TOMRA Food has warned new technologies in the produce industry are necessary to reduce food waste, tackle global food shortages, and improve profits.
It points to the world’s growing population, forecast to increase from 7.6 billion to 10 billion people by 2050, as a reason food demand is already outstripping supply in many regions.
A challenge to solving this crisis is the time-long problem of food waste, the company adds.
Bjorn Thumas, director business development at the Asker, Norway-based TOMRA Food, says optimizing the latest sensor-based sorting solutions could provide a “quick-win” in tackling these issues, all while making food businesses more profitable and sustainable.
To back this argument, he explains that optimized sorting machines can determine exactly what percentage of a poor-looking crop is actually of good quality.
While helping suppliers meet precisely defined quality standards, this can also increase how much of a product a farmer sells, feeding people and making profit, rather than being consigned to waste, says Thumas.
According to TOMRA, “Selling fruit or vegetables as a lower grade of produce, or for a different processed product than originally intended, is far better than not selling it at all.”
The company emphasizes that waste can also be reduced through reverse sorting. With most systems, waste streams containing as little as 1% to 2% of good product are often discarded, but this is unnecessary, it says.
“When a sorting machine has the correct optical set-up, automated sorters can recover this waste.”
As almost one-third of all the food produced worldwide, about 1.3 billion metric tons, ends up rotting or being thrown away, the company believes reducing food waste is more critical now than ever.
It cites a European Parliament report: “Automating food processing lines with the right technology could improve sustainability in many ways, such as ‘optimizing product quality, reducing quality losses and defects, and decreasing energy and water consumption.'”
This could result in huge commercial benefits according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP): “Decreasing food waste could save businesses US$384 million a year.”