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High schoolers' green startup Torus offers AI-powered food waste solution

June 14, 2024 - 18:18 By Hwang Joo-young
Illustrations explain Torus' business model, encompassing composting, pickups and offering meals for those in need in the community. (Torus)

US-based eco-friendly startup Torus said Friday it has offered its food waste handling service to 38 households in West Windsor, New Jersey, to connect waste producers and composting companies through an artificial intelligence-based matching system.

This project, supported by Green Matters, a civic organization dedicated to environmental justice including climate issues, officially ran through Sunday, but Torus plans to continue the project afterward.

Founded in December 2023 by Zikang Jiang, a high school student at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, Torus focuses on eco-friendly campaigns, aiming to optimize food waste management by providing a platform that specializes in food waste-related information through artificial intelligence-based matching technology.

The Torus team consists of nine members: Jiang and his friends Kevin Chung, Ethan Zhu, Gianco Iasiello, Shailen Zimmerman, Andrew Yang, Matthew Gao, Anthony Woo and Aryan Kumar.

Jiang explained that he was motivated to start Torus after realizing that despite the many existing solutions, the US still wastes 33 percent of all food produced, while 1 in 8 Americans suffer from food insecurity.

"At that moment, I began brainstorming potential solutions with my friends and family, trying to create a novel solution to reduce food waste, whether it was to increase shelf life, reduce plate waste or improve composting. However, all our ideas already existed, yet food waste was obviously a problem," Jiang said. "So I realized that connecting existing food waste solutions with those generating food waste would be the most effective approach."

Currently, Torus has 121 client partners and connects its program with five different composting companies in New Jersey. Looking ahead, Jiang said his team plans to offer incentives to invite third-party drivers, similar to Uber’s business model, to pick up food waste.

In addition, by the end of this summer Torus aims to introduce a subscription program where customers can sponsor meals for those in need using the food waste handling service. The company has already enrolled 13 households in the paid program.

"We hope to give back to the community and help address hunger, so we will structure our system so that a significant portion of the service fee can be donated to charities to provide meals for those in need," Jiang said.