Food loss equals food waste

APAL Market Development Manager Olivia Tait recently attended a workshop hosted by CSIRO titled “Your ‘lost’ horticultural products – a prospective gold mine?” and is interested in hearing from the apple and pear industry about how on-farm waste is managed and what innovative ways people use to dispose of their waste.   

Essentially food loss equals food waste. I am interested in waste and exploring its true potential after having spent four years in the UK working in the food waste and recycling sector with many of the UK’s leading food and beverage brands.

From the workshop, CSIRO aims to develop a shared vision for an integrated science-business strategy for the recovery of lost edible food biomass in the horticulture supply chain for conversion into food ingredients, foods and supplements.

The aspiration is that lost horticulture products (i.e. food loss) can potentially re-enter the food chain. The ability to avoid food loss and/or utilise the edible portion of lost or wasted produce offers new opportunities for the value chain from food production to nutraceutical markets with potential economic, environmental and social impacts. CSIRO are focusing their efforts to address the specific opportunity of reducing food loss from farm to retail, with a focus on the horticultural value chain.

I don’t think anyone would disagree with the theory of reducing food loss and reducing the environmental and economic loss that comes with it. But, the real challenge lies in the ability to make the economics of the model stack up. Invariably, the cost of recovering the resource, the cost of re-processing and the logistics cost make the whole exercise a difficult but not impossible challenge.

The traditional approach would be to collect waste materials, sort and reprocess as best you can and then seek end markets for the products you’ve made out of the waste. In my opinion, a better approach is to identify high value end use product opportunities for which there is market demand which will in turn create the economic pull factor required to extract the desired materials from the waste stream – transitioning your waste or loss into a resource.

When it comes to reprocessing, many would say that the grower doesn’t win out of this scenario and is unlikely to recover the cost of production as it’s the processor who’s invested in the processing technology and development costs who makes the margin, and the processor is just seeking low cost  input materials. This may be the case in some instances, but what are the options available to the grower?

If you produce on farm waste and there is a cost for the removal of the waste, then any option to get rid of the waste and claw back some of the costs is a win. If you produce waste and have secured a market for it at no cost to you, then once again, any opportunity to sell that waste, even if it is for small price, is a win. If your waste is sought after because demand for and the value of the end use product is high, then there is the potential for a more significant upside for you because of the demand pull factor. Or alternatively, you explore business model options whereby you can play a role in the processing space, either as an equity player or look to bolt on processing capabilities to your existing operation. What’s the best outcome from doing nothing and righting off the loss without exploring any options to at least recover partial costs.

The key factor is to explore and develop high end value products from your “waste” to maximise the return opportunities which will in turn help with the economics of extracting the materials from the waste stream.

APAL would be interested to learn more about the size and scale of on-farm waste in the apple and pear sector and gain an understanding of the “quality” of that waste. This will help us to explore possible end use markets or further processing opportunities. Please give APAL a call on 03 9329 3511 or send an email to cm@apal.org.au if you’re willing to share your waste story with us.

By |November 30th, 2016|APAL, News|

About the Author:

Market Development Manager, Apple and Pear Australia Ltd (2014-2017).
For information regarding Market Development contact APAL at ea@apal.org.au or on 03 9329 3511.