Innovation Insights: Collaboration and creativity can help processors reduce food waste
By Alex BarlowFood Trends Bluicity British Columbia Canadian Food Innovation Network Editor pick Enviro-Stewards Food Cycle Science Food innovation food waste Ontario Plan Automation Second Harvest TrendiTech
Food loss and waste is a pervasive problem, occurring throughout the Canadian food supply chain. As a result, all stakeholders have a responsibility to tackle food waste in their operations. For F&B manufacturers, that means finding sustainable methods of preventing food waste during the production process or collaborating on creative ways to convert ‘waste’ into usable ingredients.
According to Second Harvest’s two-year Food Loss and Waste Implementation Project report, released in January 2023, 58 per cent of food produced for Canadians annually is either lost or wasted, with 47 per cent of that loss—totalling 16.77 million metric tonnes—occurring during manufacturing and processing.
The study also revealed that by working with advisors to reduce food loss and waste in their processes, food manufacturers were able to prevent 3.1 million kg per year of food from being wasted, and 100,295 kg of food to be redistributed. Not only did the companies significantly reduce their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, but they also collectively saved an average of $205,800 annually by retaining food that was being lost or wasted.
Where to start
Thanks to a growing number of Canadian foodtech companies, several solutions are available. For many manufacturers, it starts with an analysis of their internal processes and supply chain. Enviro-Stewards from Elmira, Ont., works with manufacturers to identify the root causes of food waste and loss and determine sustainable solutions. The company takes a holistic approach to assessing and implementing a plan that prevents waste, while conserving resources and improving financial performance.
Food waste-savvy tech
New technology, such as X-ray reclaim services from Plan Automation, is also making it easier to reduce food loss. Plan Automation allows manufacturers to ship potentially contaminated food and beverages to its Bolton, Ont., facility to scan for contaminants, thereby reducing the volume of wasted products. In 2022, the company inspected more than 2.5 million kg of products worth over $10 million, diverting it from landfill.
Meanwhile, digitized supply chain innovations provided by companies such as Bluicity (Grimsby, Ont.) are helping manufacturers manage their value chain more effectively and prevent waste due to improper handling. By using smart sensors and cloud-based algorithms, Bluicity proposes to monitor the movement of goods to provide manufacturers with automated, real-time data on factors such as temperature and humidity, allowing them to quickly take action to prevent food loss through spoilage.
In addition to adjusting their logistics and production processes, manufacturers attempting to lessen their food waste are turning to businesses offering collaborative ways to deal with edible product that is either leftover or not of any value as a sellable item. For instance, there’s now technology for dehydrating, fermenting, and processing, which can be applied to food waste to capture the nutritional and caloric value and turn the ‘waste’ into valuable ingredients.
TrendiTech, Burnaby, B.C., uses robotics and automation to upcycle wasted fruits and vegetables into a variety of nutrient-dense ingredients.
When some food waste is unavoidable, companies such as Ottawa’s Food Cycle Science are stepping in to offer advanced solutions for composting. The company is developing a large-scale, enzyme-enhanced composting unit that can be installed at QSR facilities. Their solution reduces the weight and volume of waste by up to 90 per cent and converts it into resources for enriching soil. This onsite, ‘one-bin system’ of large-scale food composters will allow restaurants to easily manage food waste.
“We understand the difficulties, costs and complexities our clients face when it comes to waste management,” explains CEO Brad Crepeau. “We believe that our technology can be adapted to also process bioplastics onsite, which would help to eliminate many of the challenges our customers face. This will make it easier for our clients, municipalities, and recycling and composting site operators to widely adopt and manage bioplastics.”
Resolving food waste is a complex topic, and one that food and beverage manufacturers do not need to address in a silo. There are many partners who can help you assess your food waste issues. There are also many tools to adopt that could help solve the problem.
As Crepeau says, “The challenges we face are multifaceted, and it will take many people with different backgrounds and perspectives to develop effective solutions. We need diverse partnerships to offer new and divergent ways of thinking and promote innovation.”
Alexandra Barlow is vice-president, programs, Canadian Food Innovation Network (CFIN), a free, national, member-based organization stimulating innovation across the Canadian food sector. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column was originally published in the August/September 2023 issue of Food in Canada.
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