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Event recap: Working together to reduce food loss & waste in horticulture

During Hort Connections 2022, Stop Food Waste Australia, in conjunction with the Fruit and Vegetable Consortium, held a morning session on food loss and waste in horticulture. Industry leaders, researchers and innovators in the food waste space took to the stage, while growers and industry and government representatives filled the seats. Together robust conversations took place around the unique challenges and opportunities for fighting food waste in horticulture while hearing about some exciting solutions taking shape. 

Of Australia’s 7.6 million tonnes of food waste each year, horticulture products are the most wasted. In Australian homes, over a third of food waste is fresh produce, while two thirds of all food waste on Australian farms is fruit and vegetables. Horticulture will play an important role in reaching Australia’s goal of halving food waste by 2030, and can benefit from the resulting economic, social and environmental impacts.   

A central theme of the session was how various stakeholders can come together to support a reduction in food waste alongside an increase in fruit and vegetables bought/sold, upcycled, donated, and ultimately consumed. Understanding and addressing food waste and consumption in Australian homes is an important piece of this work as is leveraging and expanding the incredible food waste reduction initiatives underway.  

Understanding food waste in Australian homes

What we heard:

  • Researchers took a deep dive, literally, into hundreds of household bins to get a better understanding of food waste in homes. The findings show that fresh produce is the most commonly wasted food. (Fight Food Waste CRC, WRAP UK) 
  • While Australians generally underestimate the amount of food wasted at home, they see vegetables as a frequently wasted item, with a staggering 44% pointing to this fear of waste as a reason for not purchasing vegetables (Fruit & Vegetable Consortium). 
  • Only 6% of Australians eat the recommended five or more serves of vegetables per day, affordability, aftereffects of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions on unhealthy eating habits, and avoiding waste at home are some of the latest trends affecting vegetable consumption (Fruit and Vegetable Consortium) 

Feedback to the presentations included ways to increase consumption such as through education programs in schools, holistic national consumer education including in the home and at Point of Sale and improving understanding of best before dates. 

Waste reduction initiatives making an impact across the supply chain

What we heard: 

  • Foodbank provided advice for growers around planned donations of excess produce and the important impact increasing donations of fresh produce from farms would have on food rescue organisations and the growing number of food insecure Australians they serve. 
  • Fight Food Waste CRC (sister organisation to Stop Food Waste Australia) is the world’s largest R&D organisation dedicated to food waste. The TRANSFORM program is focused on valorisation opportunities for food that would otherwise be wasted – with valuable opportunities for growers that can assist with seasonal overproduction.  
  • The Australian Food Pact is a voluntary agreement featuring major companies, including Simplot Australia, Woolworths Group and Coles, that supports businesses in reducing food waste. Similar voluntary agreements overseas, such as the UK’s Courtauld Commitment, have successfully reduced food waste at scale. 
  • Perfection Fresh spoke about 100% crop utilisation and packaging innovations that are reducing waste and increasing grower profits. 
  • Nutrition Australia provided valuable insights into addressing consumer perceptions of affordability and value for money when purchasing vegetables. 
  • AgriFutures Australia and RMCG are undertaking a pre-farm gate waste program which is collaborating with Australia’s primary industries to better understand and identify the options to improve waste management (including organic on-farm waste). 
  • Melbourne Market Authority identified and addressed an enormous waste issue and have since reduced their landfill waste to zero, with learnings that could be applied to many other fresh produce businesses.

Feedback to the panel session included discussion on the importance of specification review, whole chain education of the effects of food waste, better collaboration with big retailers and better ways to engage with food rescue. 

Stop Food Waste Australia is proud to begin work on the Horticulture Sector Action Plan, which will take a collaborative and industry-wide approach to food waste strategies and solutions. This work is supported by the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Science. If you would like to stay informed about the Horticulture Sector Action Plan or get involved, please contact Melissa Smith.

Working together to reduce food loss and waste in horticulture session details:

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