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The role of smarter food supply chains in curbing food waste

Wasted food means wasted resources as scarce water, fertiliser and energy used in production are wasted. There are also the opportunity costs of having to use a third more land for agriculture, leading to increased pressures on natural habitats such as rainforests.

UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12.3 aims to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food waste along production and supply chains by 2030.

While food waste per capita is higher in developed countries, in developing and emerging countries losses are connected to financial, managerial, and technical limitations in harvesting techniques, storage and cooling facilities in difficult climatic conditions, as well as infrastructure, packaging and marketing systems.

Supply chains

In the developed world this wastage is centred on the last stage in the supply chain; the end-consumer throwing away food that is purchased but not eaten.

According to WRAP (Waste Reduction Action Program), the annual food waste from UK households, hospitality & food service (HaFS), food manufacture, retail, and wholesale sectors in 2018 was around 9.5 million tonnes.

70% of this was intended to be consumed by people (30% being the ‘inedible parts’). This had a value of over £19 billion a year and would be associated with more than 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The Role of SMART technology in cutting waste?

Recent Internet of Things (IoT) technology research predicts that food wastage could be reduced by 20% by the year 2025 and by 50% in 2030 if supply chains can be outfitted with IoT sensors.

The company claims that IoT sensors providing real-time location and movement monitoring, along with temperature and humidity data would allow the tracking of the entire supply chain to identify and correct defects and inefficiencies.

Sensors can be deployed in a range of situations within the food chain, for example, inventory sensors can improve warehouse management, and SMART thermostats can help managers maintain the optimum storage conditions for food. The whole area is a hot bed for innovation.

SMART Food Bins

SMART food bins help monitor and record food waste which allows for better management, as restaurants can better match orders for specific ingredients to actual demand.

AI-powered bins have already been tested in several commercial kitchens in Wales, including 23 Ikea restaurants. The bins use a camera and smart scales to record which food items are being disposed of.

During initial testing, the bins learned to recognise which foods are being thrown away, with some assistance from kitchen staff to identify items from the menu.

Packaging

A recent study suggests packaging design plays a bigger role in reducing food waste than previously thought. Smart packaging provides quick, cheap, and efficient ways to monitor the environmental conditions of food in the supply chain.

There is a vast scope for innovation and application of smart packaging materials based on various types of polymer nanocomposites and nano-sensors for detecting the quality of the stored food based on various parameters like pH or fermentation and also to extend shelf life.

Recovery will provide opportunities for investors

SMART supply chains offer significant potential to reduce waste within the food chain and help limit the impact of the food industry on the environment.

As the economy recovers from the impact of Covid-19 upgrading food supply chains will provide significant opportunities for companies and investors in SMART technology.

Food waste consulting

Sustainable practices and efficient resource management is crucial to combatting food waste. With our comprehensive expertise in supply chain optimisation, sustainability and esg, and technology & innovation, Farrelly Mitchell is ideally positioned to assist governments and businesses in addressing these challenges.

Our consultants aim to enhance food security in developing regions and ensure that food supplies are managed more efficiently and sustainably. By leveraging our deep understanding of food and agribusiness, we support the development of innovative solutions to reduce food waste and build resilience in food systems against current and future disruptions. Our goal is to facilitate the transition towards more self-sufficient and sustainable food supply chains, mitigating the risk of shortages and contributing to global food security in these uncertain times. Get in touch today to learn more.

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sean@initiate.ie

Managing Director
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