Ritam Gandhi, director and founder of Studio Graphene, notes that collaboration between suppliers, businesses, innovative tech startups and consumers, can lead us toward a significantly more sustainable food chain.
- Sustainability technology has come to the forefront as a powerful tool in driving innovation and enabling efficiency toward sustainable food production.
- For example, supermarkets have begun to take advantage of the increasing advancements in AI and machine learning.
- By embracing these innovative solutions, we can minimise food waste and ensure a return to affordable prices.
Sustainability technology has become a potent ally in the fight against food waste, providing creative solutions to transform our food system.
While recent CPI figures showed a promising dip in inflation, food price rises remain close to a 45-year high, with retailers and manufacturers failing to lower the cost of essential items for consumers.
In addition to growing labour costs, adverse weather hurting harvests, and Brexit trade hurdles, experts have identified the predominant causes as surging energy costs and supply chain disruption caused by the war in Ukraine. Accordingly, the impact of higher prices is being felt by individuals across all backgrounds; however, it is particularly harsh for those with limited financial resources and tight household budgets.
Meanwhile, as prices continue to soar, the issue of food waste has gained even greater significance. Despite 8.4 million people in the UK experiencing food poverty, around 9.5 million tonnes of food is wasted in the country each year, according to Business Waste. This stark contrast highlights the significant issue of food waste and its implications on those who struggle to access an adequate food supply.
Consequently, sustainability technology has come to the forefront as a powerful tool in driving innovation and enabling efficiency toward sustainable food production.
The role of sustainability tech
When it comes to food waste, supermarkets are indeed among the significant contributors. Supermarkets alone are discarding a staggering 100,000 tonnes of edible food annually in the UK. However, one way that supermarkets have begun to rectify this is by taking advantage of the increasing advancements in AI and machine learning.
Advanced inventory management systems can detect and monitor stock levels of perishable commodities in real-time using sensors, data analytics, and machine learning algorithms. Supermarkets can therefore minimise overstocking and lower the likelihood of food spoiling by precisely forecasting consumer demand and changing orders accordingly.
Further, data analytics platforms allow supermarkets to track and analyse their food waste patterns, discover waste hotspots and put effective remedies in place. These platforms can include information on the kind of products that are frequently wasted, the causes of waste, and techniques for improving ordering, storage, and handling procedures.
Storage and handling can also be improved through Internet of Things (IoT) sensor tech, not only within supermarkets but also in warehouses. Implementation of IoT sensors and automation systems can enhance warehouse operations by enabling real-time tracking and management of inventory while ensuring precise temperature control.
For example, Telsen, a product we have developed at Studio Graphene, enables real-time monitoring of temperature and humidity levels, replacing manual checks and improving food safety. Its wireless transmission of data allows for remote monitoring in multiple locations simultaneously, optimizing resources, saving operational time, and enhancing overall supply chain efficiency.
Real-time monitoring of ambient temperatures in refrigerators and freezers can be achieved by employing sensors connected through a gateway. This setup enables users to receive alerts regarding any potential issues.
In the case of overstocking issues, zero-waste apps and subscription platforms such as Too Good To Go and Olio can facilitate the efficient redistribution of surplus food from supermarkets to local food banks, shelters, or community organizations. Online platforms or apps can connect supermarkets with nearby recipients, streamlining the process of food donation and reducing administrative barriers.
Keeping their digital products agile and under continuous improvement along with new features, zero-waste apps can enhance user experience, in turn encouraging users to continue using the app, contributing to its success and impact in helping prevent perfectly good food from ending up in landfills.
When food prices are high, consumers naturally tend to minimize their own food waste as it directly translates to financial loss. However, it is equally important for suppliers to take responsibility and contribute to this effort. By improving efficiency in the food supply chain and minimizing environmental impact, suppliers can not only fulfil their role but also help stabilise prices for consumers.
As such, the collaboration between technology innovators and businesses is crucial for harnessing the transformative potential of sustainability tech. By embracing these innovative solutions, we can minimise food waste and ensure a return to affordable prices.
Further, creating sustainable technology offers businesses, particularly startups, a differentiating advantage in standing out from the crowd and drawing clients who value sustainability.
The development of sustainable technology has given providers the chance to significantly alter the food sector through lower waste, profitability and cutting-edge solutions during times of economic uncertainty. Through collaboration between suppliers, businesses, innovative tech startups and consumers, we can work toward a significantly more sustainable food chain.
The opinions of guest authors are their own and do not necessarily represent those of SG Voice.