By Lucy McConnell
With technological innovations saturating all aspects of the food world, it is of no surprise that concerns about waste disposal have prompted a wealth of innovations and improvements within the tech world. Food waste has been identified as a growing global concern, with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) hypothesising that the reduction of food waste by 25%, would allow all the malnourished people in the world to be fed (Lyons 2015). Furthermore, in the US alone, discarded food is the largest single contributor to public waste, and Australians create a vast mountain of about 9.5 tonnes of food excess each year (Ham 2016). Noteworthy innovations have gained momentum at all levels of food production and consumption, the most innovative are explored below.
The need to reduce waste at the point of food production is important in getting to the root of the food disposal dilemma. VitalFields is a European start up company that have developed a computer software that records details and analyses data to inform farmers of the status of their crops (C.S.-W. 2013). This information will assist farmers in running their farms more efficiently and sustainably. Closer to home, Australian start-up founder Katy Barfield founded Spade & Barrow, an interface to assist farmers sell imperfect produce that didn’t meet the rigorous specifications set by Australian Supermarkets (Ham 2016). She argues that every bit of food should be used and is important, even if it “isn’t perfect and straight … and shining like it’s, you know, nuclear infused”(Ham 2016).
(Imperfect Produce Campaign 2013)
Innovate advancements in packaging of food, could be a solution to prolonging the life of food and reducing the chances of it going to waste. Modified Atmosphere Packaging (Map) is a new technology that substitutes the atmosphere within packaging with a mix of gasses, proven to extend the freshness of a product (Modified Atmosphere Packaging 2013). FoPo, a German based start up aims to use innovation in food to simultaneously tackle hunger and waste. The company collects fruit and vegetables destined to be rejected and transforms them into a powder form (Wong 2015). The company wants to use these products for humanitarian aid, and soon will launch their products to the public, marketing to consumers with a concern for food wastage.(Wong 2015)
(Gerald Perry Marin 2016)
In the hospitality industry is widely seen as a key culprit when it comes to neglect of sustainability and waste management. Numerous start up companies have developed technological responses to this issue, allowing restaurants to monitor the amount of food they need, use and dispose of. Winnow, LeanPath and Wise up on Waste are all interfaces which allow restaurants to input and analyse data about their supply needs and food use, to track the amount of waste they generate, and thereby reduce this through a collation of collected data (Hutcherson 2013).
Within the household, cutting edge technology is transforming the way individual consumers and families shop and control their own waste. Brand new refrigeration technology gives shoppers an eye into their fridge at home, literally, through built in cameras that wirelessly connect to the user’s handheld devices (Lavars 2016). This allows users to check what they already have at home, and even affords them the ability to zoom in on use by dates to avoid over purchasing food.
(Samsung Newsroom 2016)
Meanwhile, the growth of social media platforms, and interaction online has prompted the invention of a number of interfaces that allow users to share their left over foods. LeftoverSwap is an online marketplace for left over food, allowing users in a similar geographic area to trade or take remaining food (Hutcherson 2013).
Technology provides a wealth of opportunities for the reduction of food wastage at all levels of the food production and consumption ladder. Whether these advancements be in interfaces for food sharing and redistribution, or technological progressions in packaging, storage and life-extending solutions, the future of food waste management appears to be incredibly high tech and well developed. This coupled with societies’ growing awareness of the sheer amount of food that is wasted suggests steps towards a world where discarded food is significantly lessened.
C.S, W. 2013, Virtual Fields, The Economist, 30 April, Viewed 24 October 2016, < http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2013/04/farming-apps>
Gerald Perry Marin, 2016, FoPo in 1 minute, Youtube, Viewed 24 October 2016, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcqZSCRhy2s>
Ham, L. 2016, Melbourne Start-Up Wages War on Food Waste, Sydney Morning Herald, 7 July, Viewed 24 October 2016, < http://www.smh.com.au/small-business/startup/melbourne-startup-wages-war-on-food-waste-20160705-gpyuyb.html>
Hutcherson, A. 2013, Waste Not, Want Not: 6 Technologies to Reduce Food Waste, Food Tech Connect, 2 October, Viewed 26 October 2016, < https://foodtechconnect.com/2013/10/02/waste-not-want-not-6-technologies-to-reduce-food-waste/>
Imperfect Produce, 2016, Imperfect Produce Campaign Poster, Viewed 24 October 2016, < http://www.imperfectproduce.com/#ugly-produce-delivered>
Jackson, T. 2016, These tech startups are turning a profit on food waste, GreenBiz, May 3, Viewed 26 October 2016, https://www.greenbiz.com/article/these-tech-startups-are-turning-profit-food-waste
Lavars, N. 2016, Samsung’s new smart fridge lets you check in on its contents through internal cameras, New Atlas, 6 January, Viewed 24 October 2016, < http://newatlas.com/samsung-family-hub-smart-fridge/41192/>
Lyons, K. 2015, Cutting food waste by a quarter would mean enough for everyone, says UN, The Guardian, 12 August, Viewed 24 October 2016, < https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/aug/12/cutting-food-waste-enough-for-everyone-says-un>
Modified Atmosphere Packaging, 2013, Viewed 24 October 2016, < http://www.modifiedatmospherepackaging.com/Applications.aspx>
Samsung Newsroom, 2016, Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator – Food Management, Product Advertisement, Youtube, Viewed 24 October 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkfYQdbayDc
Wong, K. 2015, Food powder made from expired produce may help end world hunger, Mashable Australia, 15 July, Viewed 24 October 2016, < http://mashable.com/2015/07/15/fopo-food-powder/#qN8q.ND6gkqs>