Designing a better food supply chain

Food production in South Africa has always been a significant economic contributor, with the local market and exports both featuring as key drivers for market growth. 

While the food production market continues to see a large amount of growth, one aspect that is crucial to address is the amount of food waste that is produced, this includes both food waste that is still edible and the non-edible food waste by-products. To get an idea of the scale of the food waste situation, South Africa produces 31.1 million tonnes of food per year, where 27% of this is wasted. To break this down, 2.7 million tonnes/year is wasted at the agricultural production stage, 2.4 million tonnes during handling and storage, 2.6 million tonnes during processing and packaging and a further 2 million tonnes during transportation.

To tackle the food waste issue, we need to ask what causes it in the first place. Is it high food quality standards, poor packaging, produce degradation, or a lack of circularity with food and organic waste? In fact, it can be argued that our food waste extend is a combination of all of these factors. Therefore, to deal with these ‘inefficiencies’ that contribute to food waste, a focus should be placed on on-site circularity with food produce and waste. 

Let’s discuss:

Use food by-products

Firstly, to focus on the edible food surplus, fresh food produce that does not quite meet market standards can and should be used as an ‘input resource’ to produce another marketable product where possible, for example. Many fruit producers will juice the produce that can’t be put on a fresh shelf. This production model allows producers to not only reduce food waste but also to diversify their product range that reaches the market. 

On-site composting

Ultimately there will always be volumes of food waste that are not consumable. However, this does not mean that these volumes cannot be circulated as a secondary resource. On-site composting units, like BiobiN, provide a highly efficient and accessible means to dispose, contain and process inedible food waste into a high-grade soil amendment product. For agriculture and food production, on-site composting is an ideal food an organic waste management system, as the output product can be used for agricultural purposes to restore soil.

Designing a circular model for agriculture and food production is becoming the new norm, with the economic and environmental benefits both being realised. 

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