As a junior in college, Katherine Sizov started a company called Strella Biotechnology. Her goal was to reduce waste in the US food system, a problem that by some estimates creates as much emissions as 33 million passenger vehicles. Now, three years later, Sizov is working in the warehouses of most of the country’s biggest apple producers, and her devices monitor about 15% of the entire US crop.
Every fall, apple growers gather billions of apples, rush them into storage, seal the airtight doors and wait until harvest is a distant memory to reopen them. But every spring and summer, there are bad surprises when they slide open their massive warehouse doors only to discover that temperamental Honeycrisps have turned to mush.
“If you reduce food loss and waste by 50%, you can save a lot of production emissions, but you can also avoid a heck of a lot of deforestation,” said Tim Searchinger, a senior research scholar at Princeton University’s Center for Policy Research on Energy and the Environment.
Eliminating waste also happens to be a way to help farmers and grocery stores earn more money, since the more efficiently food makes it to consumers, the more cash ends up with the people who’ve done the selling.