On average, I eat half a kilogram or 6 bananas a day. That’s 14 kg per month and 168 kg per year. That may seem like a lot especially since the average person eats only 12 kilos of bananas per year but I don’t care, I love them. And because of my strange love affair with bananas as some would call it, I’ve learned that Ecuador, which lies in the northwestern part of South America, is the largest exporter of bananas in the world ahead of Belgium, Colombia, and Costa Rica. Together, these four countries make up 50% of total banana exports according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States.
However, the top banana producers, India, China, Indonesia and Philippines, don’t show up on the list of the top 15 banana exporter countries. This is because of food spoilage as a result of mishandling and supply-chain inefficiencies. Approximately 25-40% of banana produce is wasted in India alone with nearly 45% wasted worldwide (such a tragedy!).
Can we harness technology to help reduce this colossal loss of food globally especially in countries where the need for food is greatest like in India? The answer is yes and it’s already happening. We have compiled a list of 8 technologies we believe are bringing new innovations to the problem of food waste.
Internet of Things (IoT):
What if we could reduce operational expenses, bring efficiency to the overall supply chain, and reduce farm to fork transportation time leading to the reduction of food spoilage? This can be possible by leveraging the IoT solution in transportation and logistics.
Sensors that can send continuous data open doors to a number of possible applications. Sensors make it possible to continuously track and transmit data such as temperature, humidity, and gas content all through the supply chain. The addition of sensors or connected devices is leading to an unprecedented explosion of devices that are connecting to the internet and forming the Internet of Things or an ecosystem of sensors, devices and equipment that are connected to a network and can transmit and receive data for tracking and making tangible improvements to business.
Fresh produce or perishable goods need to be stored at a constant temperature with proper ventilation in order to maintain certain levels of humidity. Real-time information on the state of perishable goods is a key requirement for successful supply-chains and is not only useful to the distributor but also to the wholesale vendor, transport, and a logistics company. Bananas, for example, need to be stored at 62-75 degrees Fahrenheit with 85-95% humidity during transportation in order to preserve freshness. To ensure the quality of food products, transport and logistics companies can deploy cargo containers equipped with sensors able to collect and analyze data on temperature, humidity and gas. To securely analyze and store sensor data, a robust device known as an IoT Gateway is needed. This can be like a power-packed PC with high memory and processing power and multiple interface types for connecting with micro controllers and capable of running on multiple operating systems.
Solar Conductive Dryer:
Three Indian students designed and built a simple yet innovative technology that uses solar energy to dry food which in turn alleviates poverty by addressing three key concerns; food, electricity and income. Together, these students developed a solar conduction dryer which dries fruits and vegetables, allowing farmers to preserve and sell food at a higher price. Not only does this dryer reduce food spoilage, it retains nutritional value allowing the largely agriculture-dependent Indian population to earn more.
Currently, 72 percent of India’s over 1.1 billion people are located in poor, rural communities, according to the World Bank. Their livelihood depends on agriculture and other natural resources. However, of the yearly crops produced, farmers lose 20 to 30 percent of 74 million tons of fruits and 143 million tons of vegetables. This equates to 65 million tons of wasted food due to post-harvest handling and lack of storage, which otherwise could have been money in farmers’ pockets or food on the table.
By harnessing the sun’s renewable energy, the solar conduction dryer is cheap and easy to operate. Farmers only need to spend the upfront fee of 57 USD or 3,500 INR for the dryer. This is quickly recovered once profits are increased by selling higher priced preserved fruits and vegetables.
A key player in the waste tracking field, LeanPath provides an automated system to restaurants, universities, hospitals, and other food service organizations. Its integrated scale and touch screen device allow users to easily record the amount, food type, location, loss reason, and other information about the food being discarded. Kitchen staff can record information in less than 10 seconds, immediately prior to disposal, where the data is then uploaded to a reporting dashboard where it can be analyzed to find sources of waste. LeanPath takes this one step further and offers training and coaching to translate the data into actionable steps. There are a variety of customizable rental and purchase options available, with the most basic starting at $199 per month. Some customers of LeanPath include ARAMARK Healthcare, MGM Resorts, Sodexo, and the University of California. Around 150 of LeanPath’s clients have reduced food waste by up to 80 percent after installing the system, co-founder Andrew Shakman told Modern Farmer last month.
Developers are also taking on the food waste challenge by deploying their problem-solving skills on the iPhone app development and Android app development platforms. Below are a few of the most popular tools:
A simple yet fairly controversial approach to food waste, Leftover Swap is a mobile application available on iOS where users can post a photo and description of their unwanted leftovers on its listing database. Other users in the database can simply trade or take the food after a mutually agreed upon method of delivery is arranged. There are a number of potential health hazards however, much like couch surfing applications, this method is based on trust.
Love Food Hate Waste:
Another organization in the business of combating food waste, Love Food Hate Waste was launched by nonprofit organization WRAP in 2007 to help reduce food waste in the UK. With the app built for iOS and Android, users can plan, shop, cook and make the most of leftovers. Users have access to a variety of recipes and tips for utilizing forgotten and leftover food to create new dishes. Samsung partnered with the campaign to raise awareness and reduce food waste by educating consumers about storing and organizing food in a more efficient way.
222 Million Tons:
Ever had groceries go bad before you had time to use them? The 222 million tons app for iPad developed by Custom ios Application Developers allows users to create menus and shopping lists based on their household size. This compelling solution aims to optimize planning while still providing enough variety in home-cooked meals. The app gets its name from the reported amount of food waste a year in industrialized nations according to a 2011 study by the UN.
Wise Up on Wast:
Similar to the adage of “knowledge is power,” Wise Up on Waste allows restaurants to track and measure how, when, and where waste is produced. Created by Unilever Food Solutions, the free app—available on iOS, Android, and web-enabled devices—makes it simple for chefs to track the type of waste—spoilage, preparation, or customer plate waste—by meal on a per day and per cover basis. The performance data is then compiled and sent to users by email along with industry comparisons to help them identify cost saving opportunities. Wise Up on Waste also contains a plethora of useful information and tips to help chefs utilize this data and reduce waste.