Food waste is a global problem of alarming size and scope, with losses of an estimated $1.6 trillion annually. However, South Australia is placed at the forefront of finding new ecological and economic solutions.
In July 2018, the Federal Government announced the allocation of $30 million in funds to establish the Fight Food Waste Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) in Adelaide, a commitment by industry and government worth a combined $121 million over 10 years to combat Australia’s estimated $20 billion annual food waste bill.
Having completed contracts between all parties making contributions to the CRC -being a unique combination of 43 industry partners, eight universities and five state government partners- the program’s first six research and development projects were approved two weeks ago.
Dr Steven Lapidge, CEO of the Fight Food Waste CRC, based in the Wine Innovation Building at Urrbrae, says that while work on many projects will occur around the nation and have a national impact, SA was the natural home for the centre.
“From container recycling to banning plastic bags, SA has been a leader in sustainability for a long time. We also have the lowest food waste per capita. Now we take it to the next level. Driving large-scale change through innovation represents a huge opportunity in this state. Australia was lagging 10 years behind Europe, and now this CRC is the largest enterprise committed to research and development of food waste solutions in the world.”
“We are in a position to play a critical leading role. We need to, because the global statistics are staggering. It’s estimated that 33% of all food produced is wasted – and 50% of all fruit and vegetables grown end up as waste, most of it becoming land fill.”
One of the CRC’s first projects will be exploring new packaging initiatives for food, which Steven says is of critical importance: “Public sentiment is distorting the argument around food packaging. There needs to be a more balanced understanding about what can be done with smarter and more efficient packaging to help eradicate food waste through prolonging food shelf life and reducing spoilage.”
Food waste transformation projects are already in motion, led by the local potato industry. SA has the four largest producers in the country, producing about 80% of Australia’s premium potatoes. Currently 45% go to waste, but the University of Adelaide is working with Potatoes SA to turn discarded fresh potatoes into puree, dairy-free ice cream and vodka. With potatoes being the third largest commodity in the world, these waste transformation ideas are set to have significant international traction.