Achieving sustainable solutions for food and nutritional security is a top global priority at present, with the drive to provide nutritionally balanced food to people around the world, and fulfil the target SDG 2.
It’s hard to imagine that waste from food processing industries could solve global food and nutritional security challenges (SDG Targets 2.1 and 2.2). Yet food waste biomass offers a sustainable green source and a benign future solution for food and nutritional security.
In the present day, however, even though the agri-food system has expanded in all possible directions and dimensions, populations around the world are suffering from hunger and nutritional deficiencies. With global population increasing, it’s not only vital to provide every mouth with food, but we have to focus on food with active nutrients.
Demand for food is exploding, while millions of people are suffering due to malnutrition. Academicians and researchers around the world are stepping up to come up with renewable and clean solutions through which sustainability and security in food supply can be achieved. One major sector that can be explored to tap into enormous bioresources with multidimensional application domains is food waste management.
Renewable biomass from the agri-food system is one of the biggest causes of environmental pollution. Hence, the biggest challenge around the world will be to tackle this issue with sustainable technologies on one side and producing value-added products on the other side so that food and nutritional security can be achieved.
About 1.3 billion tonnes of edible foodstuffs, accounting for one-third of global food production, are considered to be waste materials. Reducing food waste can potentially increase the availability of food, thereby enhancing accessibility to vulnerable populations, including those with low incomes.
Enhancing the reliability and resilience of our food source against external factors such as pandemics, conflict, and climate change could be facilitated by a reduction in food prices. So it is imperative to minimize food loss and waste throughout the supply chain, from the production stage to consumption, if we are to improve food security as stated for the Sustainable Development Goals.
The accumulation of substantial quantities of agro-industrial residues from agricultural and food-related enterprises is creating massive problems, leading to challenges in waste management and environmental pollution.
As the predominant constituents of this waste, cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin could be drafted into service if they are converted into bioactive compounds by innovative technologies.
The biological conversion of agricultural waste also offers the potential to produce bioactive substances and biochemicals. Cellulose and hemicellulose are considered significant resources due to their potential conversion into valuable phenolics and biotechnological products such as pectin, citric and bromelain, ferulic acid, and vanillin through bioconversion processes.
Utilization of these waste materials can serve as significant resources in bioconversion procedures, resulting in the production of various value-added commodities such as phenolic antioxidants, bromelain enzymes, phenolic flavour compounds and organic acids. The act of adding value to food waste can potentially aid in the advancement of sustainable solutions for food and nutritional security.
Hence, a circular bioeconomy approach will lead to both utilization of food waste on the one hand and ensuring food and nutritional security on the other hand.
Governments and non-government sectors must consider adopting policies that favour a shift towards sustainable agri-food systems and supply chains that would act as a safeguard for food security in a context of a green, clean and circular economy perspective.
The three major environmental principles of ‘reduce, reuse, and recycle’ must be adapted by the agri-food sector to achieve the above scenario in the coming years. With just seven years to go until 2030 to achieving the target of food and nutritional security to end hunger (SDG Targets 2.1 and 2.2), sustainable technologies along with policies in all sectors have to be adapted.
Dr Prakash Kumar Sarangi is AMI Global Ambassador for Asia and Oceania. He is a scientist with specialization in Food Microbiology at the Central Agricultural University, Imphal, India. Dr. Sarangi’s research is focused on bioprocess engineering, biochemicals, food waste biomass utilization and sustainable development.