An American Israeli student has developed an artificial intelligence-based mobile app that aims to cut down food waste and improve nutrition.
Daniela Saunyama, 24, an immigrant to Israel from New Jersey and veteran of the Israeli military’s Search and Rescue Brigade, is a third-year nutritional sciences student at Ariel University.
She first presented the idea for the app during a course on nutrition and technology. Saunyama was then accepted into the university’s entrepreneurship accelerator program to further develop her idea together with co-founder and fellow student Avichai Shapiro.
People were throwing out so much food and not realizing that they have food in their house before going out to buy [more]
The app, called SustainEat, is set to launch in Israel in the coming months before reaching the United States and other countries, Saunyama said.
“I just saw that there was a problem in the kitchen: People were throwing out so much food and not realizing that they have food in their house before going out to buy [more],” she told The Media Line. “People are not only endangering their health by having old food in their fridge but are also wasting a lot of money in general.”
SustainEat helps cut food waste in several ways. Firstly, it keeps an inventory of the food in a person’s home by scanning shopping receipts (or via manual input) and by providing an estimated expiration date for each product. The app notifies users of any items that are approaching expiry and offers personalized recipes that are based on a user’s unique dietary preferences.
It can also recommend personalized grocery lists in order to cut down on shopping times and save money.
“This [personalized shopping list] is created from all kinds of information that you put into the app so it’s using AI technology in order to make this personalization happen,” Saunyama explained.
The goal, the budding entrepreneur said, is to make nutrition, shopping, and cooking more efficient. Unlike other food waste apps, SustainEat is entirely personalized and learns what to recommend to users based on their input.
“We’re an end-to-end solution because we help you from grocery shopping to when you’re throwing things out and cooking your food,” she said. “We want to use specialized technology in order to customize the whole way. In addition to that, we also have a focus on sustainability.”
Roughly 35% of food in Israel goes to waste. There are significant environmental and economic repercussions to food loss in Israel and the world.
Dr. Shiri Sherf-Dagan, who teaches the course on nutrition and technology that Saunyama attended, noted that food loss is a major problem around the globe. In fact, the UN estimates that nearly half of all produce goes to waste each year.
“Roughly 35% of food in Israel goes to waste,” Sherf-Dagan, who works both at Ariel University and Assuta Medical Centers, told The Media Line. “There are significant environmental and economic repercussions to food loss in Israel and the world.”
Sherf-Dagan recommended a two-pronged approach to address the issue: implement legislation and taxation policies, as well as educate people regarding best practices for food consumption and storage. She also believes that apps like the one developed by Saunyama can help.
“At the moment there is a significant need to advance technologies that will help individuals and communities better manage their buying and use of products in order to reduce food waste,” Sherf-Dagan said. “Similarly, by preventing good food from getting thrown away and with the help of donations to those in need, we can also reduce food insecurity in Israel and the world.”