Preventing food waste within the supply chain

Every year, 1.3 billion metric tons of food is produced for human consumption in the world. A third of it never reaches the consumer’s plate. To achieve UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12, we need to halve global food waste by 2030. In developing countries, food waste can be up to 50%. Even in developed countries with a “cool chain”, post harvest losses can still range from 4 – 8%.

Cooling is not the complete answer to postharvest product loss. Any new solutions should be non-chemical, energy efficient and cost-effective to meet demands for safe, nutritious, and affordable food. 

At ADAS, our goal is to develop and trial new solutions to help businesses increase their productivity by reducing food waste. We work with stakeholders across the supply chain, from primary production through to retail, by acting as an essential link between industry and the research community.

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Post harvest management of fresh produce

Ripening suspension

The ability to suspend ripening is key to being able to smooth out the peaks and troughs of grower supply to meet consumer demand. It works effectively in commercial supply chains and can extend shelf life for  up to 7 days compared with cool chain alone. The technology can also extend shelf life in higher climates. For example, it has been used to produce cut flowers in Kenya.

For a project in Nigeria, we investigated low energy, cost-effective ripening suspension methods to extend the shelf life of tomatoes. Effective solutions discovered included:

  • ripening suspension using air purification and the removal of ethylene, a key ripening hormone which is produced by plant tissues
  • printable, robust, and portable microelectronics to measure real time key environmental factors
  • developing shelf life prediction algorithms using gene discovery and real time data streaming

Pest and disease management

Our experienced horticultural consultants can investigate postharvest losses caused by crop disease, pest and physiological/nutritional problems in ornamental and edible crops. After we’ve diagnosed the underlying causes, we can recommend treatment and advise on a mitigation strategy. Visit our Plant Clinic service webpage to learn more.

Our post-harvest and product development facility

For commercial and experimental research trials

Our CleanG trial site in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire is a commercial pack house facility that can be used for direct industry scale trials or investigations. It allows us to monitor the condition of all types of fresh produce and test out new methods of post-harvest management.

Facility features

  • A commercial shelf life room
  • A 46 pallet CA (O2, CO2 and N2 control) room with refrigeration (down to 4°C)
  • Cool chain storage facility >100 pallets
  • Air purification (ethylene scrubbing)
  • Temperature fluctuation and air purification test units
  • Large meeting room for up to 30 attendees
  • Secure storage and testing facility
  • Separate offices and online conference facility

For past projects, we have used the facility to:

  • test and develop sensors, tags and bioindicators for produce quality management
  • assess the impact of packaging choice
  • develop innovative methods for post-harvest control of microbial decay and spoilage
  • minimise losses within the food system by controlling the fundamental biology that influences food storage and shelf-life

New project enquiries

We are open to new project work, both in the UK and internationally. For enquiries, please contact ADAS Postharvest Consultant Dr Hassan Bagheri

Training and support

Outside of new research, as a specialist supply chain consultancy for post-harvest technologies and control of pathogens, we can support food and drink businesses with:

  • independent auditing of processes and operations
  • developing post-harvest best practice manuals
  • professional training for commercial companies, supermarkets, suppliers to major retailers, grower groups, packaging suppliers and governmental organisations
  • support with research and development funding applications to develop new solutions
  • product life-cycle carbon footprinting and reduction planning