Written by Riyana Razalee
As we wrap up the holiday season, a time where many of us break bread with our loved ones, there’s no better time to critically assess if we managed our food waste effectively or if we fell prey to the same practices as before.
Food Waste Keeps Piling Up
Before we do that though, it’s worth understanding the food waste journey over the years. Over the last five decades, the industrialization of agriculture in the US has enabled farmers to implement production efficiencies to drive down food costs. Today, U.S. consumers spend over 40 percent less of their disposable personal income on food than they did 55 years ago. As food costs have declined, consumers have become less concerned about food waste. At the same time, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, food portion sizes at restaurants have more than doubled since 1950.
Now, as cities continue to grow, a few other aspects will grow in tandem, namely:
- The constant need for availability and relatively low cost of food
- The higher incomes of city dwellers compared to rural areas
- The lower understanding of food production systems and their environmental impact (compounded by the lack of refrigerated storage in developing countries)
It’s not all doom and gloom though. The good news is that a lot of good work is already being done to guide stakeholders on how to handle food and repurpose food otherwise lost. Nevertheless, the current situation showcases the urgency of employing a closed loop agriculture system which will keep as much food as possible in the human consumption chain and help maintain a sustainable supply of good quality food. So, what other trends can help push this further?
Trend #1: Branded Produce Tying Themselves to Food Waste Reduction
Take the example of Petes, a hydroponic farm that has partnered with 1% For The Planet, pledging 1% of greenhouse fresh sales to the recycling partnership in an effort to help improve the recycling system. By doing this, they’re making it very clear what they stand for and how they’re attempting to fix the food loss problem. For B2C, Ikea’s in-home hydroponic system is a good example of an indirect indoor growing trend that will reduce food waste. Consumers will make a concerted effort to grow produce themselves, rather than leaving it forgotten in a crisper drawer, thus it's more likely to get eaten.
Trend #2: Community Stakeholders Growing Food in Small Spaces to Meet the Needs of Food Banks
With food banks, communities must be mindful of the demographics that are being served and what they will consume which essentially will reduce food waste because they’ll actually want to and know how to use the food that’s available to them. However, in order to achieve this, it needs quality work to be done on an individual level. Time and effort must go into understanding the communities that we participate in which will then equip us with better knowledge regarding the people who may benefit from these food banks. Soulfood Greenhouse is a prime example of this. They realized that the food bank close to them needed more vegetables, specifically tomatoes. Using their greenhouse, they were able to fill this gap and address actual market needs through innovation.
Trend #3: Usage of Agriculture Analytics to Cut Food Waste
When used effectively and ethically, agriculture analytics can cut food wastage by reducing mismatches in supply and demand. “Technology is the force multiplier that helps both the people who grow the food and the people who eat it,” says Andre Zhu, senior vice president of Pinduoduo. Agri analytics also allows us to take food waste and turn it into organic hydroponic nutrients, recirculating it within the food system. At Re-Nuble, this is very much part of our technology which has enabled us to play a part in the reduction of food waste while recirculating food back into the system in a healthy and ethical manner. Let's collaborate.