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US: Emerging technologies tackle upstream food waste

In the United States in 2019, more than a third of the 229 million tons of available food went unsold or uneaten. ReFED, a New York-based nonprofit focused on food waste, estimates that nearly 9 billion meals worth of food, the equivalent of 2% of the country’s GDP, is wasted each year. From an economic standpoint, food waste costs the country nearly $400 billion annually. While much of that cost is felt by consumers, waste within food industry sectors is worth approximately $250 billion.

Approximately 23 million tons of food is wasted at consumer-facing businesses, with shoppers tossing out an additional 30 million tons of food each year. Grocery stores, foodservice operators and consumers often are the focus of waste mitigation efforts, but upstream stakeholders have a part to play, too. Nearly 30 million tons of food is wasted in a year before it gets to retailers and restaurants.

“For farmers, knowing what the demand will be is almost an impossibility,” said Larry Clarke, chief executive officer of NanoGuard Technologies, a food safety and waste mitigation startup based in Saint Louis. “Figuring out how to use what they overproduce can positively impact waste mitigation, but you have to keep those foodstuffs stable long enough so that they can actually be used or processed.”

NanoGuard is tackling food waste through a food safety lens. It developed a solution for reducing crop waste caused by mycotoxins, the harmful chemicals that result from poor growing or harvesting conditions. The company’s high atmospheric cold plasma technology uses reactive gases to decontaminate staple crops like wheat and corn, as well as specialty crops like peanuts and almonds. It blows cold air across an item to reduce mycotoxins and other pathogens, helping farmers sell more of the food they grow.


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