Digitalisation can prevent billions in food waste

The application of innovative agriculture technology can make the food value chain more efficient, preventing huge losses due to food waste.

Leaders in the agricultural technology (agtech) landscape agree that digitalisation of the global food industry will create the transparency needed to spare the business from losing billions of tonnes of fresh produce generated for human consumption each year.    

World-wide food waste amounts to trillions of dollars yearly due to lack of transparency in the relationship between growers and consumers and the inability to verify food quality, said agtech industry experts in a webinar this week. Limited market accessdearth of financial support and the incapacity to authenticate food safety contribute to the rejection of perfectly good food 

This crisis has been further exacerbated during the global covid-19 pandemic. The national lockdown precipitated sizeable disruptions in the whole supply chain which restrained it from functioning optimally, said speakers at the PMA Talks: Southern Africa webinar, hosted by the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) on Tuesday.  

Ed Treacy, vice president, supply chain and sustainability of the Produce Marketing Association. Picture: Supplied

According to Ed Treacy, PMA vice president, supply chain and sustainability, traceability is a crucial step in earning the trust of consumers and trading partners.  

“Traceability will not only assist in identifying which product needs to be removed from the supply chain, but more importantly which products should not be. All chain traceability is extremely important in our industry as most of our products do not have a pasteurisation kill step, he said.   

“Consumers and trading partners want transparency. They want to know how the product was grown, harvested, stored and shipped, Treacy added.  

Adrian Teo, chief operating officer of global trade technology service DiMuto. Photo: Provided

Adrian Teo, chief operating officer of global trade technology service DiMuto, stated that the global food trade is digitally fragmented due to miscommunication between producers and consumers and lack of digitalisation.   

He said that $1.6 trillion was lost in the global market and that trade disputes contributed towards a 5 to 10% loss of fresh produce.    

“Being in the perishables industry, typical financial institutions are not very eager to finance us because perishable food is an inherent risk to their business. And then of course there is this long-standing food traceability and food safety (issue). A big part of the solution is really with digitalisation – to digitise the global trade to create visibility from the farms to the end consumer. 

READ MORE: About 30% of food produced in Mzansi is lost or wasted 

Greg Whitaker, founder of agtech startup Agrigate One. Photo: Supplied

Founder and CEO of agtech platform Agrigate One, Greg Whitaker, said the platform plays a central role in aggregating all the data points across the fresh produce value chain and providing growers and buyers with full transparency of trades, visible within the single platform.  

“Growing up on a citrus farm in the Limpopo province with no efficient technology and working for a global logistics firm made me realise that there are some missing middles within the supply chain and value chain. That was my thinking around why Agrigate started. It is not from the lack of effort from an individual or company in the supply chain. It is more about the missing middle and the data in that missing middle.”  

According to Whitaker his platform provides growers with direct access to international marketsBuyers get full visibility, increased control from the farm gate to the destination and time saved through digitalisation.  

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