Food loss & waste, Global hunger and Mobile Apps….

Food loss & waste, Global hunger and Mobile Apps….

Food loss & waste, Global hunger and Mobile Apps....

Our Generations Key Issue

An estimated 30% of the food produced for human consumption globally is lost or wasted somewhere along the food supply chain (FAO., 2015). . Meanwhile, the world’s population is predicted to reach 9.1 billion by 2050 and this will require an increase of 70% in food availability. A significant part of this growth will take place in developing countries, where steadily increasing urban populations continue to create complex and lengthy food supply chains involving many actors, presenting challenges in delivering safe, nutritious food that is of good quality (FAO, 2009).

Food Loss and waste

Food loss is mainly caused by the malfunctioning of the food production and supply system or its institutional and policy framework. Food waste refers to the removal from the food supply chain of food which is still fit for human consumption. Food waste typically but not exclusively happens at the retail and consumer levels whereas food loss takes place at the earlier stages of the food supply chain – during production, post-harvest and processing stages (Rezaei, M., & Liu, B.,2017).

Implications of food loss and waste

Food loss and waste have serious negative impacts on the food-security, environmental and economic aspects. A humongous amount of US$ 1 trillion is accounted to the global level estimated value of annual food loss and waste (FAO., 2015). Food loss and waste would result in a cascade of other problems including decreased food availability in the market which would lead to increased food prices that in turn reducing the low-income consumer’s capacity to afford food. Also, the deterioration of food quality means that the food has to be sold at low cost or even discarded, thus adversely affecting the livelihood of farmers and producers. Furthermore, food loss and food waste also represent the wastage of resources used for their production including water, land, energy, fertilizers and other natural resources. If these resources that are wasted along with the food loss and food waste are considered, it would account to the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse emissions amounting to a massive 4.4 giga tonnes, after only China and United states (FAO.,2013).

Where does food loss and waste take place in the food supply chain?

Figure: Percentage of the initial production lost or wasted at different stages of the FSC for fruits and vegetables in different regions. “Agriculture” indicates losses occurring during harvest operation and subsequent sorting and grading. “Post-harvest” indicates losses occurring during handling, transportation and storage immediately after harvest and before processing.

Source: Rezaei, M., & Liu, B. (2017). Food loss and waste in the food supply chain. International Nut and Dried Fruit Council, 26-27.

The distinct difference highlights the need to improve processing technologies for perishable products like fruits and vegetables in developing regions. The food industry can make a substantial contribution in this area by developing and disseminating low-cost and effective techniques such as drying.

The level and degree of loss depends on various different factors. It can change according the stage of the food supply chain, crop type, the economic development of the region as well as the social and cultural background of the region. According to a study by FAO( FAO., 2011) , in case of fruits and vegetables, the loss at harvest and during sorting and grading dominate in industrialized countries probably due to the high quality standards of retailers and consumers. While in developing countries, the losses during processing (14%-21%) dominate when compared to those in developed regions (<2%) as depicted in figure.

Strategies and solutions to reduce food loss and waste

The solution to reduce food loss and waste would mainly depend in the thorough understanding of the various interlinkages among different stages of the food supply chain. The performance of each stake holder and the cost of activities in the upstream segments would determine the quality of the product further down the food supply chain. The technological interventions in this integrated supply chain approach is something that requires special attention. The fact that the cost of solutions proposed should not exceed the cost of food that is lost.

In countries with low-income, the solutions should primarily focus on the producer’s perspective while in industrialized countries, solutions at the producer and industrial level would be marginal but the consumer education and appropriate stock management at retail level would be the main concern.

The role of government investment in providing infrastructure and policy support to facilitate market access to farmers and to provide an enabling environment for private sector investment is a non-negotiable factor in reducing food loss and waste.

Role of Technological interventions

Technological interventions have already proved to provide the solution. The following are some suggestions and examples as to how technological advances could be the solution to the problem.

One main reason for food loss even before reaching the consumer is the unexpected shifts in market trend. This could be rectified by analyzing the common market trend in the past years to predict market trends. This ensures a good producer-consumer relationship and reduce the food loss. Soft wares that can predict market demand can educate the farmers and producers to prune production accordingly.

At the level of production, farmers usually sought to traditional drying practices mainly solar drying, but the factor of unpredictability and uncontrollability results in deterioration of food quality. Educating the farmers on basic tool kit to measure crop parameters such as moisture and technological advances such as infrared, fluidized bed and hot air drying has drastically improved the conditions.

Another whirlpool in the food supply chain where food waste and loss happens is the package, storage, transportation, staff handling and consumer handling sector. This is another field that requires desperate technological help.

Freeze drying without addition of preservatives has reduced the wastage of cosmetically imperfect fruits and vegetables. Customized packaging taking into consideration the type of food, the duration of storage and transportation could be the answer. Adequate training of staff and awareness of consumers can help in tackling the problem at the other end. In Australia (1996-99), a study showed that around 37,000 tonnes of bananas are lost every year due to rejection at the pack house because they don’t meet customer specifications for sale as fresh fruit. Research led by a major Australian retailer led to the introduction of cluster packing, the development of the six-per-layer carton, absorbent paper for sap control as well as the development of product specifications and systematic quality assurance to monitor fruit outturn at points along the chain and implementation of improved cold chain and processes from harvest through to retail (Verghese, K., Lewis, H., Lockrey, S., & Williams, H.,2013).

Smartphones, apps and extreme ends of supply chain

The solutions probably lie somewhere here…… The number of smartphone users in the world is estimated to be 2.53 billion in 2018. Smartphones and apps could be the easiest and the most cost effective solution to the food crisis. There are already several apps that helps in reducing production loss and food waste along the supply chain.

Apps like CCMobile App, SprayGuide, IFFCO Kisan, AgMobile and MachineryGuide help the farmers in various aspects of farming from measuring the physical parameters of fields and crops, adequate amount of fertilizers required, providing expert’s advice to marketing the produce. While, Apps like Chettah, developed by University of Twente, is currently being trialed by around 80 users in Ghana, shows farmers, food transporters and traders the fastest route to market, and even how to avoid ad hoc roadblocks set up to take bribes from drivers. There are also apps like FoodKeeper that help in managing proper storage of food to allow maximum freshness and reduce the loss. While apps like SpoilerAlert, FoodCowboy, WasteNoFood, 11thHour and NoFoodWasted aim to reduce food waste by coordinating with truck drivers, hotels, supermarkets, and even neighboring households to redistribute food from where there is excess to where there is need. Uberization at its best….. Apps play a vital and promising role in localized management and reduction of food loss and waste. Perhaps proper utilization, awareness creation and enhanced participation by people involved in various stages of supply chain could be the answer to the food crisis.


1.     Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2011). Global food losses and food waste–Extent, causes and prevention.

2.     Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2009). How to feed the world 2050: High-level expert forum.

3.     Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2013). Food wastage footprint: impacts on natural resources: summary report. FAO.

4.     Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2015). Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction.

5.     Rezaei, M., & Liu, B. (2017). Food loss and waste in the food supply chain. International Nut and Dried Fruit Council, 26-27.

6.     Verghese, K., Lewis, H., Lockrey, S., & Williams, H. (2013). The role of packaging in minimizing food waste in the supply chain of the future. RMIT University: Melbourne, Australia.

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