How Technology is Eliminating Food Waste in the Supply Chain: Agriculture
Every year, 1.3 billion tons of food is thrown away worldwide. That’s one third of the food supply. What’s interesting, is that food spoils at different points in the product lifecycle depending on the region. For low-income countries, the majority of food waste comes from the agriculture and post-harvest phase of the lifecycle. Poor technology and lack of infrastructure in place are the main culprits of food waste in these regions. Very little is lost at the consumer stage.
On the opposite end, medium- and high-income countries waste significantly more at the consumer and less during the harvest and processing stages. Bulk purchases, poor planning, impulsive purchases, and overly cautious “expiration” dates, account for a great deal of waste in developed nations.
The United Nations says that to feed the future population, reducing waste is more important that growing more food. Understanding where food goes to waste and why, sets us up to better tackle the industry with problem solving solutions, which lead to saved time, money, resources, and reduces waste.
Precision Agriculture is a farming management concept that uses soil sensoring, mounted crop sensors, drones, satellite imagery, self-moving tractors and sprayers, and yield monitoring systems to gather data about farming conditions (eg. Soil conditions, weather, pests). This data allows farmers a great deal of transparency with their crops, and in turn enhances productivity, quality, and yield.
With soil monitoring, farmers can specify what parts of the fields need treatment, (either water or fertilizer) and which do not. This allows farmers have full visibility of water penetration levels. They can monitor what areas have too much or too little water and adjust their irrigation schedule accordingly. This alone can lead to bigger yields and save on water and crop waste. While precision farming is the future of sustainable farming, the technology is expensive and smaller operations struggle to afford to launch full on precision agricultural systems. Not all is lost for the small scale farmer though. As with all technology, as awareness grows in the industry and more operations invest in new technology, costs will drop.
Mobile Technology and Infrastructure Reducing Waste
Significant progress is being made in Africa with the promotion of new digital applications through mobile devices. Esoko provides registered farmers with crop tips in local languages, weather updates, market price information, and links buyers with sellers via mobile device. The World Food Programme (WFP) has also helped reduce waste in Uganda by introducing affordable grain silos. The silos alone have improved overall storage infrastructure, and quality of life in the region.
The solution for reducing food waste on the farm is not clear cut for every region. Different nations face different needs, and therefore require different approaches. There are unlimited opportunities for agricultural investors to contribute to the cause and fight waste in the agricultural sector.
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