How food is lost and saved from farm to market


There is a need to rethink existing farming and food systems to tackle the problem of food loss

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations estimates that about a third of the food the world produces annually is lost or wasted before it reaches the market, due to problems ranging from the lack of proper post-harvest storage, processing or transportation facilities.

The unfolding Covid-19 pandemic and measures to curb the spread of the virus have exacerbated the food waste problem in many parts of the world. Labour shortages and logistic bottlenecks resulting from border closures, lockdowns and trade disruptions have disrupted the harvesting, processing and transportation of food supplies. The crisis has thrown into sharp relief the need to rethink existing farming and food systems.

How food is lost

At the farm

  • Overreliance on a shrinking list of crops, such as corn, wheat and soybeans, increases risk of pests and disease.

  • Climate change leads to extreme weather conditions which affect harvest.

  • Mismatch in supply and demand leads to over-production of certain produce, which is wasted when there is not enough consumer demand.

  • Lack of storage and poor handling of produce during harvesting.

Processing & Distribution

  • Spillage and degradation during transportation.

  • Spoilage due to delays and lack of cold-logistics facilities.

  • Disposal of imperfect food due to strict grading system.

At the Marketplace

  • Retailers and consumers set standards requiring food to be of a certain size, shape or colour.

  • Food perceived to be imperfect is discarded by restaurants, supermarkets and consumers.

How food is saved

Here’s a look at how social enterprise WhatIF Foods and Singapore farm Chew’s Agriculture have implemented ways to cut loss and reduce the environmental impacts of agriculture — even before the current crisis.

Chew’s Agriculture: Sustainable farming

This Singapore farm, which signed an SME sustainability-linked loan with DBS last year, partners waste-to-energy plant Acromec to utilise chicken manure combined with wood chips from plant trimmings to generate electricity for the farm.

The waste-to-energy plant is part of its circular farming system, which also includes minimising food loss when hens are later used for other food items.

The waste-to-energy plant at Chew’s Agriculture converts chicken manure to energy used for farm operations.

WhatIF Foods: Champion of Crop Diversification

This DBS Foundation Social Enterprise Grant Awardee seeks ways to diversify crop yields in small farms around the world by developing Future Fit Crops, a group of climate-resilient and drought-tolerant crops that have the ability to produce good yields on degraded or marginalised land.

These include the Bambara groundnut, moringa and lupin, which can be used in combination to make staples like noodles that have a higher protein content. This method not only gives small farms another market to sell their harvest, but also creates more sustainable alternative sources of nutrition.

The Bambara groundnut, seen here sold at a market in Ghana, is a Future Fit Crop developed by WhatIF Foods.


This content is produced in partnership with ST Life.

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