Eliminating Food Waste with Digital Technologies
Many digital technologies are being developed to help reduce food waste from the farmers to the consumers.
According to the United Nations, over 17 of total global food production is wasted. Households waste 11 percent of food, while the food service industry and retail waste 5 and 2 percent, respectively. 14 percent of food is lost between harvest and retail, all before it even reaches the customer. Food can be destroyed during transportation, not purchased at the supermarket or eaten at a restaurant, or thrown away by the consumer. Additionally, wasted food is usually thrown into the landfill, where anaerobic decomposition creates methane, accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, and is one of the top contributors to these gases.
Technologies are being developed to help make food systems more sustainable and to reduce food waste. TATA Consultancy Services have developed a way to use digital twin technologies to monitor and estimate the freshness of food in real-time. The system uses sensors which monitor and predict the food quality at every stage of the supply chain. This technology is also used to predict the ideal ripening duration of temperature-sensitive fruits by prompting variations in environmental conditions.
The technology is also used to predict the shelf life of potatoes for different supply chain scenarios. This includes understanding whether to use potatoes to make chips or fries or to sell them whole at the grocery store. The digital twin technology can predict the shelf life for the different varieties of potatoes at different environmental conditions for different applications, including weight loss, sprouting, or change in sugar content.
From a customer’s perspective, several phone applications are available to help reduce food waste even further. The Too Good To Go app allows customers to purchase “Surprise Bags” of leftover foods from local restaurants, bakeries and grocery stores. This is food that hasn’t sold on time. Over 180,000 business offer these “Surprise Bags.” The Misfit Market app sells oddly shaped fruits and vegetables at 30-50% less than the retail price. Customers can choose from various primarily certified organic and non-GMO products, which are mailed to them in subscription boxes. The Flashfood app allows customers to buy expiring food from local grocery stores at reduced prices. The app operates in over 1,550 retail locations across Canada and the US and has diverted over 65 million pounds of food from the landfill.
These technologies are significant in reducing food waste across the globe. These technologies will also help address some of the global challenges we experience every day. By reducing food loss and waste, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, help minimize food insecurity and availability, and keep the cost of food down.