Of the nearly 15 million tons of surplus produce generated at the farm level, a staggering 82% reached maturity but was left behind after harvest. Some of this was 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 was left behind, because it was considered “not marketable” – frequently because of overly strict quality or appearance standards established by stakeholders further down the supply chain. And surprisingly, another 22% of what was left behind was actually considered marketable, but it wasn’t harvested for other reasons, including insufficient labor to harvest, or because it was planned surplus for contracts that had already been fulfilled for the season or because the cost to harvest was greater than the selling price. This means that about half of the produce left on farm was perfectly edible.
"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.
A majority of the 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 contribution is from Private Equity, indicating that there is a need for expansion capital for imperfect produce channels. An equal split between Impact-First Investments and Venture Capital highlights the need for catalytic capital from philanthropic and private investors to increase participation from all types of funders.