Engineering less waste

Every year it is estimated that the human population produces four billion metric tonnes of food, and that around 30 –50% of this is wasted. This waste occurs at most points of the chain of production: in farms, in transportation, in factories and retail outlets, as well as in the home. This waste leaves many people food-insecure and dependent on food banks both in the developing and the developed world.

In the developing world food loss is created primarily through a low-tech approach to farming, harvesting, storing and transporting crops. Furthermore waste in transitioning nations is created by an increased access to food creating packaging waste. This waste is often unmanaged as commercial economies experience growth faster than the transitioning nations can build the necessary infrastructure to manage the waste.

Engineering has often provided the solutions to increasing food production, but today we need it to provide a clean, environmentally-friendly solution to help developing nations feed their populations without devastating the land. As populations sizes increase and the land space for farming decreases, this is becoming more and more important.

One example of a technology that could be used to help achieve this is solar power. In many developing and transitioning societies where the climate is warm and sunny, solar energy can be used for retail and domestic cooling. The energy can be harvested either through the heating of water on rooftops or through the use of solar panels.

Less food waste in combination with good engineering practices can lead to better access to food for those in developing countries, whilst also minimizing the environmental impact of acquiring that same food.

Read more about how we can engineer less food loss and waste in Jenifer Baxter’s article here.

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