Inventions That Prevent Food Waste and Support a Sustainable Food Supply
Today, there are 842 million undernourished people across the world. Even so, the World Food Program reports, enough food is produced to feed the world’s 7 billion people. However, inadequate investment in agriculture, natural disasters, war and displacement, unstable food markets, food waste and a cycle of poverty can prevent people from being able to access this food.

There is good news: the Global Hunger Index indicates that from 1990 to 2014, hunger in developing countries had fallen 39 percent. The WFP argues that “All of us — citizens, employers, corporate leaders and governments — must work together to end hunger.” Fenugreen and Bakeys are two companies working to address problems of hunger with their recent innovations.

Of all the food produced in the world, one-third — or 1.3 billion tons of food — goes to waste. The company Fenugreen produces a product called FreshPaper, designed to address food waste by preventing spoilage. FreshPaper sheets made of antibacterial and antifungal spices.

The sheets are inexpensive and can be placed inside bowls of fruit or refrigerators. Vegetables and fruit last two to four times as long when FreshPaper sheets are used. Further, the sheets can each be used for up to one month and can be kept in storage for up to two years before use. The sheets can also be composted afterward.

Fenugreen is currently working with nonprofit organizations and research institutions to make FreshPaper available to people living in India and Africa. The company is also working to research alternative applications for the product, relating to farming or the use of FreshPaper in households that have no refrigerator.

To address the problem of agricultural productivity, the Bakeys company has developed edible and compostable spoons, primarily made of sorghum. Wheat and rice crops require more water than a crop like sorghum. The continued stability of agriculture depends on the availability of groundwater. India, in 2010, extracted more groundwater than China and the United States combined. Narayana Peesapaty, the founder of Bakeys and inventor of the edible spoons, hopes that his product will encourage the production of sorghum and displace wheat and rice production, making agriculture in India more sustainable.

Bakeys spoons can also reduce the buildup of plastic waste. They are more sanitary than plastic spoons, which are not always produced in hygienic conditions, and the edible spoons do not expose people to the same dangerous petrochemicals that plastic spoons do.

Madeline Reding

Photo: Flickr

Reducing Food Loss
A simple invention aims to revolutionize the preservation of perishable goods, thereby reducing food loss.

The invention in question is known as FreshPaper, a small sheet of biodegradable material infused with a special mixture of botanical extracts that claims to preserve food freshness. Its inventor? Then 16-year-old Kavita Shukla, who was inspired to tackle the problem of food waste in a unique way.

It began with Shukla trying her grandmother’s home remedy for an upset stomach: a mixture of plant extracts, botanicals and spices. Upon the remedy’s success, Shukla was inspired to test it further, thus discovering its antimicrobial properties.

Several years of research later, she was able to receive a patent for the mixture, now known as Fenugreen. At 27, Shukla joined forces with a friend to launch the product in Cambridge.

Food waste is a big problem. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the U.N., one-third of food produced for human consumption worldwide is wasted annually. This waste typically happens at the consumer end of the production process. “Food loss” occurs earlier on during production, post-harvest and processing.

Developing countries in particular struggle with food loss, since they often lack the industrialization necessary to preserve food long enough to reach consumers. The National Geographic states that India loses up to 40 percent of its fruits and vegetables in this manner.

There is no one solution to food waste or loss. Instead, it is important to take action at multiple steps in the food making process. In developing countries, aid organizations are providing for better storage facilities for farmers, preventing them from losing excessive amounts of crops during transit.

Since 1997, the FAO has donated metal silos to more than 15 countries by training local craftsmen in their construction, use and delivery to farmers. In one study, 96 percent of the beneficiary farmers in Bolivia responded that the silos in question improved food security by reducing the amount of food lost post-harvest and maintaining grain quality.

Shukla is currently working to make FreshPaper available to food-banks and to farmers in developing countries. She hopes that her invention can have a big impact in reducing food loss.

Sabrina Santos
Photo: Flickr