Of the nearly 17 million tons of surplus food generated at the farm level, a staggering 82% is from produce that reached maturity but was left behind after harvest. Some of this is considered inedible for reasons including rot and insect infestation (although it still could potentially be used for non-food purposes), but more than a quarter of the surplus is left behind, because it’s considered “not marketable” – frequently because of overly strict quality or appearance standards established by stakeholders further down the supply chain. And surprisingly, another quarter of what’s left behind is actually considered marketable, but it isn’t harvested for other reasons, including insufficient labor to harvest or planned surplus for contracts that have already been fulfilled for the season.
Optimizing the harvest means aligning what is grown with what is ultimately harvested, by avoiding overproduction and then harvesting as much as possible. When it comes to wild-caught products, such as fish, some animals, and certain types of produce, it means sourcing only what is needed. Solutions in this action area include finding new ways to sell and donate what’s left after harvest, such as developing innovative contract structures that don’t incentivize overproduction, and improving systems of communication that relay forecasted demands back up the supply chain to producers. Additionally, technological innovations that streamline individual, cross-sector, and cross-supply chain data-sharing could amplify the benefits. While these solutions manifest in less waste at production, the opportunities and responsibility to implement them lie across all supply chain actors.
Nearly half of the capital investments needed for solution adoption in this action area come from Corporate Finance and Spending, where the companies and organizations that invest in development and implementation of the solutions will receive the greatest benefit. The next largest contributions are Impact-First Investments, and an equal split between Venture Capital and Private Equity, highlighting the need for catalytic capital from philanthropic and private investors to increase participation from all types of funders.