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Upping the ante in the fight against food waste

Food waste costs the Australian economy $36.6 billion every year. And it occurs at every step along the supply chain – from the farmgate to processing, packing, distribution, storage, retail, and consumers. If we’re to meet the nation’s goal of halving food waste by 2030, we all need to do better. The newest call for research partnerships from Fight Food Waste CRC aims to help us do just that.

Australia is a powerhouse food producer – growing enough food to nourish a population three times its size. Every year, Australia’s agrifood sector pours billions of dollars into innovations that help food producers become more productive, and more efficient. Yet every year, 31% of food produced globally is lost or wastedcosting $36.b billion to Australia’s national economy.  

To the average household, it’s the equivalent of withdrawing up to $2500 cash – and throwing it straight in the bin.

The Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) is leading the nation’s efforts to address the problem – and they’re seeking partners whose innovations can help drive a meaningful reduction in food waste, right across the supply chain.    

Fight Food Waste CRC Innovation Manager, Jonathan Middis, explained, “When the CRC was established in 2018, we committed to supporting the Federal Government’s goal of halving food waste by 2030. [We’re making good progress, but there’s much more work to be done – and the clock is ticking.”]

“Winning this fight is essential to help keep money in consumers’ pockets, increase business sustainability and profitability, and improve food rescue – delivering economic, social, and environmental benefits for all Australians.”

If you have an innovative research project idea that could reduce food waste across the supply chain, check out Fight Food Waste CRC’s current opportunity on growAG.https://www.growag.com/listings/opportunity/fight-food-waste-crc-significant-co-investment-for-research-projects-still-available-research-partnership

REDUCE, TRANSFORM, ENGAGE

Established in 2018, Fight Food Waste CRC engages industry and consumers to reduce food waste – from farm to fork. To date, they’ve brought together 73 partner organisations, delivering more than 70 research projects that have invested nearly $20 million (in cash alone) on this important work.

Amongst them is growAG. alum, The Leaf Protein Co., who recently partnered with the CRC to demonstrate a commercially scalable process to produce novel plant protein ingredients from green leafy food waste.

Fight Food Waste CRC provides co-matched funding against three research and capacity-building programs: REDUCE, TRANSFORM, ENGAGE.

REDUCE is obviously our preferred solution. Let’s not create the waste in the first place,” explained Jonathan.

TRANSFORM is about taking unavoidable waste and converting it to its highest value and best use – ideally, keeping it within the food or feed category as an ingredient or product for human or animal consumption.”

ENGAGE in part, targets consumer behaviour change. Much of Australia’s food waste occurs at the hands of consumers, so if we’re to stand any chance of halving it by 2030, we need to change what people do in their own homes.”

“And that's not just tech innovation. That’s about helping people implement simple changes in their everyday lives that cut food waste.”

Self-reflection drives update to investment framework

Five years into its ten-year term, Fight Food Waste CRC has taken stock of its progress, to ensure they deliver maximum impact from the second half of its research activity.  

“We’ve had great successes that we’re very proud of – having completed over 30 projects that are meaningfully reducing food waste and increasing food rescue,” said Jonathan. “But it’s not enough.”

“We measure the impact of each project we fund, and right now – we know there are gaps in what we’re delivering. [Fortunately, we have an opportunity to tweak things, plug the gaps, and leverage greater impact towards our goal.”]

To facilitate that, the CRC has updated its Investment Framework, providing a clear agenda as to the project areas requiring new work, and the types of projects the CRC will co-invest in.
Fight Food Waste CRC has $5 million of Federal funding available for new co-funded research that addresses one of their three focus areas: Reduce, Transform, and Engage.

New ‘Future Initiative’ projects include: 

  • REDUCE: improving retail operational efficiency through alternative discount policies, digital stock management, cold chain maintenance, and on-shelf availability targets. 
  • TRANSFORM: facilitating supply chains that enable waste upcycling; and creating the necessary regulatory and policy environment to enable food waste transformation. 
  • ENGAGE: creating a knowledge hub for collating, storing, and disseminating food waste reduction information for organisations and individuals. 

Jonathan suggests researchers and entrepreneurs should use the updated framework to guide their application process.

“We’ve had good engagement with the call since we opened it earlier this year. My advice to new applicants would be read the framework closely, consider how your project aligns to the Future Initiative areas, and pitch your idea in a way that makes clear how your project fits.”

“Because while we always welcome ideas about waste reduction, we know that the Future Initiative areas are the ones best able to deliver the impact we need to see.”

All project funding requires matching leverage from industry participant contributions to undertake research, development, education, extension, and commercialisation activities with one or more of the CRC’s research providers.

 “The co-investment typically starts at around $50k, and we work with organisations of all sizes, from startups through to multinationals and government departments,” said Jonathan. “But if we’re to meet our goal of halving food waste by 2030, the solution will need to be scalable [– with the potential to deliver a big impact in a short space of time.”]

To find out more about this opportunity, visit the growAG. platfrom here

 

PHOTO: Fight Food Waste CRC group organisation, plus a number of collaboration partners and researchers. Credit: Fight Food Waste CRC.


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