Posts Tagged ‘Purdue University’


Reducing Food Waste: Making the Most of Our Abundance

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According to staggering new statistics from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), roughly one-third of the food produced worldwide for human consumption is lost or wasted, amounting to some 1.3 billion tons per year. In the developing world, over 40 percent of food losses occur after harvest—while being stored or transported, and during processing and packing. In industrialized countries, more than 40 percent of losses occur as a result of retailers and consumers discarding unwanted but often perfectly edible food.

Reducing the amount of food we waste can help alleviate global hunger and protect the environment. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

At a time when the land, water, and energy resources necessary to feed a global population of 6.9 billion are increasingly limited—and when at least 1 billion people remain chronically hungry—food losses mean a waste of those resources and a failure of our food system to meet the needs of the poor. The Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project  is highlighting ways to make the most of the food that is produced and to make more food available to those who need it most.

According to Tristram Stuart, a contributing author of Worldwatch’s State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet report, some 150 million tons of grains are lost annually in low-income countries, six times the amount needed to meet the needs of all the hungry people in the developing world. Meanwhile, industrialized countries waste some 222 million tons of perfectly good food annually, a quantity nearly equivalent to the 230 million tons that sub-Saharan Africa produces in a year. Unlike farmers in many developing countries, however, agribusinesses in industrial countries have numerous tools at their disposal to prevent food from spoiling—including pasteurization and preservation facilities, drying equipment, climate-controlled storage units, transport infrastructure, and chemicals designed to expand shelf-life.



What Works: Reducing Food Waste

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By Janeen Madan

This post is part of a series where Nourishing the Planet asks its readers: What works? Every week we’ll ask the question, and every week you can join the conversation!

Roughly 40 percent of the food produced globally spoils before it even reaches the table. With a large share of the human population undernourished, we simply cannot afford for food to go to waste.

Practical Action’s zeer pots, which help preserve vegetables, are one among many innovative efforts helping to reduce food waste worldwide. (Photo credit: Practical Action)

In sub-Saharan Africa, where over 265 million people are hungry, more than a quarter of the food produced rots due to poor harvest or storage techniques, post-harvest losses caused by severe weather, or disease and pests. In the United States 45 billion kilograms (100 billion pounds) of food are literally thrown away each year. This puts pressure on bursting landfills, which contribute to climate change through the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is arming farmers with the information and technology to combat these challenges. In Kenya, the FAO is partnering with the Kenya Ministry of Agriculture to train farmers in ways to reduce loss of their corn crops to mycotoxin, a devastating result of fungi growth. And in Afghanistan, the FAO recently provided metallic silos to some 18,000 households. This improves storage of cereal grains and legumes, protecting them from harsh weather and pests. The silos have helped reduce losses 15-20 percent to less than 1-2 percent.

In West Africa cowpeas are an important protein staple, but due to pests, the harvests often do not leave farmers’ fields. The Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage (PICS) project’s hermetically sealed bags, which prevent oxygen and pests from contaminating cowpeas, are benefiting farmers across Niger. The PICS project aims to reach some 28,000 villages in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo this year. (more…)


Innovations that Affect Food for Tomorrow

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By Janeen Madan

On Saturday, November 6th, Washington D.C.’s most popular food trucks gathered outside the National Museum of American History. Usually hungry customers need to follow the locations of the trucks via twitter, but today they were parked in the same spot to participate in The Lemelson Center’s Food for Tomorrow: New Perspectives on Invention and Innovation Symposium.

By helping to slow climate change, improving health, and providing sustainable incomes, food can be a solution to nourish the planet and our bodies. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

This two-day event (November 5th-6th) brought together farmers, scientists, researchers, nutritionists, and writers to discuss the role of innovation in food production and consumption. Participants feasted on Simply Sausage’s meat from heritage breed pigs in Maryland, Fry Captain’s pumpkin-flavored milkshakes, and Takorean’s fusion Korean Tacos.

The symposium’s schedule included a series of panel discussions focusing on innovations in the field, in the kitchen and at the table. Other events included a movie preview of Truck Farm, a film about urban farms taking root in New York City, and a scavenger hunt to discover the museum’s food-related objects.

Nourishing the Planet co-Project Director, Brian Halweil, participated in the panel, “In the field: Producing Food for Tomorrow.”

Also speaking on the panel with Brian was Steven Craig, research scientist at Virginia Cobia Farms, and Jane Silverthorne, manager of the National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program.

Brian’s presentation highlighted 3 major shifts that he said we are already beginning to see in the global food system. (more…)


Innovation of the Week: Investing in Better Food Storage in Africa

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PICS protect cowpeas throughout the year, preventing oxygen and pests from contaminating them. (Photo credit: Purdue University)

PICS protect cowpeas throughout the year, preventing contamination from oxygen and pests. (Photo credit: Purdue University)

Cow peas are an important staple in Western Africa, providing protein to millions of people. Unlike maize, cow peas are indigenous to the region and have adapted to local growing conditions, making them an ideal source of food.

Making sure that the crops make it from the field to farmers’ bowls (or bols), however, is a real challenge in Niger and other countries (see Innovation of the Week: Reducing Food Waste). Cow peas only grow a few months a year and storing large amounts of the crop can be difficult because of pests. But that’s changing, thanks to a storage bag developed by Purdue University. The bags, called Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage, or PICS, are hermetically sealed, preventing oxygen and pests from contaminating the cowpeas. According to Purdue President Martin C. Jischke, “The method is simple, safe, inexpensive and very effective, which means that getting the right information to these people will reap tremendous benefits.”

With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the PICS project hopes to reach 28,000 villages in not only Niger, but Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Chad, and Togo by 2011. And while many farmers are at first skeptical the large storage bags will protect cow peas throughout the year, seeing is believing— in each village bags are filled with cowpeas and then 4 to 6 months later PICS has an Open-the-Bag event, allowing the farmers to see that the cowpeas are undamaged and ready-to-eat. In addition to protecting the cowpea from pests, the PICS bags also save farmers money on expensive pesticides.

Stay tuned for more on PICS bags when we head to Western Africa in a few months.