Innovations in food loss and waste

One of the problems we are exploring for this Impact Roadmap is food loss and waste. These happen along the value chain for a variety of reasons. As we all know, plastic bags are used as one way to store produce and maintain its quality for longer. But, there are many negative effects to excessive use of plastic.

I came across innovations that try to naturally preserve vegetable and fruit products to maintain quality and freshness for days. Apeel is an example.

Check them out and tell us what you think! Is this a feasible solution? Are there any similar options out there being used? At what scale?

@dthomas, @RodomiroOrtiz, @ychen53, perhaps you have thoughts on this topic? Please share your ideas and insights with the community!

@Aubreymen, @rezaovissi, @ulazimy, you might have ideas on this topic as well. Are there more innovations in food loss and waste we should be aware of?

Lack of post-harvest processing and storage results into food shortage, poverty that leads to malnutrition among small holder farmers and poor-resourceful communities. Agri-products, fish and meat in India go through dramatic seasonal variations of price fluctuations too. During harvesting season, food products are available at very low cost. Therefore, **socio-economic technological interventions **helps to ensure nutritional food security, maintain dietary variations across year, overcome gender inequality, reduce poverty, post-harvest losses and food shortage problem.

On broader level, to store food products throughout the year, cold storage and dehydration are two technically possible alternatives. Cold storage needs high capital cost, continuous supply of electricity, various storage conditions for various food products and need to maintain food products at substantially lower temperature during storage time. It makes cold storages unsuitable for poor and rural communities having shortage of electricity, capital cost and skilled man-power.

Dehydration (drying) is relatively simple technology which can be practiced under open sky or by electrical and solar dryers. Dehydrated agri-animal products can be stored at room temperatures and used throughout the year. But, open sun drying can’t be practiced to dry all agri-animal products and suffers from issues of low nutritional product quality, Food microbial safety challenge colour-flavor loss, dust-insect contamination and 10-30% losses during drying.

Electrical dryers are complex, they need electricity and their operating cost is prohibitively high USD 0.2/kg for low value agri-animal products like fruit, vegetable and fish. Good solar dryers are complex, need electricity for fans, capital intensive and not designed in modular ways keeping women centric aspect.

The current scenario demands for technical intervention that is low capital cost, free of electricity, women centric modular design and easy to use that is aimed at converting post-harvest losses into value added products.

Solar Conduction Dryer (SCD) is a patented technology developed by the Indian organization-Science for Society (S4S Technologies), first decentralised food processing company and Institute of Chemical Technology (UDCT), based in Mumbai, India and tested under the guidance of National Institute of Nutrition (Government of India). SCD is the solar powered food dehydration unit that is overcoming loss and waste challenges by providing household level solar food dehydrator.
Solar dehydration increases shelf life of perishable fruits and vegetables from few days to one year, saving post harvest losses. SCD works with zero operating cost and retains 46% more nutrients than industrial dryers. The technology can dehydrate a range of vegetables, fruits, spices and marine products.
Farmers use SCD to dehydrate range of fruits, vegetables at farm level which they use for own consumption and S4S buys back the surplus dehydrated produce from farmers, processes and supplies them both to processors and end consumers via supermarkets and online platforms like Amazon.

S4S that targets worldwide market of USD 58 billion market of dehydrated products. On the other hand, S4S’s intervention increases farmers profit by 50-200%, reduces farm level post-harvest losses from average 25% to 5% and improves haemoglobin and nutrition level of farmer families by 36%.

@Frank1701, @ksallam, @GinaQuattrochi, are you aware of any other innovations to prevent food loss and waste? Or maybe you have ideas that haven’t been tried yet?

The Cool Farm Tool will be introducing a new module that helps track food loss and waste for smallholder farmers. It’s not an innovation but a necessary tool to incentives farmers to reduce waste and allow companies to put a value on the lost food. The module will also connect to other metrics.

Hello, we all try to find the answer on what to do with the food waste and loss and related to farming. I am really concerned about food waste and loss from processed food manufacturing. As a consultant visiting lots of manufacturing sites where can see lots of waste from the processes and in most cases they do not know what to do and sending it to farms or just dumping it. Really something my eyes can’t see and accept. I am always tempted to jump into asking questions on the processes, ingredients, overall manufacturing as the sometimes it could be very easy just to review what you are doing today and have fresh sets of eyes on what you can do differently to improve and reduce the waste. We They need to look why the waste is created. Yes, they all are busy with making products for customers and make a profit, but isn’t this helping company with their bottom line to make even bigger profit (if we talk about money not the impact to our land and its benefit not to create waste). Sometimes the logic doesn’t apply. There is always the solution to look at the processes in order to reduce the waste at the end and stop dumping good food into the landfill. In the end, they do not know what they do not know and sometimes it is very sad as they do now want to know if talking especially about some individuals in such organisations. We are a big advocate of helping such companies, manufacturers, to review the processes and help to stop creating the waste. Always helps to apply fresh different sets of eyes if they want or area ware of the problem. Apology if this comment is not about the app or tool, but it is about how easy might be to become aware that we can stop creating the waste by reviewing how we act today. Happy to help!

Thank you for sharing your insights, @ksampson and @J_D!

It sounds like measuring waste is a good first step toward reducing it. If companies actually realize how much food, i.e., value, they’re throwing away, they might do something about it.

@NickOttens it is as I mentioned they do not know what they do not know or worst case is they do not want to know and easier for some of them to put into the product costs which is a shame. There is a way to address it and we are trying with every client we work with but I am sure there is a big opportunity globally to say - look at your processes and check the steps and why you create the waste. Simple open question WHY and then get passionate staff to jump on it. Sometimes there is not any passionate staff and is about to set the priorities and etc. Might be for bigger discussion under “processed food and manufacturing food waste reduction”

Worth reading @SteveK8’s comment in the Dynamic pricing to prevent food waste discussion on how more local production could both prevent waste and improve quality for consumers.

I’d like to share some random thoughts on the topic of waste that come to mind.

I look at a $4 bag of spinach and wonder how much did the fertilizer that goes into producing it cost? Was it less than 10%, maybe 5%? I wonder how much energy went into making the bag and the cardboard box it came in, or into trucking it across the country. Is any of that considered waste?

The produce department of the grocery store where I work part-time has two small dumpsters that we throw maybe a quarter to a third of our compostable material into. It then gets hauled to a compost site hundreds of miles away in Ohio. The other two-thirds of our ‘waste’ is tossed into the trash. It could easily be segregated and composted as well but there’s resistance from the staff who are already over-worked.

None of the waste we generate in the produce department is fit for human consumption. Very little would be fit for animals. However, we do generate a good deal of waste.

I can only speculate on why the material gets hauled hundreds of miles away for composting. Perhaps someone far away knows the value of good compost and is willing to pay for it. Perhaps someday there will be local growers willing to take it.

When properly composted and used to feed crops it isn’t waste; it’s food for worms that will make high-quality fertilizer of it.

An abundance of food implies excess. Abundance means more than is needed, which typically will generate some ‘waste’. When I harvested about 150 pounds of tomatoes from a single vine I had more than I needed and gave plenty away, and some went into the compost pile and got fed to fruit trees, shrubs, and flowers in subsequent years.

Capturing nutrient runoff from compost bins, gardens, and farms and sending it back to the compost, garden or farm gives another opportunity for plants to absorb it.

Labeling fresh produce with harvest and expiration dates will drive attention and buying habits towards the harvest date, which means the food will last longer once it gets home, giving buyers more time to consume it and thereby generate less waste.

Just saw this on an edible coating for food…