Food Cowboy provides the link that connects the two, and makes it easier for all parties involved to make use of food waste.

Food Cowboy isn’t the only company making use of technology to reduce food waste. CropMobster is a California startup that serves as a sort of Craigslist service for excess food. Other tech-centric efforts are popping up around the rest of the country and the world as well.

So far, there’s not one widely used solution for this problem. It could take awhile for any of them to really catch on. But technology has certainly increased the possibilities for solving the food waste problem. And more and more startups are using innovative ideas to solve it.

Image: Food Cowboy


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

7 Reactions
  1. I love this idea. It’s a win-win situation for the food banks and the companies. Something like this needs to happen in London. I see too much food wasted here. The local store next door, for instance, throws away a sizable bag of bread rolls most evenings.

    • So many restaurants and stores throw away so much food that could really help food banks and similar organizations. It’s sad, but hopefully startups like this one can curb the problem.

      • It’s something that shouldn’t happen – food waste. Reminds me of empty homes and homelessness. But yes, Food Cowboy sounds promising.

  2. I have always been a fan of products that make use of waste. It is like turning trash into something useful not to mention that it is environment friendly too.