Agricultural waste reduction
In a world where agricultural production is getting harder, farmland becoming more scarce and spiralling costs it is imperative that the food that is being produced throughout the world, actually makes it to our plates. You might be shocked to learn that out of all of the farmland across the world, a whopping 30% of this available land, produces food which is then wasted each year. This equates to 1.6 billion tonnes of food, wasted globally, which is enough to build a mountain two miles across and 8,000 feet high. This is especially cause for concern when we consider that to feed our growing population by 2050 food production will need to have increased by 60%.
Identifying key causes of waste and potential interventions is crucial to support the reduction of both financial and food waste across the agri-food system. In addition to financial advantages, substantial environmental benefits are possible as a result of small changes and more efficient use of raw materials.
Key areas for food and financial waste reduction
Crop and produce waste – crop and produce losses at harvest can be very stressful and upsetting for farmers and growers. Out-graded material or spoilage in-store can account for 2% to 25% of the yield – with financial losses resulting from these. Looking at your quality management systems for production and storage can give significant savings in this area
Stock control – recording the cost of seed, fertiliser, ag-chem and activity costs as they are applied provides an up-to-the-minute view of production costs and will help you to be more efficient, by only ordering what you need from your agronomist recommendations and reducing the amount of money tied up in unused chemicals between seasons
Nutrient management guide (RB209) – this will help you to determine actual crop needs based on previous years crops, anticipated yield, soil analysis and soil type. Make effective use of organic materials and balance the benefits of fertiliser use against the costs – both economic and environmental
Pesticide application, handling and storage - Improved management and use of pesticides can produce significant savings. Many assurance schemes and environmental bodies look favourably on well-managed pesticide systems
What gets measured, gets managed – an analysis of over 1,000 companies found that for every £1 invested in food waste reduction, businesses reported an average of £14 return. Farmers measuring produce quality or performance often find large variability and by understanding how much, where and why it is occurring you can monitor progress over time. Measuring performance will also help you understand if you are competitive with your peers
Increasing the value of crops or products for sale – a production system that creates waste can often result in lower quality products. For example, poor control of grain drying will result in spoilt grain, lower prices and increased wastage
Food waste in primary production is perhaps the most difficult to quantify, this is mainly because farming is subject to the uncertainties of the natural world. Yields vary from year to year, as well as the quality, size and shape of the product, timing of harvest and other factors. Customer demand also fluctuates and is itself influenced by many factors.
There are, however, several ways to collaboratively tackle primary production waste. Working with a centralised system that gives you instant access to crop and farm data will help inform your decision-making in areas such as spray timings, cost of production and optimising yield. Enabling you to work in more agile and productive ways while simultaneously helping you cut costs.
References - Reducing Waste guide (redtractor.org.uk); Technical report templates (wrap.org.uk)