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Better benchmarking could reduce £30 million strawberry and lettuce waste WRAP reports

Better benchmarking could reduce £30 million strawberry and lettuce waste WRAP reports following research with Agrimetrics on mapping food waste
Research published today by WRAP, the not-for-profit sustainability body, estimates that £30 million of strawberries and lettuce alone ended up as waste in the UK, in 2015. This waste was the result of a complex set of factors relating to forecasting, product specifications, and pest and disease damage that made the produce unfit for sale. WRAP and the Agrimetrics 'Big Data' Centre are collaborating on approaches to improve the understanding of food waste.

The study estimates that just over nine per cent of mature strawberry crops ended up as waste, equivalent to 10,000 tonnes of product across the whole sector. For lettuce, WRAP found that around nineteen per cent of all lettuces were unharvested in 2015, with 38,000 tonnes lost across the sector worth an estimated £7million.

In both sectors there was considerable variation between producers – between 3% and 17% of production ended up as waste for strawberries, and 7% to 47% for lettuce. Whilst there is uncertainty around what causes this variation, it demonstrates scope to reduce waste by identifying and sharing best practice, and benchmarking different supply chains.
Strawberry crops ended up as waste
The study estimates that just over nine per cent of mature strawberry crops ended up as waste, equivalent to 10,000 tonnes of product across the whole sector.
Although weather related impacts will always be challenging, more accurate forecasting by both growers and their customers was cited as the main action to prevent lettuce crops going to waste, together with changes to specifications for head sizes.

Evaluating waste in primary production is complex 'big data' challenge, so Agrimetrics has been working with WRAP to define the best ways to improve the understanding of the factors impacting food waste. There is potential to develop new approaches including data modelling, which can help provide estimates more efficiently than traditional measurement techniques like large-scale in-field assessment.

David Moon, Head of Sustainable Food at WRAP explains "We're using our experience in mapping waste and bringing together key stakeholders to pinpoint where, why and how much waste arises on farm. This work will help the UK food supply chain become more efficient and competitive, which is crucial in the coming years. It is also critical that we have the support of retailers and producers collaborating on projects to develop and share best practice. It's an exciting new area of work and we're delighted to have the support of key sector groups."

Simon Davis, Head of Partnerships, Agrimetrics, said "As Courtauld 2025 signatories, we are committed to developing evidence based insights to support the reduction of food waste across the Agri-food system.

"Our modelling approach to quantify food waste in primary production has provided greater visibility of the evidence of food waste at farm level and potential data gaps.

"We look forward to building on this work in partnership with WRAP to better quantify, measure and manage food waste across key sector groups."

The projects are the result of a roundtable meeting chaired by WRAP in 2016 that included the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) and the National Farmers Union (NFU).

To read the WRAP press announcement.

To read the report

Simon Davis: Head of Partnerships
"Our modelling approach to quantify food waste in primary production has provided greater visibility of the evidence of food waste at farm level and potential data gaps''. Simon Davis
Two of the projects that Agrimetrics has been working on:

Applying the potato yield model to the value chain

Agrimetrics has worked with National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) to deliver the NIAB-CUF Potato Yield Model as an app that can be used on a mobile device. Within the WRAP study growers and Asda's sourcing arm IPL used the new yield forecasting tool to see how it could produce a yield report to help make accurate decisions earlier in the season.

Estimating waste in primary production

Much edible food is lost even before it reaches the farm gate, but it is difficult to address this problem as the amount and type of waste in primary production is not currently measured or assessed. Estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations suggest that globally it could be between 500 and 850 million tonnes, equivalent to approximately 10-15% of the world's food production. Agrimetrics worked with WRAP on a programme to quantify the scale of the issue within two produce areas.