Did you know that we grow and produce enough food to feed 10 billion people? Yet, on a planet of seven billion people, one billion are not getting enough food. Solving this inefficiency in our global food system becomes even more critical as our world’s population sprints toward a projected nine billion by 2050.
In this race against the clock, the most pressing question is how do we sustainably feed our growing and urbanizing world? For me, the answer is clear and is hiding in plain sight; it’s to avoid the tremendous amount of food we lose and waste. Each year, about 40% of all the food grown and produced is never consumed. The carbon footprint of this amount of waste, if measured as a country, would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses. What’s more, not only is this waste robbing people of food, but it is also depleting our fresh water supplies.
Where’s the Problem?
Now, where does the majority of this waste occur? Two-thirds of all food lost or wasted happens at the production and distribution level – mostly in emerging economies.
A big reason why is the fact that less than 10% of the world’s perishable foods are refrigerated today. While we don’t see that widely in the U.S. or Europe, it’s certainly the case in India; a country where as much as 50% of fruits and vegetables never make it from farm to fork.
Food Loss Reduced by 76%!
In 2016, the Carrier refrigeration business of United Technologies collaborated with India’s National Center for Cold Chain Development on a technology intervention to prevent food waste. We worked with a grower in Punjab that grows kinnow – a locally popular citrus fruit. The grower ran two long routes to deliver his fruit – one in a traditional, open bed truck and the other in a refrigerated truck. The study showed a 76% reduction in kinnow loss, a 23% improvement in the grower’s profitability because more product made it to market, and a 16% reduction in carbon emissions from avoiding the food loss. These results were amazing for the farmer, his economics and our natural environment.
I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Pawanexh Kohli, the chief advisor for India’s National Center for Cold Chain Development, and Jon Shaw, the Director of Global Communications & Sustainability for the Carrier Transicold Refrigeration business, in my podcast released today called Technology to Help Feed the World Sustainably. I was live from the scene in India as we examined the kinnow project and the role technology can play to extend the world’s food supply. The story of technology intervention in India to prevent food waste gives hope that more food can be preserved around the world to feed more people and reduce the environmental impact of food waste.