The sustainability of our food system is one of the most important issues we face as a society. Sustainable food systems don’t just affect food loss and waste within supply chains but also greenhouse gas emissions and climate change concerns.
In this blog, I want to cover 4 ways to build a more sustainable food system that will be better for food producers & local farmers, food processors, create enough food for food security, environmental impacts, and create healthier local communities!
The world’s global population is currently forecasted to reach 10 billion by the year 2050. With this increase, the population growth will directly affect the demand for food, which means we would need roughly 56% more food supply than we are currently producing.
If this lack of food supply, known as the “calorie gap”, between current amounts of food production and forecasted demand isn’t met, there will be some serious repercussions.
At this very moment, 68% of our freshwater is used for agriculture, and about 37% of the planet’s landmass (not including Antarctica) is used for food production.
On top of that, 25% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to global food production. We also add roughly 5 billion pounds of pesticides every year to protect our crops. Continuing with these patterns and stats simply won’t work at scale. So the question is, how can we feed more people with our increasingly limited natural resources?
We at PostHarvest have put together 4 different strategies that, if implemented, could build more sustainable food systems.
- Optimise agricultural land use
- Improve efficiency throughout the supply chain
- Shift to more sustainable diets
- Request action from governments and representatives
Optimise Agricultural Land Use
One promising solution is to implement strategies that can spare sections of land and optimise them for agriculture. Boosting yields on drylands through improved water and soil management can greatly reduce energy and water consumption, allowing for farmers to grow more, while using less.
If we become more strategic about using our land more efficiently, we can achieve much higher agricultural yields and returns that will be able to feed the growing population without needing to compromise biodiversity.
Improve Efficiency Throughout the Supply Chain
Another strategy for building a more sustainable food system is focusing on efficiency across the supply chain. There are many ways to improve efficiencies, and this should be taken seriously. With over 40% of fresh produce never making it to the market in the first place.
Food waste is an alarming enough problem on its own, not to mention the number of resources that are also wasted in the process. In the United States alone, nearly 4.2 trillion gallons of water are required across 30 million acres of cropland that grows our produce, and that is all sent out to landfills.
There are many different approaches and ideas by different companies that seek to reduce food waste across the supply chain, and even the United Nations has created specific Sustainability Goals. One of the goals is stated: “By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses”. That’s an incredible goal!
There are many new technologies being developed to help with reducing food waste across the supply chain, including PostHarvests revolutionary sensor, allowing for cool room data to be transferred and forecasted to supply chain managers.
If less food is wasted across the supply chain, this means more food with getting to the market and feeding more people.
Shift to More Sustainable Diets (Reduce Meat Consumption)
Reducing food waste isn’t the only way to help create a more sustainable food system. Another way is for us as humans to actually shift to healthier and sustainable diets overall, especially diets with less meat.
The meat production industry is full of inefficiencies, which places it at the top of the list for the intensity of resources used. Red meat, (particularly beef and lamb) are especially high-impact and cause lots of environmental damage.
If the demand for meat decreases, less land will be required to grow animal feed. This means, more land overall can be used to grow food for human consumption.
Request Action From Governments and Representatives
All of the previously mentioned strategies lead us to our last point, and that is that everyone can contribute to sustainability, you don’t need to be a business in the agricultural field. Consumers just like you and I can play a small part, which helps create some major change. There are a few ways that we can do this.
One of these ways is to write to your local and state politicians. We can all collectively urge these representatives to adopt new and more environmentally friendly policies around farming. And as a result, help us get one step closer to feeding more people.
Another way is to educate ourselves, and then implement based on our knowledge. PostHarvest, for example, provides dozens of free courses around food sustainability at a consumer level. You can access them here today, and then create an action plan surrounding how you and your community can contribute. Together, we can create a more sustainable future for everyone.