Do you know that annually, we waste 1,3 billion tons of food? An amount that is enough to feed 3 billion people. 3 billion people can be fed from the food that we waste, meanwhile around 925 million of the world’s population are starving. Hence, theoretically, if we have zero food waste, we might be able to eliminate world hunger.
But let’s not dive into that grander scheme of eliminating world hunger just yet. Instead, let’s start eliminating food waste from our lifestyle and our own home. (Find out about the difference between food waste and food loss)
For people who always have access to an abundant amount of food, food waste might seem like a trivial problem. But there’s something in the way we consume that resulted in food waste, and the accumulated effects can be devastating.
In light of this problem, people start innovating technologies that could help fight food waste on a daily basis. These innovations range from a storage system to edible food identification tags. Here are some of the highlights
1. Smarterware Smart Storage
The Ovie Smarterware Food Storage System is basically a set of “smart tags” that can be attached to your food containers. After you finish tagging all the food containers in your refrigerator, input what kind of food there are in the Ovie app.
Then the app will register the food and begins the countdown for each food. You will start receiving reminders on your phone and from the smart speaker regarding which food you should eat first before it goes bad. The SmartTag light on the food containers will also gradually change color to notify you about the condition of the food inside.
In addition, the light ring changes from green, yellow, and red respectively. When the light turns yellow, you will receive a notification to eat the food along with some recommendations on how you can process the food to be eaten.
You can also check what food ingredients that you still have when you are doing grocery shopping for example. That way, one can finish all their food and minimize buying too much food at once.
Fruits and vegetables produce a gas called ethylene, which works like hormones in humans and animals. It results from the fruit’s ripening process and regulates the growth and development of these fruits and vegetables.
Certain amounts of ethylene gas in fruits can cause physiological changes to happen, like changes in color and texture. Its effect on fruit ripening’s process can also be affected by other gases such as carbon dioxide and oxygen.
By taking into consideration the effect of this ethylene gas, the ripening of fruit can be modified, either to make it faster or even to delay it. The food industry has been using ethylene absorbers to prevent early ripening and rot during shipment and distribution.
Consequently, this concept is also used in the BluApple product, which absorbs excess ethylene gas by oxidizing it with sodium permanganate. Just like the name says, the blue-colored plastic apple can be put inside your refrigerator, food drawers, or fruit baskets to prevent them from rotting prematurely. As a result, your vegetable and fruits can last almost three times longer.
Another invention that helps prolong the life of fruits and vegetables is from Apeel, which created a second, edible skin called Edipeel for fruits and veggies to help them last longer. Yes, the skin is safe to eat too.
Apeel works by adding an extra layer of tasteless, odorless, and plant-based protection on the surface of fruits and vegetables to keep the moisture in and the oxygen out. This can help keep fresh produce to last twice as long.
In the case of avocado, for example, Apeel not only can extend its lifespan by almost a week and doubling the ripeness window from two to four days, but it also claims to be able to reduce water loss by 30% and the softening rate by 60%.
4. Hyperspectral Camera
Hyperspectral imaging is a technology that breaks the electromagnetic spectrum into hundreds of bands in order to generate data that the human eyes cannot see.
This technology has been a hot topic in the food industry for the past few years, this is because the hyperspectral camera is capable of seeing when fruits are becoming ripe. The rule of thumb is that the riper the fruit, the darker the image.
In addition to being useful for food inspection, researchers are also trying to encapsulate this technology so that it can be used by consumers. The works are still in progress, but the concept is to create a practical device that can be synced with the gadgets that we use on daily basis. Perhaps in the near future, we can use our smartphone camera not only for a selfie but also to tell when is the best time to eat the fruits that we buy.
5. Edible Graphene Identification Tags
Scientists from Rice University are investigating ways to write graphene patterns onto food and other materials in hopes to be able to embed identification tags on the product itself.
James Tour, one of Rice Lab’s chemists stated that the graphene is not ink. Rather, it was like turning the material of the product and converting it into graphene. Their new works, which were featured in the American Chemical Society journal, ACS Nano, demonstrated that laser-induced graphene can be burned onto paper, cardboard, and certain foods, including toast.
The common material for the graphene tags to be embedded don the materials is called lignin. Cork, coconut shells, and potato skins have high lignin content, which made it easier to be converted into graphene.
So why bother embedding graphene on things and even food? Well, if things go as planned, it’s possible for foods to have a tiny RFID tag that provides information about its origin, its lifespan, and where it has been before reaching our plate.
It can even serve as sensors that detect E.coli or other microorganisms that can spoil our food. In other words, these tags can warn us if the food that we want to consume is already contaminated. What’s even unique is that all those tags are not in the form of extra labels, but on the product itself.
Fighting Food Waste Starting From Ourselves
With or without those cool technologies, food waste is something that we should eliminate from our daily routines and lifestyle.
Preventing and avoiding food waste start from now, from our lifestyle, and ourselves.