IoT and Food Waste: Have You Eaten All Your Food Today?
Use IoT to create zero-waste food production methods.
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Food waste is a major challenge today. Over the years, many studies have been conducted to draw our attention and highlight the impact of food waste globally.
It is a fact that the need for food production will be increased in order to meet the demands of global population growth. However, technological innovation and development can help us control the amount of food that is being produced and, above all, regulate the production and distribution process to decrease food waste. As it was more than expected, once again, we will seek a solution in the IoT World.
Food for Thought
In this article, we are going to focus on the two main impacts of food waste worldwide.
First and foremost, we should consider the moral aspect of the issue; on the one hand, we are aware of millions of people who suffer from hunger, but on the other hand, we consider this matter as a fact and we find it difficult to realize that we are an integral part of the food waste problem and, therefore, nelect to realize that we are an important part of the solution.
In addition to the ethical aspect of the problem, we should not overlook the environmental impacts of producing food that is then discarded. There are various ways that the environment is being harmed by food wastage; the most critical is methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, which is emitted to the atmosphere. This is caused by organic waste when it begins to decompose and rot in a landfill, and by the way, it's needless to say that methane gas is 21 times more harmful to the environment than CO2. Oh boy!
Also, inseparably linked with the food waste is the land waste, if we consider the arable and nonarable land being used. Just think about the large percentage of the food that is produced is wasted. This has a great impact on the biodiversity, as well, through the overexploitation of the natural recourses.
Today's Best Practices for Food Waste
There are various methods which can help in managing food waste, and thus, mitigating the impact it has worldwide. Let’s have a look at some of the existing practices that can be implemented.
Composting is a great way for households to reduce their food waste. In this way, the total quantities of waste that end up in the landfill are decreased while at the same time the lifetime of landfills is significantly lengthened. Furthermore, when organic matter decomposes in compost, it has access to oxygen and thus methane is not released to the atmosphere.
While food waste is reaching alarming levels, it can be a treasure trove if considered as an opportunity to generate energy. In particular, biofuel is a very promising method to exploit food waste. Converting discarded food to energy, a large amount of landfills is released, resulting in significant environmental benefits. Moreover, biofuel is a solution friendly to the environment in comparison to fossil fuels and can be a cornerstone with respect to our carbon footprint reduction.
IoT Solutions to Reduce Food Waste
The power of IoT is more than established than ever before. We can say that most of the industrial sectors are redefined in order to meet the fast-paced technology changes. IoT can be considered a milestone in the effort to reduce food waste. Over the years, various studies have been conducted showing that large quantities of food are discarded. This is not only the case with consumption levels, such as households, but also in the production process or supply chain. Below, we will analyze the way in which we can add IoT technology to the aforementioned processes.
The production process is a very important stage; at this stage, several operations are involved like harvesting, selection, and packaging. During these processes, there are losses of large quantities of food.
IoT can save the day in various production stages, mostly through real-time data collection via smart sensors. In this way, producers can monitor their crops, be aware of the exact prevailing conditions of the production, and be able to make the most optimal decisions so that the wastage can be limited to a minimum level.
Another idea is the control of the production process so that the goods produced do not far exceed the demand. An IoT solution that can be implemented is the creation of customer profiles, and through groceries stores and big supermarkets, producers will be able to receive feedback on product demand and production can be adjusted accordingly.
The supply chain is a focal point concerning food waste and is comprised of different stages such as crop, warehousing, distribution, and delivery to retailers. The good news is that we can integrate IoT devices and smart sensors throughout most of the supply chain operations. Particularly, the yield losses can be reduced to a large extent with the use of different types of sensors for controlling the soil conditions and pesticide levels. Furthermore, a very significant part is warehousing and distribution where it has been observed a very high percentage of food waste. In this field, numerous IoT solutions can be implemented. With a great variety of sensors, we can achieve real-time tracking and monitoring of the products in all stages, from storage to delivery. In addition, we can monitor the environmental conditions in order to ensure food freshness and avoid spoilage (a damaged refrigerator for example).
The level of food waste in households is extremely high; according to many studies, it accounts for the largest percentage. IoT today offers some key solutions to mitigate the food wastage in households. The most widespread solution is smart refrigerators; there are also further solutions such as smart fridge cameras, food container with smart tags, and smart trash cans. More specifically, through these solutions, consumers are able to check in real time the content of their refrigerators, track food freshness, and keep a record of their trash so that they are able to know the exact needs of their households. As a result, consumers avoid buying something unnecessary from the supermarket or discard fresh food.
Food wastage is a very serious issue that needs to be recognized and addressed; everyone should feel responsible. The IoT is the best tool to tackle this issue, offering various solutions and devices that can make this process easier and more efficient.
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