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ShopHero: Nudges Towards Sustainable Purchasing


Looking back on the history of food production, recent decades have brought many improvements in the agricultural sector. But this progress has come with costs, especially for the environment. Soil degradation, water scarcity, biodiversity loss, decreasing fish stock, and forest coverage endanger the future fertility of our planet. Agriculture is responsible for 80 % of global deforestation and uses up to 70 % of freshwater. Additionally, our food systems release 29 % of the global greenhouse gas (United Nations, 2019). At the same time, roughly one-third of all food quantities produced for human consumption is either lost or wasted every year (FAO, 2011). This is another, significant but most of all preventable environmental strain.

In 2015, Switzerland has committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Thereby, our country requires to halve the per capita food waste at the retail and consumer level, to improve the education of climate change mitigation, adaption, and impact reduction as well as to promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems (United Nations, 2015).

Aiming to overcome these challenges, a research collaboration between the Auto-ID Lab, the University of Zurich, and the Zürcher Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften ZHAW, called ShopHero, was established.


ShopHero plans to contribute to more transparency regarding sustainability aspects within the food supply chain and better quantification of households’ food waste. Artificial intelligence is used to process automatically-collected digital receipts from grocery purchases to estimate households’ food waste allowing us to gain new insights. Thereby, ShopHero proposes a novel, scalable and tailored approach for customers to monitor the sustainability of their purchases and grocery-related drivers of food. Simultaneously, through our interventions, we identify aspects driving the motivation to buy more sustainable products and to reduce food waste.

The project aims to contribute to the largest digital receipt-based diet panel globally and to assess this novel approach’s accuracy, scalability, efficacy, and ability to reach previously uninvolved users, an important prerequisite in the mitigation of climate change.

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