The problem of food waste is a lot bigger than you think, but companies around the world are trying to combat it.
Food waste is a huge issue not just because of the implications it has on the economy that wastes money on food that will be thrown out but because of its massive effect on climate change and the environment. When food goes continuously wasted, it means that the areas that grow or produce the food may be making more money, but also that their land is being unnecessarily ravaged to produce more and more crops for industries that will later just dispose of the food.
While it’s already difficult for agricultural areas to keep up with the demands of a growing world population, add the perpetual food waste that coincides with this growth and you have a problem that requires fast solutions. This issue contributes to climate change in a number of ways, first by the increasing demand on lands that leads to desertification and last by increasing the amount of waste in landfills.
As nations struggle to come up with ways to combat this ever-growing food waste, startup companies are developing innovative solutions, some of which were presented at a conference in Milan earlier this month called Seeds and Chips. Thankfully, some of these solutions are not only practical but also very cool, and will hopefully draw in both consumers and businesses.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama spoke at the conference and pointed to innovation as a key for combatting climate change, saying that it would help achieve “a sustainable food future,” which includes reducing the hunger crises facing parts of the world today.
“Part of this is also going to be wasting less food… especially when nearly 800 million men, women and children worldwide face the injustice of chronic hunger and malnutrition,” he added.
One idea that gained a lot of attention is Coffee Flour, which uses the cherry that’s extracted and discarded by the billions each year from harvesting coffee beans and turns it into flour. This invention is huge, because as the coffee industry becomes increasingly unstable and continues to ruin more lands as small growers expand their farms. Coffee Flour offers a solution by using the cherries to make flour, which can increase sustainability, reduce cherries that build up in streams and leads to greenhouse gases, support workers at the bottom of the coffee industry, and exponentially increase jobs to supply this new market with product. Watch the video below to find out how they’re doing it and why it’s awesome.
Another innovation that is taking off comes in the form of flour as well, but this time it’s made from beer—kind of. The company, called RISE, is a startup in Brooklyn that uses spent barley, a by-product of beer production, and turning it into flour that takes on the aroma and taste of the original brew. They locally source the spent grains, which have a great fiber and protein content, while being low in calories, and intend to sell the flour in bulk to bakeries and other places that need flour for their food, such as pizza joints.
One huge issue that the food industry faces today is the short shelf-life of fruits, which often travel across the world for days after being harvested just to arrive at the facility where it will be sold and not eaten for many days after the purchase date. Rotting produce makes up a large portion of what goes to the landfills everyday, and a simple solution is to find a way to prolong the shelf life of produce so that less is thrown away, which is exactly what Emiliano Gentilini has accomplished with his all-natural pesticide, Demetra. Italian biotechnology start-up Green Code, Demetra is made up exclusively of plant extracts and used post-harvest on fruit. It considerably extends the shelf-life of fruits by breaking down the onset of diseases and rot by up to 90%. With the treatment, you can also store the fruit at higher temps and cut energy consumption and emissions of pollutants associated with cold storage by up to 30% and 50%, respectively.
Winnow takes on a more general approach to cutting food waste by working with commercial chefs to help determine just how much of each product is disposed of on a daily basis using a smart scale and a tablet. Chefs weigh what they are throwing away everyday, which is recorded and used to develop detailed reports of what chefs can cut out by ordering less when it comes to ordering inventory. Instead of aiming to take care of the waste after it has been discarded, Winnow aims at making sure the waste never happens. Overall, they say they’ve helped businesses cut 8% of food costs and reduce half of all food waste.
These solutions are awesome and are living proof that ideas about how to cut food waste and better the world in general are still out there, untapped, and coming to life each year. Visit the different websites for these companies (linked above when mentioned) to find out how you can buy their products or where they source from.