Huge amounts of edible food are lost even before it reaches the farm gate. Estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations suggest that globally it could be between 500-850m tonnes, equivalent to approximately 10-15% of the world's food 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.
The volumes in the UK could be immense, but this is difficult to measure. One fenland producer estimates 3 million iceberg lettuce heads are produced surplus to requirements each year, this is partially due to weather conditions, but also as a result of specifications over the desirable 'head size'.
Much of this material can be recycled as compost or within an anaerobic digester so the waste is not visible.
Agrimetrics has worked with WRAP, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to improve resource efficiency, with a programme to quantify the scale of the issue.
The aim was to determine the key causes of waste, potential interventions and to create metrics for estimating waste in other crops and sectors such as livestock production.
Overall the intention is to see if data modelling can help provide estimates more efficiently than traditional measurement techniques like large-scale in-field assessments. There is considerable variation across the industry suggesting that better tools for forecasting could make a significant difference to resource utilisation.
The 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.
Further work to provide agrifood businesses with modelling approaches to better quantify, measure and manage food waste across key sector groups is now needed.
Evidence-based insights are crucial to support the reduction of food waste across the agrifood system.
Agrimetrics is a signatory of the Courtauld 2025 commitment to reduce waste.
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