2018 journal article

Estimating on-farm food loss at the field level: A methodology and applied case study on a North Carolina farm


co-author countries: United States of America 🇺🇸
author keywords: Food loss; Food waste; Primary production; Postharvest loss; Vegetable crops; Gleaning
Source: Web Of Science
Added: October 19, 2018

Current estimates of food loss at the farm level are either carried forward from decades-old estimates that rely on data from small farms using alternative agricultural practices, or they are based on grower estimates reported during interviews. A straightforward protocol adaptable to many crops is necessary to provide comparable data that can begin to fill gaps in knowledge on food loss in the US. Accurate estimation of on-farm losses for fruits and vegetables can inform ongoing national food loss and waste discussions and farm-level business decisions that hold potentially positive impacts for farm viability and resource-use efficiency. This paper describes a straightforward methodology for field-level measurement and demonstrates its utility on six vegetable crops harvested in 13 fields of a 121-hectare North Carolina vegetable farm. In this case, results showed that on average, approximately 65% of the unharvested crop that remained in the field was of wholesome, edible quality, although the appearance may not meet buyers’ specifications for certain markets. The overall estimated average of vegetable crops that remained unharvested, yet were wholesome and available for recovery, was 8840 kg per hectare on the case study farm. The portion of the grower’s reported total marketed yield that remained unutilized in the field averaged 57%, a figure greatly exceeding current estimates of farm level loss. Developing strategies to utilize these losses could enable growers to increase the amount of fresh produce moving into the supply chain, and represent a path towards sustainable intensification of vegetable crop production.