- Applying sensor technology to the food supply chain to increase traceability could reduce food waste by between 5% and 7%, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF).
- WEF said 35% of fruits and vegetables are lost or wasted in post-harvest, processing or distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa. That number goes down to 15% in Europe, highlighting differences around the world.
- Enhanced food supply chain traceability will make it easier to identify where losses are occurring, so the issues can more quickly be addressed. "Once the primary causes of food loss and waste have been identified ... the appropriate stakeholder can better address the problem," the report said.
The inefficient supply chain is one of the main reasons for food waste. Almost one-third of global food production ends up wasted, according to WEF.
These loses then lead to added procurement and distribution costs, resulting in both business and final consumer spending more on the products, the report said.
Food loss can be the result of a number of circumstances, from lack of best practice on the farmer's part to not enough space on the cold chain, but knowing where exactly the problems arise is not typically known, WEF said.
Greater implementation of IoT technologies could be the helping hand the food supply needs — providing a digital trail of the food's journey.
The report provided estimates for how different technologies could reduce food loss:
|Technology||Purpose||% reduction in food waste or loss|
|Food-sensing technologies||Improve food safety, quality, traceability||5%-7%|
|Internet of Things||Add real-time transparency and traceability||1%-4%|
|Mobile service delivery||Reduce food loss||2%-5%|
|Microbiome technologies||Enhance crop resilience and reduce rood loss||1%-2%|
"In addition to cost-saving opportunities," the report reads, "these efficiency improvements also make it possible to increase the rate at which food moves through the supply chain, reducing spoilage costs and thereby creating incremental improvements to our supply chain’s ability to meet rising future food demand and improve sustainability."
A report on food loss by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations similarly argued greater technology implementation along the food supply chain could help reduce loss and waste. But long-term strategies will differ depending on where the problem is being addressed.
"In low-income countries, solutions should first and foremost take a producer’s perspective, e.g. by improving harvest techniques, farmer education, storage facilities and cooling chains," FAO argued. "In industrialized countries on the other hand, solutions at the producer and industrial levels would only be marginal if consumer education and appropriate stock management at retail level is not in place."