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Using innovation to improve current infrastructure

As well as utilizing IoT, the supply chain can also use digitalization to help improve the infrastructure it currently has in place.

Cold chain plays a huge role in the food industry creating waste, mainly due to poor infrastructure – in India, for example, $14bn is lost every year through poor cold chain facilities. However, implementing innovative and efficient systems can go a long way towards addressing the food waste issue – particularly in developing markets. By deploying more advanced cold chain solutions within the emerging markets, which share the data across the supply chain through IoT, it could prevent large-scale food loss and waste.

The conditions can also change in cold storage, and temperature affects many sorting technologies, so the ability to link cold storage sensors to packing equipment can enhance performance.

But this is nonexistent in many emerging markets, creating poor food storage and transportation conditions early in the value chain that lead to large-scale food loss. Deploying more-advanced supply chain solutions — including cold chain in developing markets — could reduce the problem by $150 billion annually.

Investing in efficient sorting and grading systems is a key approach in helping the supply chain reduce the food waste created earlier in the supply chain.

We want to know everything about the produce. Everything from the weight and size through to the external properties and defects, and even the internal chemical composition to predict ripeness and longevity. But there are only two points when you can gather information on individual pieces of fruit: when it’s picked and when it is sorted. These are the critical data acquisition points.

KPIs need to be based around understanding the types of defect types and classes/grades per batch, to help create a complete map and total view of the produce. This, in turn, can help build up big data, meaning every batch gives you new insights and allows you to build a bigger picture, creating the ability to make even more informed data-driven decisions. Where appropriate, data can be shared and augmented to ‘context’, such as weather data or geotagging.

The final step is to layer artificial intelligence to start to understand previously unseen patterns and even more efficient ways of working. 

Although these KPIs tend not to be designed to help limit the amount of waste produce, utilizing sorting and grading technology can automatically support a waste sensitive environment by recovering any produce and reusing it for another purpose, such as cattle feed or pet food. This means that rather than creating food waste, an alternative, more suitable use is found. Lower quality fruits can be used for juices or pulped to become products such as guacamole or apple source, whilst starches can be used for medical purposes. All of these help us reduce waste and put the lower quality produce to better use.

Going digital to fight food waste

With the ever-rising stats around food waste, now is the time for the industry to adopt a more digitalized approach across the supply chain. Implementing integrated and innovative systems will allow all key stakeholders, from field to fork, to efficiently manage food and reduce the risk of waste at loss.

Digitalization won’t just help from a sustainability aspect, but also help businesses drive their own profitability by improving processes and efficiencies. It becomes the answer to the push-pull paradox for commercial benefit and combating global food waste.