You are currently viewing our desktop site, do you want to download our app instead?
Moneyweb Android App Moneyweb iOS App Moneyweb Mobile Web App

We don’t have a food crisis, we have a food waste crisis

Transformation of the food processing industry is required.
Technologies and scientific-data is available to feed the food revolution and ensure food security for everyone. Picture: Supplied

If you want to know how much food the world wastes, the internet is your friend.

It can tell you about the farm in the United States that dumps at least a quarter of its potatoes for being too big, too small, too ugly or the “wrong” colour. Or about how food waste is responsible for 8% of all pollution.

Staying in the US, because it is a well-monitored microcosm of a global problem, as well as home to the world’s biggest garbage mountain, food manufacturers generate 55 000 tonnes of waste per day by trimming off edible skin, fat, crusts and peels.

Imagine being aboard the International Space Station and watching trillions of dollars being sucked into orbit every year by a sinister alien invader seeking to break the back of Earth’s economy: that’s what food waste does.

Even in Africa, home to many of the world’s hungriest people, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation says the amount of food wasted could feed an additional 300 million people.

Nearly 800 million people have insufficient food to lead a healthy, active life, according to the Food Aid Foundation. Put another way, food wasted in the US alone would provide every hungry mouth in the world with 1.25kg of nutrition every day.

We’ve just marked World Food Day for the 39th time, which is odd because we don’t have a food crisis. We have a food waste crisis, created and sustained by the same commercial interests that have simultaneously delivered an obesity emergency concealed inside their hollow calories.

A change of course is overdue, and the remarkable thing about the inflexion point we have reached is that with a little imagination, everyone can win – fat people, hungry people, farmers, manufacturers, retailers, animals and even the planet.

In developed countries, we’re seeing a willingness to change at the “fork” end of the food chain. Consumers are responding positively to public awareness campaigns about the need to cut waste, specialist shops are proudly selling “imperfect produce”, local authorities are making it easier for organic matter to reach composting facilities.

Closer to the “field” end of the chain, things don’t look quite as rosy. Skins and seeds – often the most nutritious parts of a plant – are still routinely discarded; squeezing and skimming – technologies that haven’t fundamentally changed since the early days of food and beverage mass production – are still fuelling the waste mountain; food manufacturers turn up their noses at the protein-packed “fifth quarter” of an animal carcass.

It’s not because we lack the know-how to do things differently. The Dynamic Cellular Disruption technology invented by Green Cell Technologies is just one example of a development with the potential to revolutionise the food and beverage manufacturing industry, by eliminating waste, increasing yield and birthing new products whilst still keeping capitalists in capital.

What they do lack, is the courage to innovate and to embrace change, the imagination to visualise a meal of the future, and what in Africa, we call the spirit of Ubuntu – the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.

By addressing these shortcomings, we wouldn’t have to wait for anything close to 12 years to achieve the UN sustainable development goal, which says that by 2030 we should “halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses”.

In fact, this target looks unambitious and distinctly wishy-washy in light of what we could achieve by next year, if we had the will and the cojones. The 2030 initiative is driven by the biggest food and beverage companies who think they will lose out if they stray too far from what they know and understand now about production and continue to generate these current wastage levels.

Our planet already produces enough food to sustain the extra 2.2 billion+ people who will live on it by 2050. What is still required is a paradigm shift based on the most basic answer to a simple question: Why do we eat?

The answer to that question is energy transfer. In primitive times, hunters and gatherers had to put so much energy into obtaining their food, there was little likelihood of them getting fat. Modern farming and processing techniques have turned that natural logic on its head.

Now we eat because it tastes good, because we are in a particular social situation, because we’re stressed, because we worked hard and think we deserve an expensive meal, because a brilliant chef made the plate look like a work of art or because feeling full makes us happy.

Rediscovering the simple truth that “we eat to live” is the vital precursor to a food revolution for which, the all-important scientific and technological advances have already been made.

What will that revolution look like? Critically, it will be waste-free. Just as importantly, if it is to be sustainable, it will deliver cheaper, but better food for hundreds of millions more people. Our calculations show that the mythical “dollar a day” needed to feed each hungry person can be cut to more like 40 US cents.

The revolution will also be more profitable for the big food companies. Using technology that efficiently liberates the energy and flavour in every cell of a foodstuff will reduce overheads, shorten production processes and yield revenue-generating by-products.

On its own, eliminating waste delivers a median 14-fold return on investment, according to a study by Champions 12.3, a coalition of executives from governments, businesses, universities and agricultural organisations.

