Have your say about food waste from the farm

The Woolwich Observer - - VENTURE -

FOOD WASTE HAS BE­COME the poster child for in­ef­fi­ciency in agri-food. But how much are farm­ers con­tribut­ing to the prob­lem … or to the so­lu­tion?

That’s what a study led by Sec­ond Harvest and Value Chain Man­age­ment In­ter­na­tional (VCMI) is try­ing to find out, in what they say is the world’s first com­pre­hen­sive look at food loss and waste from pri­mary pro­duc­ers to con­sumers.

They’re hop­ing 250 farm­ers from across Canada, and all com­modi­ties, will take part in the project sur­vey, which closes June 22.

The project is funded by the Wal­mart Foun­da­tion. It will en­com­pass Canada’s farm­ing, food and bev­er­age in­dus­try, in­clud­ing fruit, veg­eta­bles, dairy, meat, grains and oilseeds, sug­ars and syrups, bev­er­ages and seafood.

It’s de­signed to es­tab­lish a frame­work and metrics that busi­nesses op­er­at­ing in the farm­ing, pro­cess­ing, retail and food ser­vice sec­tors can use to un­der­stand where losses are likely to oc­cur.

Fur­ther, it will iden­tify ways that farm­ers and down­stream busi­nesses can

im­prove per­for­mance and prof­itabil­ity, by re­duc­ing losses and waste.

The re­search team will col­lect data for an ac­cu­rate es­ti­mate of food loss waste oc­cur­ring at dis­crete points along the value chain, then eval­u­ate the im­pact of its root causes.

They will also de­velop so­lu­tions to re­duce the per­cent­age of Cana­dian food sent to land­fill, by hav­ing im­proved re­dis­tri­bu­tion, re­use and re­cy­cling prac­tices.

Con­sumers have taken the brunt of the blame for food waste. About 47 per cent of food waste (by value) is said to come from the kitchen. Pre­vi­ous re­search by VCMI pegged con­tri­bu­tions from farm­ing at around 10 per cent of the to­tal, $3.1 bil­lion.

Now, they want to nail it down tighter.

“The as­so­ci­ated costs of food loss and waste in­clude en­ergy, labour, pack­ag­ing and wa­ter, costs which never ap­pear in iso­la­tion,” says VCMI’s Martin Gooch. “The ex­tent to which busi­nesses – in­clud­ing farms – can ben­e­fit fi­nan­cially from re­duc­ing food loss and waste can be sig­nif­i­cant.”

To gather in­te­gral data for this project, VCMI has de­vel­oped an on­line sur­vey, for farm­ers and other mem­bers along the value chain to com­plete www.sur­vey­mon­key.com/r/FoodLossSur­vey2018

Gooch says the project could lead to farm­ers gain­ing greater recog­ni­tion for the cru­cial role that they play in en­sur­ing the safe en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able pro­duc­tion of food.

Farm­ers could also ben­e­fit from the re­search en­abling them to cap­ture greater value from their crops and live­stock from the cre­ation of new mar­kets, re­duc­ing in­put costs, or re­duc­ing losses by im­prov­ing qual­ity or cus­tomer re­la­tion­ships.

Fur­ther, he says, the project could also lead to a greater pro­por­tion of ined­i­ble food be­ing in­cor­po­rated into an­i­mal feed or trans­formed into fer­til­izer rather than go­ing to land­fill.

In­dus­try en­gage­ment is oc­cur­ring in two forms. The first se­ries of in­dus­try en­gage­ment ac­tiv­i­ties will be held dur­ing June and July. They’ll be con­cise ses­sions, fo­cused on test­ing the ac­cu­racy of data gath­ered to that point, along with the va­lid­ity of as­sump­tions drawn from the ini­tial anal­y­sis.

The sec­ond se­ries of in­dus­try en­gage­ment ac­tiv­i­ties be three stand-alone fo­cus groups de­liv­ered in Oc­to­ber, in eastern, cen­tral and western Canada, fo­cussed on prag­matic food loss and waste so­lu­tions.

The project will con­clude in De­cem­ber, with a “roadmap” that iden­ti­fies the over­all frame­work and pro­posed so­lu­tions.

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