A key focus for organizations involved in the produce industry is to reduce food waste. As much as 40%, or 2.5 billion tons, of all global food production is wasted across all stages of production and distribution. This waste creates problems for producers, transporters and consumers across the world. Producers hate to see the crops they’ve worked for rot on the vine. Transporters prefer to keep losses at a minimum. And grocery stores and supermarkets prefer to have fresh and nutritious produce for consumers. In this article, we’ll explain how hydroponic container farming reduces food waste problems for these groups.
At the beginning of the supply chain, farmers are in a challenging situation. They must ensure they can make enough money from the current year to do it again next year. Farmers often plant more crops than they’ve agreed to sell because they don’t know if they’ll experience losses from weather or pests. Due to this and other factors, 33.7% of edible produce remains unharvested in farmer’s fields.
As the market changes, farmers might not have a financial incentive to harvest their entire crop. Their extra produce should feed hungry people, but instead they fertilize fields with it because it’s not practical to harvest it.
Achieving optimal yields is easier with container farming than traditional soil farming methods. Precise climate control and nutrient composition allow for faster production. Farmers grow their crops indoors, decreasing losses from weather and pests. Plus, urban container farms shorten the travel time it takes to reach grocers.
As a result, farmers can be confident they’ll be able to sell more of their harvests and reduce food waste.
Transporters experience food waste through improper refrigeration, packaging mistakes, and distribution inefficiencies. 14% of the world’s food is lost after harvesting and before retail. Modern international trade has stretched supply chains and requires climate-controlled shipping. Shipping container farming increases the amount of locally grown food. This reduces food waste because it reaches consumers before it loses freshness. Additionally, crops can grow longer and reach maturity, increasing quality in less time.
Long-distance transportation can be costly, especially with gasoline prices. Fuel-savings app GasBuddy forecasted prices will hit $4 per gallon during 2023’s peak summer travel. This variable can make or break a logistics route, as the cost per mile helps determine whether a job will be profitable. Prices for both regular unleaded and diesel hit record highs in June of 2022, applying pressure on farmers and distributors alike.
By shortening the distance between farms and retailers, organizations at every stage of the food chain can reduce food waste and increase efficiency. It’ll also improve local communities economically and increase their access to fresh food.
As the last step before the consumer, retail waste includes grocery stores, restaurants and other end-step sellers. Waste at this stage comes from limited shelf lives and tossing imperfect produce on arrival.
Grocery stores often inspect produce from their suppliers before selling it. They toss edible produce with bruising or other imperfections that might be unappealing to consumers. Although, some grocery stores sell them as cheaper, less visually pleasing alternatives. This reduces food waste and provides extra income for grocers.
According to the FDA, 30% of food in American grocery stores is thrown away in landfills. Waste in the retail sector is worth around twice the profit generated from food sales.
Some grocery stores recognize that many consumers want nutritious and freshly harvested produce. So, they’ve bought shipping container farms to grow fruits and vegetables just steps away from their stores. This allows the produce to last longer while on shelves, reducing food waste. Plus, customers appreciate the higher quality produce.
Food waste continues to be a significant problem for organizations at all levels of the produce industry. It doesn’t make sense to waste edible food, especially when more than 34 million people face food insecurity.
The problem is distribution. Farms have moved further from urban areas. This distanced residents from fresh produce and lowered the quality of available food.
Shipping container farming changes that. It allows locals to produce crops year-round, regardless of environmental conditions. When food production is closer to consumers, it reduces food waste, speeds up availability and improves quality.