Jan 24 2013
When the Institute of Mechanical Engineers publishes a report on solving the expected world food shortage by reducing loss, you begin to realise this is a very widely recognized problem or opportunity. I already published a paper on this titled Waste in the food value chain: Issues and opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa in 2011, which also highlighted the wasted inputs required to produce the wasted food.
(click image for full report online)
Most of the solutions are not to do with mechanization, automation or new devices. Cereals lost to poor storage in the third world environment need better management of existing systems and simple waterproofed structures. Losses in the first world retail system are more strongly linked to the need to change consumer behaviour, diet, obesity, visual standards, kitchen control, expiry dates etc than to research new technologies.
The report has some interesting data that bears repeating
Half the food that is grown in the world is lost and not eaten 3 calories of energy are required to produce 1 calorie of food energy in the form of cereals 30 calories of energy are required to produce 1 calorie of food energy in the form of bee 50% of the energy input to wheat is required for fertilizer and pesticides 70% of water use is by agriculture
Some thoughts after reading this: the food we do eat uses twice as much inputs than it would seem, the waste is mainly not on the field where it would could at least compost and fertilize but is increasingly in urban areas where it unnecessarily loads the waste disposal system.