Around the world, 1.6 billion tonnes of food goes to waste every year, an amount so significant it’s impossible to get your head around, and that food has a considerable impact on the environment. According to the UN, if global food waste could be reduced by just a quarter, there would be enough to feed all the malnourished populations of the world. Luckily, food waste is a solvable problem if consumers, businesses, farmers, and governments join together for a sustained result. Emerging technology is one big part of the solution. Many notable tech companies have creative ways to solve the food waste crisis.
Food manufacturers have been waxing their fruits and vegetables to improve shelf-life since the 1920s, but Apeel has taken this concept to novel levels. Apeel’s edible, invisible coating is made from wasted agricultural products like the grape skins that remain from wine production. Apeel’s coating helps extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables five times! This is an incredibly encouraging technology for farmers in developing countries, where the difficulties involved in getting produce to market before it spoils the primary cause of food waste. But even in the Western world, if the product performs as promised, it could massively cut vegetable food waste in restaurants, supermarkets, and homes.
Over 9 million tonnes of “decaying” produce goes to waste in the U.S. alone every year, rejected by stores because of consumers’ preference for flawless-looking produce. Full Harvest is redeeming that waste by building the first B2B marketplace where growers can connect with food companies to offload their imperfect or surplus produce. Buyers of the less desirable goods can save up to 40% compared to traditional distributors.
Hungry Harvest and Imperfect Produce
These are two companies on the front line of the battle to save “rotten” fruit and vegetables from deteriorating in the fields. Working in the US, they take a direct-to-consumer approach by delivering food boxes of imperfect produce to less critical subscribers. Imperfect Produce claims to have rescued over 18,000 tonnes of food and 1.2 billion gallons of water.
Intended fruit producers, Hazel Technologies’ little sachets release a chemical called 1-MCP, a potent plant hormone that sends a strong signal to fruits that it is not yet time to ripen. Producers need to toss a Hazel sachet into a box of their fruit. Over three weeks, this small sachet then lets off a safe chemical that slows down the ripening process. Given that around 45% of all fruit grown is wasted, a technology that allows more time to produce to get to the market could have a considerable impact, especially in the developing world.