It is inconceivable to think that while there are so many people going hungry in other parts of the world, there are countries that throw away a massive amount of food. In the US alone, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that food waste reaches 40%, all of which unfortunately end up in landfills creating huge quantities of methane gas.
The negative impact it has on the environment is only one of the many reasons why people have begun taking action against the amplifying wastage. The awareness on food waste has become more widespread, pulling together people from different lines of expertise to work on the same goal of significantly minimizing, if not possibly totally eliminating, the problem this 2018. The food waste in the US alone costs the country $161 billion every year.
But what really is the reason why people throw away food? At home, people are compelled to throw away food in containers that don’t look fresh anymore, or ones they think they have kept for too long, regardless of the expiry date. Some people also flip boxes and tend to throw away food that are nearing the expiry date. On the commercial level, the quality control department of restaurants and supermarkets throw away food that don’t serve their aesthetic purpose anymore. Safety is a huge concern so most restaurants keep only “what’s fresh”.
Technology to the Rescue
There are several large companies that have Bold Ideas on how to eliminate food waste. They involve technology to ensure that there is proper storage and climate control for perishable food to maximize their shelf life and safety for consumers.
A Swiss team from Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology is developing sensors that can monitor the status of the fruit while in transit from the farm going to the store. These sensors are designed to record the full experience of the fruit so that they can be delivered in the same composition and size. They also give constant feedback regarding the temperature inside the container to ensure that these miniscule temperature changes don’t affect the fruit’s ripening speed. This will ensure that the produce gets to the store in their freshest state and will maximize the time before they become overripe as this is a big factor for food waste.
The food giant Cargill is looking at blockchain technology to aid in tracking turkeys from the farm all the way to market so that both the consumer and the staff have better understanding of the status of the bird. Right now, the endeavor is still small but it does provide some insight and interesting info on how we can store our food products better.
Verizon’s Intelligent Track and Trace allows for the proper tracking of inventory, like fresh seafood, each step of the way as it moves through the supply chain. Using an advanced tracking platform, a restaurant or grocery chain could know the status and condition of goods in transit using near real-time data and status alerts.
There are other companies instigating tech advancements that will address the looming problem in food waste. Here are a few of them:
Copia – It works as a redistribution process between surplus and people in need. Recipients of the company are after-school program, shelters and nonprofit organizations.
BT9 XSENSE – It monitors and analyzes the condition of perishable goods in real-time and provides quality data so there is continuous information given online.
Edipeel – Apeel Sciences engineered a food surface that’s invisible. The edible and tasteless skin-like barrier protects the produce from oxidation and transpiration, thus keeping the food fresh longer.
Wakati – In lieu of a cooling system, the company created a solution that uses hydration to preserve food. It’s a stand-alone, solar-powered device that uses as little as one liter of water a week. This system allows for longer travel time without produce wilting away.
Gebni – It utilizes algorithm to lower prices for produce not in demand to encourage sales. It has low-income customers in mind, so it limits the wastage of food by providing them to a specific market.
Other companies with the same intention include Small Robot Company, a British start-up that combines AI technology and robotics to make a digitized version of the field. It aims to perform precision farming, and believe that the use of such technology will decrease the usage of chemicals. Small Robot estimates a 90% drop on both energy and chemical use.
Another Swiss team from startup company ebeam Technologies is using electron beams to sanitize dry food crops. One of the most important parts of this tech is that they are sanitizing the food without damaging it so as not to decrease the quality of the food item especially the essential components such as oils and volatile compounds.
Food technology developments encompass everything from seeds, new food types, food processing and post-harvest technology. The importance of food has risen and priority is being given to keeping food fresh when they get to the table.