In episode 8, we discuss the journey from farm to fork, and its many hurdles, diversions, paradoxes and opportunities. One-third of food that is safe for human consumption does not get eaten. Shoppers buy more than they need, tempted by offers or forced to purchase quantities too large for single households. Then there is our inability to measure the freshness of a product accurately – 60% of food is still edible on its expiry date.
If food – from production to disposal in landfills – were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter. Yet people are still going hungry, even in the UK. Our speakers agree that we can prevent waste in the first place along the entire chain, through the reduce, re-use and recycle mantra.
For that, we are starting to see systemic thinking, and innovators challenging the status quo. The ideas may not even be novel, but are being spurred by the pressure of ‘build back better’, climate change, and investors looking beyond just financial gains. The industry must be bolder in educating consumers, helping reduce the chances they have to waste, and incentivising less and better consumption.
“Brands are increasingly aware that they need to help consumers in their sustainability journey if they want to stay relevant,” says Anne-Charlotte Mornington.
As with the episodes on consumer electronics and food, our speakers believe we should not wait for policymakers – they will eventually wake up and smell the coffee!
Starting with production, integrating agricultural practices is important, as Dr Dries Roobroeck points out. In Africa, at least half the crop residue is burned, but it could rather be gasified to produce energy – to replace archaic, destructive and expensive sources of heat and electricity – and biochar, which helps nourish the soil and capture carbon.
Packaging – from insulating chicken feathers or encouraging consumers to use their own containers – is starting to have a value again. Robots can now monitor stored grains. For Solveiga Pakštaitė, understanding why the visually impaired buy longer life, more processed food triggered her business, which focuses on making accurate food freshness information accessible to all consumers.
Linking “fragile” supply with demand enables Anne Charlotte and team to distribute food that would otherwise be wasted. The company is also able to make data available to local authorities, allowing governments even in some of the world’s most advanced nations understand food poverty quickly for the first time. If that does not spur them into action, what will?
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Head of Partnerships, OLIO
Anne Charlotte Mornington was introduced to OLIO a few months after inception and has been part of the team ever since. Her focus is on international expansion, partnership and special projects. After instigating OLIO communities in Sweden, California and Mexico, she recently obtained an Innovate UK grant to develop a food poverty map to help Local Authorities address the rising challenges connected to hunger during the current pandemic.
Associate Scientist, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture
Dries has 10 years of experience with the cycling and management of natural resources in staple and cash crop production by subsistence and commercial farmers across Africa, and a background in accounting of greenhouse gasses from wetlands and croplands in Europe. At the start of 2020 Dries founded the Co-REGEN consortium with a green mini grid electricity company, tea cooperatives, and more than 20 research and development experts.
Founder & Director, Mimica
Solveiga studied Industrial Design & Technology at Brunel University London. She invented the concept of Mimica Touch for her final project, wanting to make expiry dates inclusive to visually impaired people, before realising that expiry dates also drive large amounts of food waste. Solveiga is responsible for all company outreach and partnership creation with customers, partners and investors. In 2017, she was named MIT Technology Review’s Inventor of the Year.