AMES, Iowa — Food loss and waste is a global problem that negatively impacts the bottom line of businesses and farmers, wastes limited resources and damages the environment. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), The Rockefeller Foundation and Iowa State University today launched the Consortium for Innovation in Post-Harvest Loss and Food Waste Reduction at the 2019 Iowa International Outreach Symposium.
Through this consortium, food loss and waste thought leaders and experts from across the globe will work in tandem with industry and nonprofit organizations to address social, economic and environmental impacts from food loss and waste.
“Feeding a growing global population demands innovation at all levels — from planting to processing to consumption. This consortium will help farmers across the globe use technology to continue using resources efficiently,” said Sally Rockey, FFAR’s executive director. “Optimizing food production practices is critical for ensuring that farmers are profitable, food is plentiful and accessible, and the environment is preserved.”
Due to the volume of food that is moved globally, food loss and waste affects producers, manufacturers, distributors and end-users. More than 40% of fruits and vegetables in developing regions spoil before they can be consumed. These goods include mangoes, avocadoes, pineapples, cocoa and bananas, many of which are exported to the United States.
This loss negatively impacts the bottom line for farmers, who are not compensated for their products. Consumers then don’t have access to these popular foods. Additionally, food waste forces farmers to use precious natural resources producing food that either never makes it to the supermarket or is otherwise thrown out by consumers due to quality issues, creating a significant drain on environmental resources.
“Our consortium approach will build academic and entrepreneurial capacity of the next generation by engaging researchers and students in multi-national, multi-disciplinary teams in the project identification, planning, and execution phases together with professionals from the private and public sectors,” said Dirk Maier, the consortium director and a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at Iowa State, where the consortium will be located.
In 2016, The Rockefeller Foundation launched the YieldWise Initiative aimed at reducing both food loss in developing nations like Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania, and food waste in developed markets like the United States. In sub-Saharan Africa, YieldWise provides farmers with access to segmented markets, technologies and solutions that curb preventable crop loss and facilitates training that helps them solidify buyer agreements with markets in African communities.
“To nourish, sustainably, nearly 10 billion people by 2050, we must implement a menu of solutions that simultaneously shift diets toward plant-based foods, close the yield gap, and reduce food loss and waste,” said Rafael Flor, director, Food, The Rockefeller Foundation. “This is paramount to meeting both the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 12. Failing to reduce food loss and waste will make the challenge of achieving a sustainable food future significantly more difficult.”
Food loss and waste highlights the inefficiencies in our food system. According to the FAO, nearly 1.3 billion tons of food — costing roughly $940 billion — are either lost or wasted yearly, generating about 8% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. Food is lost more at the consumption stage in higher-income countries, while more food is lost at handling and storage stages in lower-income regions.
The consortium will work collaboratively to develop a scalable approach for adoption of the YieldWise model and provide farmers with cost-effective strategies and technologies that link their crop supply to the market demand. This will allow farmers to gain more value from their crops and become more profitable, while also stimulating local economic growth and improving the resiliency of rural communities.
FFAR is contributing $2.78 million for this three-year project, which partner organizations from around the world are matching for a $5.56 million project budget. Participating institutions include The Rockefeller Foundation, Iowa State University, USA; University of Maryland, USA; Wageningen University and Research, Netherlands; Zamorano University, Honduras; University of São Paulo, Brazil; Stellenbosch University, South Africa; University of Nairobi, Kenya; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana; and the Volcani Center, Israel.
— Iowa State University
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