The revolution will also be healthier. The ability to use discarded but nutritious skins and seeds makes a huge contribution, bolstered by the extraction of every atom of energy from all foods, reducing the requirement for artificial additives.

We stand at the threshold of an era in which, what we now think of as waste can be turned into something that is cheap as chips but better than what the richest citizens of the world are currently eating. As with most revolutions, however, there are those who stand in the way – mainly individuals and organisations whose prosperity depends on the status quo.

My response to them is encapsulated in a quote from the American architect, designer and inventor Buckminster Fuller: “To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Roy Henderson is the CEO of Green Cell Technologies. 


Sort by:
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Top voted

You must be signed in to comment.


I can not see this “waste free” food revolution happening. Waste happens because people have the choice and the money in developed countries to buy what they like. When I was growing up in Hungary in the 50s we cut out the rotten part of the fruit and ate the rest, today I simply throw it out. Do you expect shops to sell partly rotten fruit, just because you can cut out the rotten part? Would you like to buy chicken blood just because it is nutritious? Chicken feet is regarded as delicacy in some part of the world, waste product in others. Would you ship the feet from one part of the world to the other or persuade people in the US to eat it to reduce wastage?

This is just a first world problem. Hungry people will eat what they have. We have much bigger problems in this country.

Roy Henderson writes like your typical SJW, expecting the leftovers of food processing to be packaged nicely and shipped around the world to the agri imbalanced, at the cost of the nation at point of production

And as for his day dream of ubuntu….with the fear that has gripped the poor in their favelas/townships, the ideal is a bygone

Roy sounds like a PC PR millenial who has lost touch with the real world.


I just commented to my wife yesterday when I went to buy us smoothies about how when each smoothie was made, only about 80% of what was made ended up in our cups. The rest was washed down the drain.

That’s just at the point of making the end product. Along the way there is probably a large chunk of the fruit that has been harvested that gets thrown away even before it gets to the retailer and the retailer will have fruit and yoghurt that goes off from day to day etc. etc.

It will be much more helpful to provide food to poverty stricken regions that contains contraceptive substances.

So this guy is suggesting that we solve the hunger problem in poor nations by cutting waste in wealthy nations? Should a rational person not ask why some nations have an abundance of food, while others suffer from famine? Nations have food shortages because they waste precious productive resources. Successful nations enjoy an abundance of food, to the point where they can afford to waste it, because they apply precious resources efficiently.

Poor countries that are constantly struggling with hunger and disease, rank low on the property-rights index, while those who enjoy food security rank high on the index.

When people respect individual rights, and enforce law and order and property rights, they enable the efficient utilization of resources. This system compensates farmers for the risks inherent in food production. The farmer braves fluctuations in prices and weather, to satisfy the needs of the consumer. The consumer rewards him for his efforts by protecting the farmer’s property rights.

People die of hunger and disease in countries where law and order and property rights are not respected. People who waste these precious resources cannot waste food, because they do not have any. The fact that some people have an abundance of food says only one thing – they respect the resources, and they employ the right economic and social system.

Nations that suffer from famine have a shortage of food, because they do not respect the resources that produce food. Death by starvation is the penalty for this ignorance and lack of respect. Famine in Africa is caused by politics, not by nature. The ANC and the EFF better take notice. Their supporters are bringing the wrath of collectivism upon themselves. Hunger is a self-inflicted phenomenon in the modern age.

I do not agree with your paragraph before your last. I find that it is not based of unbiased facts. On proper rights and amendment of it in SA I am against as my grandfather worked very hard to buy his land I also worked very hard to buy my own land before building on it. I even borrowed and paid the bank with interest.

Please do check other links showing that hard working people sometimes do encounter hardships. Please check some couple of articles on India, one of the country listed to have great education, hard working people and different highly sorted after skills.

Thank you. Maybe you misunderstood me. Hardworking people should be rewarded with security of ownership. The reason we work is to improve our lives. When our property is not protected by the law, their is no incentive to work for the benefit of the group. I congratulate you on your hard work and I wish for you to prosper.

Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of Southern Africa. Now it is a basket case. Zimbabweans face starvation, not because of a change in the weather, but because of a change in the law. South Africa is semi-desert, some of the worst soil-types and rainfalls in Africa, but because of the protection of property rights, South Africa has food security and even export maize to Zimbabwe.

SENSEI…I nominate you for the post of Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries!! (out with Mrs Tina J-P)

End of comments.





Follow us:

Search Articles:Advanced Search
Click a Company: