Food Waste Technology Improves
Food waste has become a hot topic today, and reasonably so. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), about 66,500 acres of produce are left in farm fields each year. As traditional distribution systems and supermarkets are slow to address the food waste epidemic, there is growing momentum among a range of new companies to decrease waste by reshaping the food system itself. New start-ups focusing on mitigating food waste at the farm level are disrupting the conventional, large-scale food system by implementing regional food system models, developing new markets for produce to incentivise farmers to harvest their entire crop and fostering awareness among consumers as they demand increased transparency in the food system. This upcoming generation of start-up companies sees our huge food waste problem as an opportunity to apply technology-based solutions to food production, distribution and consumption.
Throughout the supply chain, from initial agricultural production to final household consumption, 40% of food is lost or wasted in the United States. That adds up to more than $200 billion lost annually. An increase in awareness, after a landmark report by the Natural Resources Defense Council in 2012, has educated consumers, government officials and food industry leaders about the massive economic losses and environmental problems caused by waste in our food system. Americans produce nearly twice the number of calories we need, yet millions of Americans don’t get enough to eat. So why are farmers using more water, chemicals and labour resources only to leave perfectly edible and nourishing produce completely unharvested? What can technology do to change this system of wasting perfectly edible food that is slightly off-size, off-color, a bit misshapen or overproduced?