"Optimize the Harvest" - Following the Roadmap to 2030 Webinar Series
Wednesday June 2, 2021 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm EST
More than a quarter of surplus produce left behind after harvest is considered edible but “not marketable” – frequently because of overly strict quality or appearance standards. Another quarter is actually considered marketable, but it isn’t harvested for other reasons. What solutions can help producers avoid overproduction and harvest as much as possible of what’s grown?
Executive Vice President
Lisa K. Johnson, Ph.D
Independent Food & Agriculture Consultant
Head of Sustainability
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"The chain we’re talking about here … isn’t farm to consumer with a truck that goes back and forth between them. The chain we’re talking about - that messy middle of the food supply – is vast. And so in order for us to really, genuinely optimize the good, healthy, nutritious crops we grow, every stakeholder in that chain needs to play a role."
"There’s so many reasons why a grower plants the amount of food they plant, including the number of customers they had the year before, the opportunity for a market to pop up out of nowhere that they want to serve, even the lack of really effective crop insurance for fruit and vegetable producers. It really creates a situation where they have to back themselves up against risk."
"When we can optimize that first harvest – through new specs, through new channels, through new market avenues – we actually give back from a resource perspective to the farm being able to pick more, and truckers, and every piece along the path. If we can take everything at that moment of harvest along the whole chain, we get to give back and create new market revenues."
"We don’t have unskilled labor on the farm – the people cutting watermelons are among the most skilled artisans in their craft that we employ. And the efficiency and speed at which they can capture that fruit and do it in a cost-effective way is a missed opportunity if you don’t loop them in as part of the solution."
"When we measure, we can manage. And this is the mantra among food waste enthusiasts for so long. When we know what we’re dealing with – the scale of what we’re dealing with – we can design a solution that fits at that scale."
"Making the assumption that there’s excess food, and there’s so many folks in need of eating, so [donating it] is a silver bullet, is just not true, because the infrastructure needs across the supply chain – as well as the infrastructure of the food access partners – there’s so many steps along the way that also need to be optimized.”
"I don’t need to sell my cantaloupes at top dollar, if I’m selling 80, 90, 100% of them. I can sell them at a discount if more of them are moving, which puts more cost-effective nutrition into the supply chain… Having the opportunity to build a bigger pie to share is a really smart angle."
"Would produce of lesser quality appearance sitting right next to the high quality appearing produce in the grocery store cannibalize those sales? I think we would see something radically different than what we expect. I would hope that it would create a brand new group of consumers who are eating produce for the first time, who were not able to afford it previously, and suddenly now have access to it at a lower price point… I feel like if government agencies would really treat food loss and food waste as a crisis of public health, then you know we could get somewhere with it."