To think that there are different parts of the world plagued with ‘food scarcity’ problems when there is an average of about 63 billion tons of food that goes to waste in the United States every single year, is quite mind boggling to say the least.
The agricultural industry, restaurants, consumers and retailers are all contributors to this pressing issue of food waste, which is costing stakeholders around $218 billion annually for processes of growing, shipping and disposing of uneaten food. The economic impact of this multi-billion dollar problem is at the core of concern for growers and retailers who are looking for a solution. A digital marketplace is projected to alleviate this burden as well as create a more sustainable outcome by reducing the carbon footprint of many supply chains.
A better and more direct connection to the journey of food items from farm to table, for both growers and retailers through the implementation of track and trace technology will have a significant impact on food waste reduction, and correct inefficiencies in the market. By creating and employing this solution for the fresh produce industry, our technology inadvertently opens the door to less food waste. Accessing and obtaining critical produce information at every step of the farm to table journey can save food items from being discarded because of unmonitored problems that occur along the way. This will lead to less truck trips to unnecessary warehouses, less electricity consumed by coolers, and prolonged shelf lives through obtaining produce at optimal freshness at the store, restaurant and consumer level.
A large part of this problem is arguably the result of much technological inefficiency in projection. The aim is to eventually reach a place where produce is grown with absolute minimal surplus – exerting the application of the Japanese economic value of the just-in-time methodology. The Environmental Protection Agency advises changes to be implemented at each level of the supply chain in order to cut down on food waste at a national level.
Food waste has many different dimensions for growers and retailers at different points of the supply chain. For growers, harvesting their most valuable crop is of course what is of most importance. A large part of this is the way a certain fruit or vegetable may visually appear; if it does not look appealing or is ‘ugly’ then it is simply left out of the pile. Oftentimes if the market price of particular produce does not pertain to the many hidden costs of harvesting, packing, packaging, freight and even marketing – then growers will decide that the crop remains unharvested. Food is also discarded at the packing house if it is deemed ‘too tight’, usually a result of having been in the cooler for a prolonged period of time. The journey for many food items cuts off before even making it to the retail stage of the supply chain – much of which can be avoided through track and trace visibility into environment conditions, creating the possibility for correction.
When it comes to food waste for retailers, the problem gets a little more complex purely because there are so many more stages and processes involved, therefore presenting itself as a much bigger point of concern. According to a report by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, it is at the retail and consumer level where more than half of all food wastage occurs. There are many opportunities for produce to be damaged during the processes of shipping and being handled and then enduring the up and down of environment temperatures, which may not always be correctly monitored. Tracking and obtaining data into each process with an available functionality to control these variants will allow for a significant number of food items to be saved from the waste pile.
While this problem racks up its monetary pressure, a problem that is running parallel is the negative contribution to the environment from the agricultural carbon footprint. All the resources used to grow food, ship and store it take a drastic toll on the environment. The food supply chain holds many different capacities of equipment, from farm equipment to packing houses and cooler electricity, as well as transportation vehicles to move produce from fields to packing houses to distribution centers to stores – all of which contribute a significant impact on the environment. Data found in a study of multiple global reports by Move For Hunger, attributes over 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions to agricultural activities; and measures the carbon footprint of food waste to a substantial 7% of all global emissions. Cutting down on food waste will directly cut down on the release of these emissions.
Through digitizing insights and making valuable information on produce throughout the supply chain accessible, we create room for growers and buyers to re strategize their trading communication process; in effect successfully cutting out any unnecessary waste and emissions in the processes of sale and delivery.
We believe in the value of sustainability, and a conscientious approach to the problem. Transcending older age processes through the advent of technology by making the farm to table journey more efficient and ethical is a step we need to immediately take, not only as players in this industry, but also as environmentally conscious citizens of the world.