How Blockchain can help Reduce Food Waste

, 8 minute read

Quick summary: Food Waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions that impact climatic changes. Blockchain technology will usher in a new era of food traceability, which could go beyond addressing food safety issues by driving sustainability with reduced food wastage and lowering the inefficiencies and costs of food supply chains.

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Do you know by 2030, we could throw away more than 2 billion tonnes of food?

According to United Nations FAO, about one-third of the total food manufactured is either lost or wasted globally. This means 1.3 billion tonnes of food are lost annually. Given that food production needs to increase by 70% in view of the global population growth, approximately 1.4 billion hectares of agricultural land is wasted. Food loss and food waste occur from the farm to the fork at all stages in the supply chain, indicating a colossal loss of resources. 

That’s not all, do you know food waste has a significant impact on the environment?

Food Waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions that impact climatic changes. The discarded food in the landfills generates huge amounts of greenhouse gases. With one-third of the food being wasted annually, it is generally quipped that if the food wastage was a country, it would be the third-largest one. 

What is Wasted food? 

Wasted food can be categorized as Food Waste and Food Loss. 

Food waste is the food discarded by retailers on account of its state, by consumers as plate waste. This includes the leftovers in restaurants, in kitchens, and decaying and perishable products. 

Food Loss is the food that goes uneaten at any stage in the supply chain. This includes crop failures at farms, pre-harvest and post-harvest losses, losses due to mishandling, and transportation. 

According to FAO, food loss is the reduction in quality or quantity of food upstream of the value chain whereas food waste is the food downstream which gets discarded or is not consumed. 

Where is Food lost? 

Food is lost at all stages in the supply chain right from the farms to the consumer. 

  • Food loss in Farms 

In US = 20 billion pounds of produce is lost on farms 

To hedge against the attack of pests and vagaries of weather, the farmer grows more crops than the required demand. Crops sometimes are not harvested because of pest attacks and weather uncertainties. Crops are also left unharvested if the transport charges are higher compared to the product cost. The ugly produce is also discarded on farms. Food safety threats and lack of cold storage facilities also result in losses. 

  • Food Loss in Fisheries 

A huge percentage of fish caught is discarded at sea. Bycatch is a concern for the marine ecosystem. 

  • Food loss in manufacturing 

Trimming of edible portions and peeling leads to food discards. Over-production and process defects lead to losses. Labor shortages and closures due to pandemics also result in food loss. 

  • Food loss in Transportation and distribution 

During transportation, perishable food is vulnerable to losses. Lack of cold storage facilities and expiry date concerns lead to losses. 

Where is food wasted? 

  • Food waste in Retail 

USDA estimates that $15 billion is lost annually in supermarkets because of the perishable nature of a few food products. Damaged goods, expiry dates, seasonal products, and over-stocked goods result in food wastage. 

  • Food waste in Restaurants 

Uneaten meals, leftovers, extensive choices in the menu, lack of inventory management, and food security threats are a few of the causes of food wastage. 

  • Food waste in Household 

Food spoilage due to improper storage, over-preparation of food, stocking excess food and expiry dates lead to wastage of food. 

Impacts of Food Loss and Wastage 

The impact of food wastage on climate, nature, and pollution is generated unnecessarily. An estimated 8 to 10% of greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food that is not consumed.  

The environmental impacts of food waste

Water used for wasted food is approximately 45 trillion gallons 

Wastage of food results in wastage of water. Agriculture makes use of freshwater resources and this is seen depleting fast. Water is required at every stage in food production and also for animal feeds. The water wasted along with food wastage can sustain a number of plants. 

Methane is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide and it contributes to 20% of GHGs 

Uneaten food is the single largest component of solid waste that is discarded in landfills. The food rots to produce methane, a greenhouse gas that traps the heat around impacting the environment. 

On an average, household food losses are responsible for 8 times the energy waste of farm-level food losses 

Manufacturing machinery, transportation, and cooking need fuel. The usage of fuels also releases greenhouse gases. The landfills are normally located at a distance and transportation of garbage incurs fuel costs. 

