AMES, IOWA, U.S. — The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), The Rockefeller Foundation and Iowa State University recently launched the Consortium for Innovation in Post-Harvest Loss and Food Waste Reduction at the 2019 Iowa International Outreach Symposium.

Through this consortium, food loss and waste thought leaders and experts from across the globe will work in tandem with industry and nonprofit organizations to address social, economic and environmental impacts from food loss and waste.

“Feeding a growing global population demands innovation at all levels — from planting to processing to consumption,” said Sally Rockey, executive director of the FFAR. “This consortium will help farmers across the globe use technology to continue using resources efficiently. Optimizing food production practices is critical for ensuring that farmers are profitable, food is plentiful and accessible, and the environment is preserved.”

Due to the volume of food that is moved globally, food loss and waste affects producers, manufacturers, distributors and end-users.

“Our consortium approach will build academic and entrepreneurial capacity of the next generation by engaging researchers and students in multi-national, multi-disciplinary teams in the project identification, planning, and execution phases together with professionals from the private and public sectors,” said Dirk Maier, the consortium director and a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at Iowa State, where the consortium will be located.

In 2016, The Rockefeller Foundation launched the YieldWise Initiative aimed at reducing both food loss in developing nations like Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania, and food waste in developed markets like the United States. In sub-Saharan Africa, YieldWise provides farmers with access to segmented markets, technologies and solutions that curb preventable crop loss and facilitates training that helps them solidify buyer agreements with markets in African communities.

“To nourish, sustainably, nearly 10 billion people by 2050, we must implement a menu of solutions that simultaneously shift diets toward plant-based foods, close the yield gap, and reduce food loss and waste,” said Rafael Flor, director, Food, The Rockefeller Foundation. “This is paramount to meeting both the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 12. Failing to reduce food loss and waste will make the challenge of achieving a sustainable food future significantly more difficult.” 

According to the FAO, nearly 1.3 billion tons of food — costing roughly $940 billion — are either lost or wasted yearly, generating about 8% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. Food is lost more at the consumption stage in higher-income countries, while more food is lost at handling and storage stages in lower-income regions.

The consortium said it will work collaboratively to develop a scalable approach for adoption of the YieldWise model and provide farmers with cost-effective strategies and technologies that link their crop supply to the market demand. This will allow farmers to gain more value from their crops and become more profitable, while also stimulating local economic growth and improving the resiliency of rural communities. 

FFAR is contributing $2.78 million for the three-year project, which partner organizations from around the world are matching for a $5.56 million project budget. Participating institutions include The Rockefeller Foundation, Iowa State University, U.S.; University of Maryland, U.S.; Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands; Zamorano University, Honduras; University of São Paulo, Brazil; Stellenbosch University, South Africa; University of Nairobi, Kenya; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana; and the Volcani Center, Israel.