A New Age of Food Production
Though food packaging waste is an issue in and of itself, the waste of the food inside is another problem entirely. Fed up with the misuse of land, energy, water, logistics, and packaging that goes into wasted food, some farmers are coming up with creative solutions to feed the world’s people instead of its landfills.
Food waste is a massive problem in the United States and around the world. 40% of all food grown in the U.S. is wasted. Overall, about 20 billion pounds of produce are thrown away each year. That is 400 pounds of food waste per person, annually! The reasons that food does not reach shelves are varied: problems with storage equipment, damage during transit, spoilage, or undesirable physical flaws are some examples of why one of our most precious resources ends up in the trash.
With all this food being removed from the market voluntarily, it is hard to believe that 20% of Americans are not sure of their next meal. Food deserts — usually impoverished areas and cities without convenient grocery stores or farmers markets — leave many without access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthy whole foods. Unsatisfied with this reality, two companies called Bowery Farming and Hungry Harvest are doing their part to eliminate food deserts and mitigate food waste.
More Effective Farming Methods
In a video compiled by news and media website NowThis, Bowery Farming shows off their indoor farming initiatives from a large warehouse in Kearny, New Jersey. Indoor farming may seem counterintuitive in the name of sustainability, but Bowery has found it effective for both increasing production yields and combating the problem of food deserts. Bowery’s inner-city farm uses a hydroponic growing technique called vertical farming, along with controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) technology to grow greens and herbs that are sold to grocery stores and restaurants within a 10-mile radius of the farm.
CEA technology allows the farm to control every aspect of the growing cycle: a computer system collects hundreds of thousands of data points from each plant which agricultural scientists then use to optimize growing conditions. Using this method and stacking plants in vertical beds allows Bowery to capitalize on space and produce more food, faster. Because the farm is indoors, no pesticides or agrochemicals are needed to keep away pests and plants can grow 365 days a year rather than relying on growing seasons. Their position close to the city means food arrives where it is sold within a day or two of being picked and is much fresher compared to other options that may have been in transit for two or three weeks before arriving.
As a result, hydroponics allow Bowery to use 95% less water to produce 100 times more food on the same space compared to conventional outdoor farming. According to the Bowery website, “We’re re-thinking what agriculture looks like in a world where water is scarce, people live in cities, and we’re waking up to the dangers of pesticides and other chemicals.” Bowery calls their produce “post-organic” because they preserve all the values of organic produce, without the land.
Bowery Farming brings the freshest produce to food deserts, eliminates excess water usage and chemicals used in conventional farming methods, and capitalizes on a small space to have an enormous significant impact.
More Effective Food Waste Reduction
Hungry Harvest is combating food deserts and food waste in a different manner. Instead of growing produce, they are distributing food that might otherwise be thrown away or left to rot on farms unpicked. They take the unwanted and unsellable foods that are still okay to eat – an apple that is ripe, but not red, or a cabbage full of dirt that only needs a good wash – and release them to subscribers in balanced variety boxes. Food that would have otherwise been called defective and wasted finds its way onto plates at 20% cheaper cost than grocery store prices. Subscribers are typically consumers who are passionate about Hungry Harvest’s mission to eradicate food waste, but there’s a bonus to their contribution: every box sold helps someone in need, who lives in a food desert or is food insecure, eat healthily.
Food waste is a huge problem, and Hungry Harvest is doing something important about it. [Advertiser content from Wells Fargo]
Posted by Eater on Monday, November 20, 2017
Hungry Harvest has two missions: eliminating food waste and ending hunger. For the company, food waste is not just about food – though of course, distributing food to hungry families is a primary motivator for Hungry Harvest and its customers. Similarly to Bowery Farming, Hungry Harvest is also attempting to improve the state of agricultural water use. Almost a quarter of agricultural water used is growing food that ends up wasted. By distributing the imperfect food instead of throwing it away because of how it looks, Hungry Harvest helps to improve the environment as well as the lives of people in need.
A video featuring Hungry Harvest discusses the company’s efforts in its hometown of Baltimore, where one in three people live in a food desert or are food insecure. George Bunton, a community school coordinator in the area, is shown selling large bags of fresh fruit and vegetables for $7. Because of Hungry Harvest’s mission to distribute food that would be disposed of in the traditional market, students in Baltimore and food insecure families around the country can access fresh produce. So far the organization has “rescued” over 5 million pounds of food from going to waste and provided over 700,000 pounds of produce to people who are food insecure.
Food waste is everyone’s problem. If our habits do not change our world will not be able to sustain its population. Hungry Harvest’s CEO, Evan Lutz, presents the challenge numerically: “By 2050 we’re going to have 10 billion people on the planet, but how will we feed them if we’re wasting 40% of everything we grow and if 20% of our fresh water is used for food we’re not eating?”
Becoming a subscriber to a service like Hungry Harvest is one small way to help. Purchasing produce from streamlined, indoor farms like Bowery Farming is another. We must begin to support businesses that combat food waste to reframe the definition of sellable produce. As we become more accepting consumers and allow fruits and vegetables with small defects to make it to market, more food can be made available to the hungry and less will end up in a landfill.