Designing Systems-Based Approaches to Reduce Food Waste and Spoilage

Approximately 30% of food is lost or wasted globally, putting a disproportionate burden on smallholder farmers in Africa by reducing their incomes by as much as 15%. Some promising solutions already exist, like good farming practices or better storage crates that keep food from spoiling. But because solutions often only tackle one part of the problem, 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 help 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 together. This exciting partnership built upon a legacy of work from the Foundation’s 2013-2015 Food Waste and Spoilage Initiative, where we engaged 240 stakeholders through collaborative innovation to spark novel ideas for how transformative impact might be achieved on the postharvest food loss challenge.

As a result, the YieldWise initiative was designed as an integrated solution to reduce food waste and loss, and improve livelihoods and food security for millions of farmers and their families in Sub-Saharan Africa. From 2016 to 2020, Yieldwise has rescued and redistributed 100 million tons of surplus food per year, trained and provided technology access to 300 thousand farmers, and launched food loss and waste management programs in 18 countries.