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New Technologies Address Food Waste That Occurs Upstream

New technologies address food waste that occurs upstream. According to data from ReFED, a nonprofit organization based in New York dedicated to reducing food waste, more than a third of the 229 million tons of food that was available in the United States in 2019 went unsold or uneaten. The amount of food wasted annually is estimated to be close to 9 billion meals, or 2% of the GDP of the nation.

Food waste accounts for 14% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, according to Jackie Suggitt, director of capital, innovation, and engagement at ReFED. It accounts for more than 14% of our freshwater consumption, 18% of our cropland use, and 25% of landfill inputs.

From an economic perspective, food waste costs the nation close to $400 billion every year. Consumers bear a large portion of this expense, but the value of food industry waste is estimated to be $250 billion.

According to Ms. Suggitt, "there is a very clear and quantifiable lack of return on investment, unlike many sustainability topics." Sadly, food waste has simply been accepted as a fact of doing business.

Consumer-facing businesses waste about 23 million tons of food annually, and consumers throw away an additional 30 million tons of food. Although grocery stores, restaurant owners, and consumers are frequently at the center of waste mitigation efforts, upstream stakeholders also have a role to play. Before it reaches stores and restaurants, nearly 30 million tons of food are lost.

Food safety and shelf life:

Since most farmers find it unrealistic to harvest every bit of their crop due to low market prices and high labor costs, food waste starts at the production level. According to ReFED, agriculture produces 16.7 million tons of excess produce each year, of which almost 14% is still in the field after harvest.

According to Larry Clarke, CEO of Saint Louis-based NanoGuard Technologies, a food safety and waste mitigation startup, "For farmers, knowing what the demand will be is almost an impossibility." Finding a way to use the excess produce they produce can help reduce waste, but you have to keep those foods stable long enough to use them or process them.

Through a focus on food safety, NanoGuard is addressing food waste. It created a method to lessen crop waste brought on by mycotoxins, dangerous substances produced as a result of subpar growing or harvesting conditions.

Reactive gases are used in the company's high atmospheric cold plasma technology to decontaminate specialty crops like peanuts and almonds as well as staple crops like wheat and corn. It circulates cold air over an object to eliminate mycotoxins and other pathogens, assisting farmers in selling their produce at a higher price.

Mr. Clarke stated, "A lot of money is being spent for a marginal increase in productivity, yet we are losing so much of what is currently produced. We are concentrating on preserving the yields we currently have rather than attempting to achieve higher yields.

The technology used by NanoGuard also reduces pathogens and microbes on meat and produce. Treatment of food early in the supply chain, ideally right after harvesting, lessens the impact of microbes and delays premature spoilage as food travels from the field to the finished product or produce aisle.

Products are less likely to be wasted if they can be kept safe and fresh for a longer period of time, according to Mr. Clarke.

The technology also eliminates fruit and vegetable blemishes, which are a major cause of food waste throughout the supply chain. On farms, in processing facilities, and in wholesale distribution centers, imperfect items are discarded as waste along with surplus items and those with unusual shape or color.

Businesses like Misfits Market, Full Harvest, and others prevent surplus and flawed produce from ending up in landfills by selling it directly to consumers or through business-to-business channels. According to ReFED, reducing flaws and stepping up efforts to save damaged produce could prevent the loss of nearly 3 million tons of food, or $5 billion annually.

Additionally addressing the twin issues of food waste and food safety are edible coatings. A plant-based coating made of edible lipids is available from Apeel Sciences in Goleta, California. It delays spoilage by halting water loss and oxidation. According to the company, fruits and vegetables with the coating have been shown to last two to three times longer and reduce waste for retailers by up to 50%.

The macro-level causes of food waste, according to Ms. Suggitt, are contamination and food safety if you zoom out and consider the entire supply chain. "Shelf life extension should and is receiving a lot of attention because you can see it at every level,"