California - US

Zest Labs tracks produce to reduce waste

Back in 2015, the United Nations called on the world to cut its food waste in half by 2030. Four years later, during this year’s Climate Week, a significant number of organizations are still pledging to reduce their food waste.

Each year, the United States wastes up to 40 percent of its food, according to nonprofit NRDC’s 2017 report. ReFED, leading food waste think tank, estimates that improving inventory management could divert 59,000 tons of food waste per year in the United States alone. Produce has the highest waste rates of any food, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, in part because it faces higher perishability. Also, US farmers typically grow food in open fields in lieu of using greenhouses, which some scientists and farmers say is better for the environment (because it uses less water) and the produce itself (because the fruits and vegetables stay fresh longer).

"[Fresh produce] is typically some of the healthiest food we can eat, because it's high in nutritional value, vitamins and minerals. But it's also more difficult to handle. And that handling becomes critical in preserving the shelf life or how long the product lasts," said Peter Mehring, CEO of Zest Labs, a post-harvest agtech company.

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