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How to create value from food waste

Agri-TechE Article

2-4 million people could be fed their 5-a-day nationally on fruit and veg that is currently rejected for cosmetic reasons such as colour, shape and size, it has been estimated by WRAP.
AMT Fruit, part of the Munoz Group, is one of the UK’s largest citrus specialists, and they are addressing the problem in a number of inventive ways, were discussed at an event ‘Closing the Loop on the Circular Economy’.

Naomi Pendleton, Head of Technical and CSR at AMT Fruit Ltd, spoke at the event. She explains that the company works with over 250 growers to supply Tesco with 11 million boxes of citrus each year – that’s approximately 140 million nets of citrus.
circular economyShe says: “We have been focusing on reducing food waste in our global operations for a number of years, and through our efforts to date we have reduced overall operational waste by 30% from 2015 to 2018, the majority of which (81%) is citrus fruit waste.

“This has been achieved in a number of ways including: revising and broadening product specifications; expanding our sourcing countries; introducing new product lines; and developing partnerships with food charities, which have seen the donation of 1 million portions of fruit.”

AMT conducted consumer research to gauge attitudes and as a result was able to work with their retailer customer Tesco to accept an increased amount of ‘scruffy’ fruit and to introduce a new giant line of over-sized fruit. This resulted in Spanish growers supplying an extra 10% of their crop to Tesco. Further improvements to the delivery strategies have extended the shelf life of citrus fruits by 40 million days.

However despite these efforts the organisation still has in excess of 2,000 tonnes of waste each year from the UK operation.

Create value from food waste

Naomi explains: “Our citrus waste is too wet and acidic and full of rots and moulds which makes it unpalatable for animal feed. We were having to send all our waste to AD plants. At the start of 2018 we were introduced to Joe Halstead from AgriGrub, who was looking for locally sourced viable waste products on which to grow his black soldier fly larvae.”

AgriGrub feeds waste vegetables and fruit to the larvae of Black Soldier Flies and when they are an optimum size they sell the larvae – branded as Calci worms – to pet food distributors and retailers as a form of live feed for reptiles. Their virtuous by-product is called frass, and is a sustainable source of nutrients for plants, and a novel bio-repellent for crop protection.

There is already a significant body of evidence on the efficacy of chitosan (the active component in frass) as a biopesticide. However for many years the cost of extracting the chitosan was considered too great, as the process involved boiling crustacean shells in sulphuric acid. Frass from insects, however, needs little processing and represents an economically viable source of chitosan for agriculture.

Joe Halstead explains: “We are focusing our attention at the moment on higher margin crops which have few treatment options for pests and diseases as this is likely to give us the best return in the least time. However longer term I hope and expect frass to have broadacre application, especially where neonicotinoids are being phased out. Our first frass trials, on brassicas, showed a 94% reduction in aphid numbers on frass treated plants versus controls.

“It is in the field where routine synthetic pesticide usage is most damaging to our environment, so ideally we’d like to see frass and its bio-repellent qualities used in the field to repel insects rather than killing them. This spares non-pest species and allows beneficial insects to persist in the local environment.”

Naomi says the relationship is working well: “This is a great example of a circular economy created through a mutually beneficial relationship. Our presentation will discuss this relationship, how it works and the benefits for all, including those for local farmers.”

Find out more Closing the loop on the circular economy 

Dr Belinda Clarke, says: “Food waste is a major issue and the work AMT Fruit is doing with AgriGrub is one of a number of inspirational approaches that use waste from one process as input to another.

Event is over.

Climate change and agriculture – time for an agri-hackathon

Agri-TechE Blog

SUN - Climate change and agriculture - time for an agri-hackathonThe extreme vulnerability of UK agriculture to climate change has been revealed in a report by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology on Climate Change and Agriculture, which brings renewed urgency to the need to have fresh thinking about ways to mitigate the impact.
The UK’s NFU President, Minette Batters, told delegates at the 2019 Oxford Farming Conference that UK agriculture should aspire to achieve net zero emissions by 2040.

