The Importance of Reducing Food Waste.
The earth’s population is estimated to hit 9.1 billion around the year 2050 with Nigeria to be Africa’s most populous country with 390 million inhabitants. Food production will need to increase by 70% to feed the masses, however producing more is not the only answer. With 1.3 billion tons of food ending up in landfills every year and up to 40 percent of that food waste is produced by developing countries. reducing current levels of food waste is top on the agenda for industry leaders.
In developed countries, at the retail level, large quantities of food are wasted due to quality standards that over-emphasize appearance. Consumers in rich countries are generally encouraged to buy more food than they need and fail to plan their food purchases properly.
In developing countries, the problem is essentially due to inadequate harvest techniques, poor post-harvest management, lack of suitable infrastructure, processing and packaging, lack of marketing information. It’s the responsibility of everyone involved in the food supply chain to examine their roles and support technology that promotes sustainability and reduce waste wherever possible. Let’s take a look at examples of how technology is making a difference across the food supply chain.
Keeping produce fresh
The lack of access to cold chain technology is one of the reasons food waste is abundant in tropical areas. For example, even though Nigeria is the second leading producer of tomatoes in Africa, it holds just a small percent of the world’s market. Some of this gap can be attributed to the lack of refrigeration and reliable energy sources. By providing a better system of refrigeration, food loss would be cut by 25 percent.
Improving packaging to maintain the freshness of products during transportation and decreasing the number of insects would also greatly reduce food waste. An example of such technology is the Modified Atmosphere Packaging. This technology increases freshness by substituting the atmosphere within the packaging system with a protective gas mix, usually consisting of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen.
Also, smart sensors and Ethanol reducers are been used to reduce waste at the grocer. FreshSurety has developed a low-cost sensor that monitors freshness conditions from anywhere in the supply chain and produces real-time information that offers complete transparency about the quality of produce from the farm to the shelves. It’s Fresh! offers a wide variety of fresh filters that absorb the ethanol gasses around the produce, keeping it fresher for longer.
Increasing communication during the transport chain increases overall product awareness. With technology, it is possible to identify problems in the transportation process and allows for supply-chain management to improve their system.
Recycling of waste food
Technologies have been created to convert food waste into renewable sources of energy. This is done through the use of anaerobic digesters that break down the waste into large amounts of carbon which can then be converted into biogases or organic fertilizers. This process preserves the nutrients from the food and recycles the nutrients back into the farming system as a clean energy source.
The power of the internet is an invaluable weapon in the battle to reduce food waste. A well-executed social media awareness campaign gone viral can make all the difference. The Inglorious Fruits and Vegetable campaign is an example of how French grocer Intermarche, turned ugly and otherwise unworthy produce into cash. The grocery chain took misshaped produce that would have normally been discarded, and sold them at discounted prices or refashioned them into branded soups and juices. By making off-grade produce “cool again”, Intermarche experienced immediate success and sold 1.2 tons of produce per store, in the first two days.