In India, 67 million tonnes of food are wasted and about 70-75% of food waste rots in landfills.  

There are two types of land. Land used to produce food and the landfills where food is dumped. While the arable land is used for growing crops, non-arable land is used for livestock to produce meat. The food waste rots in landfills puts additional stress on lands. 

Loss in biodiversity 

Rearing livestock results in deforestation. The marine ecosystem is always under threat from bycatch and discarding of sub-standard fish. 

Nearly 1.3 billion tons of fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, seafood, and grains are wasted annually across the globe due to shortcomings in logistics. 

With the growing population, this wastage will result in millions landing up in poverty and hunger. 

Traceability Solutions for Food Waste 

In response to consumer demands, organizations are not just increasing the supply chain efficiencies but are looking towards getting more sustainable.

Across EU, out of the 88mn tons of food generated, not even 40% makes it to the market. Without transparency, real-time insights and tracking of products and inventory, it is tough for organizations to address food wastage and consumer demands.

GEFP was able to bring in transparency and visibility in the lettuce supply chain and reduce post-harvest losses by 1.5% while working with the contract farmers in Nilgiris

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94% of organizations  surveyed  say that their supply chains lack transparency. Just 30 % of organizations have full visibility of goods in transit. This makes it difficult to address the food wastage at each stage in the supply chain.

It is estimated that supply chains could reduce food waste by €240bn.

The reduction in food waste is the solution for feeding the existing population. Food waste is one of the top priorities in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. SDG 12 focuses on Sustainable Consumption and production patterns and it calls for a reduction of 50% global food wastage by retailers and consumers and an overall reducing the food losses in the value chains by 2030. 

The carbon footprint of food waste globally generates 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually. 

Changes not only at the consumer level but also at the industry and policy levels are required to solve this grave issue. An increasing number of farmers, processors, and industries are looking for solutions to reduce food wastage. Digitization of supply chains should considerably reduce food loss and wastage

End-to-end traceability powered by Blockchain technology with efficient tracking and tracing of food along the supply chain will bring transparency to the ecosystem. The data shared among the participants of the chain will nurture collaboration to address the food loss problems. These solutions help to provide better insights into the processes, storage, and logistics, thereby reducing food wastage. Food waste reduction helps to counter problems due to carbon emissions and keep them in check.  

Blockchain technology can revolutionize sustainable supply chain management. This could not only feed millions but also save costs annually up to $120 billion 

Blockchain can mitigate damage caused by food recalls and thereby limit losses. The management of the food supply chain at all stages helps to address wastage occurring at various points.

The digital identity attached to the products can make them easily traceable along with the batch number and expiry date details. This helps to reduce food waste.

Blockchain technology will usher in a new era of food traceability, which could go beyond addressing food safety issues by driving sustainability with reduced food wastage and lowering the inefficiencies and costs of food supply chains. The attributes related to traceability and also the sustainable practices adopted can be captured. 

FOODSIGN , TraceX’s Blockchain-powered digital traceability solution captures data in real-time in immutable digital ledgers from farm to fork, thereby facilitating easy track and tracing of products in the supply chain. The information can be retrieved accurately, isolate faulty products and take immediate action. This helps in increasing food recall efficiencies and reducing food losses. The digitization and streamlining of supply chain processes with inventory management help to reduce food wastage. 

Our solutions connect the fragmented supply chains bringing transparency and building consumer brands. The awareness of sustainable opportunities and practices at each stage in the supply chain drives organizations to reach their commitments to a net-zero planet for the future.

Leverage our Traceability solutions to significantly reduce food waste and ensure a more sustainable food system.

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Hyperledger private permissioned blockchain.

Data is captured in digital immutable ledgers which provide security and accountability of data . The decentralized platform enables transparency among stakeholders

The end to end traceability builds trust and transparency in the product thereby assuring consumers of a quality product. The farm management solutions help in improving market linkages and demanding a premium for the product.
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