Food waste has been an issue throughout the world for many years, but many experts in the industry weren't aware just how many potential ingredients for breakfast, lunch and dinner are being thrown away. Recent data compiled by the UK-based Institution of Mechanical Engineers found the world wastes roughly half its food, which equates to 4.4 billion tons of products that are produced each year and never eaten.
The waste stems from a number of different factors all over the world. The report demonstrated consumers who fail to eat food they buy in stores is one source, while inefficient means of transporting food is another reason why waste occurs. Delivery routing software could cut down the amount of food wasted while it is in transit, giving logistics managers the ability to more efficiently direct distribution. But, nonetheless, food waste is spiraling out of control and changes need to be made to support the growing population around the globe.
"By 2075, the United Nations' mid-range projection for global population growth predicts that human numbers will peak at about 9.5 billion people," according to the report. "This level of wastage is a tragedy that cannot continue if we are to succeed in the challenge of sustainably meeting our future food demands."
Waste is occurring everywhere
Many may believe countries without innovations that allow for improved farming are the only contributors to the massive amount of food waste. In fact, the report defined three principal population groups where waste is happening the most: fully developed, post industrial societies that have stable or declining populations; late-stage developing nations that are experiencing decreases in population and have older age groups; and newly developing countries such as those in Africa with high growth rates.
"Each group over the coming decades will need to address different issues surrounding food production, storage and transportation, as well as consumer expectations, if we are to continue to feed all our people," the report stated.
What needs to be done?
Recognizing that food waste is occurring is the first thing experts must do when trying to alleviate the problem. The food supply chain needs to undergo some serious changes to feed hungry people all over the world.
"In order to reduce the current levels of foodstuffs wastage, improvements must be made at all stages in the chain of production, distribution and storage, from the producer/farmer right into the consumer's home," according to the report.
Improving processes for farming, transportation and distribution of food is a start for cutting down the amount of food that is wasted annually. Other strategies include changing the ways people buy food, said CNN in reference to the report. Many food merchants provide incentives to buy in bulk, but consumers rarely will eat the quantities that they purchase.
Technology must play a role
It is no secret that the world of agriculture relies heavily on technology to increase productivity and efficiency, but now investors are looking to step up to the plate to help fix the problem with food waste, Forbes reported. Purchasing solutions such as sensors to check soil and nutrient levels and software to analyze data are just a few of the ways technological innovations could play a role in maximizing yields for farmers. Improving farming practices can reduce the amount of food waste that occurs during the production phase.
As technology use becomes more popular for farmers and their distributors, a recent piece for USA Today chronicled how Delaware-native Brandon Bonkis used satellites and microchips in what is called "precision farming." These innovations lead to higher yields, less waste, larger profits, a reduced environmental impact and higher growth.
"What we focus on makes the farming cycle more efficient, profitable and reduces the environmental impact," Dave Wharry, a farm tech guru and a specialist for farm equipment dealer Hoober, told the news source. "Precision ag is all about the right product, in the right amount, in the right place, at the right time."
Better farming tactics will often lead to farmers improving the overall supply chain of food production. Faster delivery of food to stores will lead to less waste and increased efficiency.