Article Summary: Shockingly, one-third of all food produced worldwide is squandered in landfills or incinerators. The scale of this waste is immense, considering the millions of people worldwide who suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Food waste is not only a missed opportunity to alleviate global hunger but also has significant environmental consequences—resource depletion, greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss, for example. We explore one way Australia is working to combat these issues; through a world-first pilot program using robotics and maggots to convert food waste into livestock feed and fertiliser.
If you’re like us, you’re thinking of ways to implement sustainable and forward-thinking approaches to your daily farming life. In this blog, we will explore a groundbreaking solution that addresses the critical issue of food waste while working to combat climate change by promoting ecological balance. By converting food waste and landfill into valuable resources – livestock feed and fertiliser – you can help your farm's carbon footprint and pave the way for a greener future!
The rising challenge of food waste
Shockingly, one-third of all food produced worldwide is squandered in landfills or incinerators. That’s just far too much.
This amounts to nearly 1.3 billion metric tons of food discarded yearly, with an estimated value of over US $1 trillion. The scale of this waste is immense, considering the millions of people worldwide who suffer from hunger and malnutrition.
Food waste occurs at various stages of the food supply chain
Production and harvesting: Imperfect or damaged produce is often discarded before it leaves the farm.
Additionally, you may overproduce to meet market demands, leading to excess food that goes unsold.
Post-harvest losses: During transportation, storage, and processing, food can spoil or be damaged, resulting in substantial losses before it even reaches the consumer.
Retail and consumer practices: Supermarkets and consumers contribute significantly to food waste. Retailers often discard food close to its expiration date, and consumers may buy more food than they can consume or discard edible food due to misunderstandings about expiration dates.
Hospitality and food service: Restaurants, hotels, and other food service establishments generate substantial food waste due to portion sizes, food trimming, and unsold dishes.
There’s also the enormous environmental impact of food waste
Food waste is not only a missed opportunity to alleviate global hunger but also has significant environmental consequences:
Greenhouse gas emissions: When food waste ends up in landfills, it decomposes anaerobically, producing methane, a potent greenhouse gas contributing to global warming.
Resource depletion: The resources used to produce wasted food, including water, energy, and land, are essentially squandered.
Biodiversity loss: Expanding agricultural activities to meet excessive demand can lead to habitat destruction and biodiversity loss.
Climate change: The entire food supply chain's carbon footprint is substantial, and food waste exacerbates this issue, contributing to climate change.
How you can address global food waste
As farmers committed to sustainability, we can play a vital role in reducing food waste. Here are some actionable steps we can take:
Improve farming practices: Embrace technology and best practices to minimise losses during production, harvest, and post-harvest stages.
Educate consumers: Educate consumers about proper food storage, smart shopping, and the difference between "best before" and "use by" dates to reduce food waste at the household level.
Support food recovery programs: Donate surplus produce to food banks and implement initiatives that redirect edible food away from landfills.
Advocate for policy changes: Encourage policymakers to implement regulations that incentivise and support reducing food waste throughout the supply chain.
The farming community understands the magnitude of food waste globally. And that food is being produced by YOU.
Let’s not let our hard work go to waste—it’s time for us to lead the charge in maximising resources and minimising waste. In other words, it’s the power of collective action.
And boy, do we have a really cool way of doing just that… among many other eco-friendly things!
A machine that uses maggots and robotics to convert food waste into livestock feed and fertiliser?
You read that right.
Harnessing the power of maggots
While the idea may seem unconventional, the role of maggots in transforming food waste and landfill is truly remarkable. Certain fly species lay their eggs in food waste, and as these hatch into larvae (maggots), they voraciously consume organic matter, converting it into nutrient-rich compost.
A world-first food waste and maggot project
One success story is care of The Albury Waste Management Centre in Albury, Australia. The centre has completed a 12-month pilot program where they use black soldier fly maggots to break down food waste at their landfill site. This breakdown now creates sustainable livestock feed and fertiliser supplies, where through the help of robot technology, the scheme has ‘rescued’ 350 tonnes of the town’s food waste to date.
You may already know that mature maggots are a protein-packed supplementary feed for chickens, pigs, and fish you may have on your farm. And as farmers, we bet you’ve got plenty of flies who you’d love to get to work!
And there’s good news—plans are in place to introduce the maggot and robot technology to other regional waste management centres.
Maggots can create sustainable livestock feed
It’s vital to recognise the environmental impact of traditional animal feeds and the pressures associated with soy and corn production. Adopting maggots as an alternative feed source presents a more sustainable choice. By doing so, we can reduce the demand for soy and corn, contributing to the conservation of land and water resources—especially pertinent in areas at risk of drought.
Nutrient-rich fertiliser courtesy of maggots
Beyond providing livestock feed, the residue from the maggot composting process serves as a nutrient-dense fertiliser. Incorporating this circular approach can enrich the soil and enhance crop yields—offering an opportunity to enhance both farm productivity and ecological balance.
How this ‘Robot vs Maggot’ project actually works
The Albury project takes waste from supermarkets, restaurants and food manufacturing facilities and converts it into two products: an insect protein for animal consumption and an organic fertiliser.
This process takes 10-12 days, far quicker than composting, which can take 16 weeks to break food into usable byproducts.
The maggot process begins with a machine separating the food waste from its packaging. The machine then grinds the waste into a slurry and feeds it into a robotic system, which essentially houses an enormous maggot feedlot. The larvae then consume the waste. The waste produced by the maggots becomes commodities.
Like we always say, the future of farming is bright
In the era of innovation and sustainability, the transformative potential of converting food waste and landfill into livestock feed and fertiliser is exciting. Together, we pave the way for a brighter, greener future for agriculture and the planet.
At Pasture.io, we're proud to be with you on your farming innovation journey. Like you, we believe in making a positive change, cultivating a sustainable tomorrow, and reaping the benefits of a thriving, balanced ecosystem.
Until we meet again, Happy Farming!
- The Dedicated Team of Pasture.io, 2023-07-18