Reducing Food Waste With Sustainable Tech

June 17, 2023
David Sunnyside

Sustainable technology is a vital piece of every business’s sustainability strategy. Leading companies use advanced technologies to break economic constraints and develop solutions that create both positive societal impact and profitability.

As food makes its way from farms to stores to dining tables, nearly a third ends up lost or wasted along the way. This unused food directly contributes to planet-warming emissions.

1. Appeel

With over a billion dollars worth of produce going to waste every year, it's clear that something has to change. Thankfully, a number of innovative companies are using sustainable technology to combat food waste.

Manufacturers have been waxing fruits and vegetables to preserve them since the 1920s, but California-based Apeel is taking things to the next level. The company's edible coating is designed to extend the shelf life of fresh produce and reduce the amount of waste produced by grocers and retailers.

Tesco has already rolled out Apeel-coated mandarins and avocados in 150 of its UK stores, while US grocer Kroger is also incorporating the technology into some of its brands. The company hopes that the new technology will help meet its goal of reducing waste to zero by 2025.

But it's not just grocers that need to make changes. According to Canadian nonprofit Provision Coalition, preventing food waste requires an entire mindset shift and often requires someone in each department to take ownership of the issue.

2. Outcast Foods

The good news is that food waste is a solvable problem. And it’s being addressed by some innovative tech companies.

Canadian-based Outcast Foods collects unwanted produce from farmers and grocery distribution centers and transforms it into nutrient-dense plant-based supplements. Their new single-ingredient powders are vegan, gluten free, sugar free, non-GMO and organic certified.

Outcast’s mission of reducing food waste resonates with consumers who care about the environment and want to avoid GHG emissions and plastic pollution. The company also aims to combat hunger and reduce the stigma associated with "wonky" produce. Similar companies like Full Harvest, Hungry Harvest and Misfits Market are also empowering consumers to purchase "wonky" fresh foods directly from the producer.

Food waste in landfills produces huge amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. A number of technologies are being developed to treat the waste and turn it into renewable energy. One example is Greenhouse, which turns organic juice pulp byproduct into natural health products and pet foods.

3. Wasteless

One-third of food is lost or wasted during the supply chain process and at the consumer level. Addressing this issue should not be viewed as a philanthropic act, nor an expensive liability; instead, it is a huge opportunity for businesses that are willing to invest in green and digital technologies designed to reduce food waste.

One such company is Wasteless, a platform that lets grocery stores recapture the billions of dollars in lost sales that occur each week due to fresh products going out of date. The system combines item-level RFID tracking with a dynamic pricing algorithm solution to let retailers offer customers discount prices based on expiration dates.

The results have been spectacular. In a single store, Wasteless reduced the amount of fresh food going to waste by 32% and increased profits. This translates to more affordable food for consumers and less methane emissions in landfills. Moreover, the system is easily integrated into existing retail operations and supply chain processes.

4. Smart Robots

In addition to reducing waste, green technology can help companies stay competitive. Many sustainable solutions require an upfront investment, but they often pay for themselves by lowering energy costs or preventing environmental harm. For example, a company might invest in a solar panel system to reduce its carbon footprint. It may also invest in energy-efficient technology like smart robots to help keep production running smoothly and reduce waste.

Over half of the world’s fruits and vegetables are wasted in transit or at restaurants and stores due to spoilage and a lack of inventory tracking systems. To tackle this problem, some companies are leveraging IoT sensors and AI to monitor and predict the temperature of warehouses and track food shelf life.

With so much food going to waste, it makes sense for businesses to invest in any sustainable technology that could save money and improve their bottom line. However, it’s important to remember that sustainability doesn’t exist in a vacuum—even technologies created to improve the environment can have negative impacts.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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