The global problem of food waste continues to grow, but smart technology developed in Australia could significantly reduce the problem from farm to farm.
- CSIRO partnered with Nutri V and Fresh Select to turn farm food waste into healthy snacks
- Broccoli, squash and cauliflower can be processed on the farm and delivered to the supermarket the same day
- The technology could help reduce a massive waste problem on Australian farms
It is estimated that a quarter of all food grown never leaves the farm, and up to 40 percent of what comes home from the supermarket often rots.
A 2021 United Nations report said that if food waste were a country, it would rank just behind the US and China as the third-highest emitter of greenhouse gases.
In fact, 31 percent of all food grown worldwide goes uneaten, and disposing of food in landfills releases tons of greenhouse gases that account for nearly 10 percent of total global emissions.
Australia aims to cut food waste in half by 2030, but everyone from farm gates to homes is being asked to cut waste significantly.
Process vegetables into powder
Start-up Nutri V partners with CSIRO to turn vegetable scraps into healthy snacks.
With the help of the CSIRO, the company developed a processing system that is now operated on the farm of its parent company Fresh Select, one of Australia’s largest cabbage growers and supplier of Coles.
Broccoli, squashes and cauliflower that don’t meet supermarket specifications are picked and sorted in the morning, then washed, dried into powder and made into a vegetarian snack in the afternoon.
According to Nutri V CEO Raquel Said, Fresh Select technology helps reduce up to 15 tons of waste each week, including excess leaves and stems.
“It could be oversupply, it could be weather damaged, sometimes they’re just out of spec, so too big or too small,” she said.
“We take all the veggies that can’t be harvested and turn them into nutrient-dense veggie powders, and these powders are the key ingredient in our Nutri V Goodies snacks.”
It could mean growers hit by weather events like the storm near Melbourne two days ago are given a home for hail-damaged vegetables.
Support of CSIRO for concept pilot
The company is now preparing to produce the equipment which will hopefully be installed at sites across Australia.
CSIRO Agriculture and Food Director Michael Robertson said it was an important way for farmers and supermarkets to become more sustainable.
“It’s a really nice example of how we turn waste into a quality product [and] how agriculture is becoming more aware of reducing its environmental footprint,” said Dr Robertson.
“Our role was to help them get over the initial hurdle of testing something that was high risk and uncertain in terms of function. That way they can test the technology, prove it works, and then take it into their own business and scale it up.”
The new snacks could also help increase the amount of vegetables Australians eat.
Less than 10 percent of Australian adults eat the recommended five servings a day.
Each pack of Nutri V Snacks contains the equivalent of two servings of vegetables.
“While fresh is best, it’s an easy way to consume these vegetables,” said CSIRO Process Engineer Andrew Lawrence, who developed the pilot technology that Nutri V later commercializes.
Tomatoes are “upcycled”
Every year, 7.6 million tonnes of food is wasted on farms, in restaurants and in homes across Australia.
The Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Center (FFWCRC) is working with Bowen tomato farmers and the Queensland Government to find a way to use surplus tomatoes and peppers.
FFWCRC’s Francesca Goodan Smith said the solution is to mold the fresh product into a different shape.
“An amazing amount is wasted every year, so they’ve tried to convert that excess into high-quality extracts and into dried powders and drinks.”
Legendary Australian product Vegemite is actually an example of ‘upcycling’ – the process of turning food that would otherwise be wasted into a new, innovative food product.
It is based on a waste product from the brewing industry.
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