Designing Systems-Based Approaches to Reduce Global Food Waste and Spoilage

Approximately 30% of food is lost or wasted globally across the agricultural value chain, putting a disproportionate burden on smallholder farmers in Africa by reducing their incomes by as much as 15%. While some solutions already exist, like better storage crates that keep food from spoiling, they often only tackle one part of the problem, and changes are small and short-lived. Buyers are still losing money, and farmers are still stuck with piles of unsold crops.

The Rockefeller Foundation saw an opportunity to help close this gap and approached us, their 2016 Innovation Partner, to look at how people grow and transport food, gather ideas from leaders across agriculture, business, and academia, and bring together actors from government, food NGOs, and global brands to brainstorm how they could innovate collaboratively. This exciting partnership built upon The Rockefeller Foundation’s 2013-2015 Food Waste and Spoilage Initiative, where we engaged 240 stakeholders across four continents who identified 590 opportunities to reduce food loss and tested over a dozen integrated solution sets with the potential to achieve the greatest impact.

As a result, The Rockefeller Foundation’s made the decision to invest $130 million USD to take forward these innovative solutions through their new, 7-year program called, Yieldwise. From 2016 to 2020, Yieldwise rescued and redistributed 100 million tons of surplus food per year, trained and provided technology access to 300 thousand of farmers, and launched food loss and waste management programs in 18 countries.