Climate Change and Agriculture 

A recent report from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology on Climate Change and Agriculture highlights the crucial need to help agriculture become more climate resilient, and suggests some approaches, technologies interventions which can help. Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, loss of carbon from over-managed soils and release of nitrous oxide by soil microbes on addition of slurries or fertilisers are reasonably well-documented. But as average temperatures rise, the potential spread of plant and animal pests and diseases, and increasing pressure on water availability also pose a real threat to the industry.
Managing crops, animals and land differently (including use of inputs) can help mitigate the risk, but the report also cites new technologies which can help. These include the breeding of new crop varieties to tolerate lower water availability and increased salinity, as well as livestock breeding targeted at helping animals cope better with heat stress.
Linked to that are new approaches for management of livestock (such as ventilation) to help reduce heat stress in managed systems.
With a few caveats, vertical farming also features high on the list of tech that can help mitigate the problem. Optimising light, heat and providing carbon dioxide (potentially as a by-product from other industrial, or low energy sources) can also potentially make a difference. Crucial to the calculations in the report is the assumption of changes to the human diet, such as the substitution of animal protein by legumes, fruit and vegetables. Also critical is the issue of food imports.
At present the UK imports 40 % of the food it consumes; avoiding importing embedded emissions in food produced elsewhere needs to be part of trade discussions with other countries. Fixing climate change is urgent, challenging and complex. It needs research, action and probably regulation to help drive different behaviours.

WWF supports Agri-hackathon 

Scientists at the University of Cambridge this week announced the creation of the new Cambridge Centre for Climate Repair, and we hope our agri-hackathon, with partners Barclays Eagle Labs and Allia, with support from sponsors BASF and WWF, will go some way to helping find innovative solutions.
Agriculture sits at the very pivot of the climate change agenda. While agriculture has (not unreasonably) been identified as needing to make some changes for the sake of the planet, increasing resilience of the agriculture system to these influences is crucial for the future of the industry as well.
Report: Climate Change and Agriculture

The World at a Crossroads; Searching for a solution


The World at a Crossroads; Searching for a Concrete Solution, was the theme of the 10th Asian Leadership Conference (ALC),  held on 14-15 May, 2019 at The Shilla, Seoul. Agri-Tech East director Dr Belinda Clarke was invited to present developments in Smart Farming. 

Belinda said: “I was invited by Prof Kyeong-Hwan Lee, Director of the Agricultural Robotics and Automation Research Centre at Chonnam National University, and we had an excellent meeting about future collaborations as they further develop the agri-tech focussed innovation ecosystem around the University and build on the cluster of relevant companies already co-located with the University.

Belinda’s session was ‘Smart Farming 4.0’, with the aim of showcasing the best of future potential technologies to enable global agriculture to reach its full potential, as sustainably as possible. Talks ranged from vertical farming, to the latest innovations in farm machinery, to robotics and automation.

Belinda featured some of Agri-Tech East’s scores of members, including the University of Essex robotic strawberry harvester, the University of Lincoln’s computer vision work to identify mature broccoli heads ready for harvest, the Hands-Free Hectare developed by Harper Adams University and Precision Decisions, and the Potato Yield Model developed by NIAB CUF and Agrimetrics.

The ALC, hosted by The Chosunilbo, is the country’s premier international conference where global leaders come together to discuss and provide possible solutions for the pressing issues that Asia is facing today. World-renowned political leaders, global corporate CEOs, and academic leaders have participated in the conference since it was first held in 2005. Participants at the conference include C&D-level and senior executives of Korea’s biggest-listed companies, senior government leaders and officials, professors and researchers.

Since its very first conference, the ALC has presented unique themes that address the status of society, and provides a great opportunity to seek ways to bring peace and prosperity to the world.

The Asian Leadership Conference 2019 - Korea 2
From left to right: Prof Yong-Joo Kim, Dept of Biosystems Engineering at Chungnam National University (conference session moderator);Thomas Seiler, CEO of U-Blox;Prof Noboru Noguchi, Vice Dean of Hokkaido University in Japan; Dr Shufeng Han, Principal Engineer, John Deere USA; Luuc Grammans, Researcher (Plant Factories) at Wageningen University and Research; Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-Tech East

Belinda continues: “We were honoured to have in the audience Yoon Dong-Jin, the Director General of the Agri-Bioindustry Policy Bureau.
“It was a real privilege to be part of the Asian Leadership Conference and showcase some of the best of UK agri-tech developed by our members via this prestigious global platform. I am excited about developing our links with colleagues at the Universities, supported by the British Embassy in South Korea, for this important market through which our members can springboard further into South East Asia.
The Duke of York also spoke at the conference and hosted a Pitch@Palace event.

The Asian Leadership Conference 2019 - Korea 1
From left to right: Prof Yong-Joo Kim, Dr Shufeng Han, Luuc Grammans, Thomas Seiler, Belinda Clarke, Prof Noboru Noguchi