Australian SMEs Focussed on Ending Global Food Losses
17 December 2015 at 9:36 am
Two Australian SMEs are leading the way in an attempt to eliminate global food losses by developing flexible storage and tracking solutions, writes Mitchell Westra, Management Systems Advisor with Connexxion Pty Ltd.
What if I told you that the global phenomenon of “Food Loss” in grain and forage products could be eliminated using products from two Australian Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs)? And what if I then told you that the two products I mentioned were already on the market and available for use?
Food Loss is defined by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) as “the decrease in quantity or quality of food”; that is, any agricultural or fishery product produced for human consumption that is ultimately not eaten or that has a reduction in quality reflected in its nutritional value, economic value or food safety.
While much has been made in the media of “Food Waste” in industrialised nations, where more food is purchased than can be used and a large amount is then discarded, it seems that most people in those industrialised nations are blissfully unaware of statistics from a study which found that 20 to 50 per cent of all food is lost before it ever reaches the market.
The report, released by the FAO at the packaging industry’s annual conference in 2011 at Dusseldorf, Germany, found that approximately one-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. This amounts to about 1.3 billion tonnes per year; enough to feed the world’s 870 million hungry people four times over. Every. Single. Year.
The causes of Food Loss are many and varied. They’ve been the subject of media attention and university studies across the world, including by Deakin University here in Australia, but so far no one has come up with a solution.
That was until two Australian small businesses decided to work together in 2014. On the one hand, a software solution produced by Canberra based business, Connexxion, with the capacity to track any commodity around the world from a .NET enabled interface that can be accessed from any standard web browser; and, on the other hand, an enormous tri-layered, hermetically sealed plastic bag from Silo Bags Australia, that can use GPS locators and RFID tags to store grains and forage products for up to 24 months.
Silo Bags’ unique seal prevents pests, such as rodents and insects, and other common spoilers, such as mould and fungus growth, from “breathing”; in effect this kills them off and prevents them from causing damage to the grain. Meanwhile, Virtual Warehouse allows growers, aggregators and distributors to undertake stock rotation processes, predict shortages or surpluses, and track transport needs well in advance.
No solution currently on the market can match Virtual Warehouse for its end to end functionality. Using state of the art software development, the team at Connexxion has produced a solution that is capable of not only tracking commodities post-harvest but also predicting market trends, keeping records of import and export values, and providing proof of origin for any amount of any commodity.
Connexxion, the Canberra business behind Virtual Warehouse, has been in touch with governments and private sector organisations around Australia to discuss the potential benefits of implementing the solution both in Australia and in developing nations. Consultation has been undertaken relating to various markets, including Victoria’s medicinal cannabis industry, fisheries, oysters, logging and timber products, domestic and international grain, and even live export.
The solution works by allowing large scale aggregators, including governments, to track the origin of a commodity, separate quantities of boutique commodities, record quality test results, review global supply and demand, and predict shortages and surpluses.
Meanwhile, Silo Bags can be used to store up to 275 tonnes of grain, forage, dried fruit or other commodities in a pest free environment for 24 months without the need for permanent infrastructure or costly individual packaging. The bags can then be emptied completely or in sections as demanded by the market.
Combined, these solutions are capable of providing transparency and trade certainty to domestic and international commodity markets. Flexible storage solutions allow aggregators to maintain stock levels appropriate to their local markets, confident in the knowledge that the commodity is safe, dry and sustainable.
Eliminating food losses could also have other positive effects. Utilising land currently used exclusively for food production for other uses will assist developing nations to find more land for residential and commercial use. That land could also be used to keep livestock, enable reforestation activities, or for a range of other alternative uses.
Providing semi-subsistence farmers in developing nations, such as Fiji, with a local aggregation site could assist them to increase their technical efficiency from the current level of 72 per cent. This would improve the livelihoods of those farmers and their families while ensuring that the food does not go to waste.
While there is a long way to go before food losses are completely eliminated around the world, these two SMEs are leading the way in their fields and have taken large steps towards that eventual outcome.
Throughout the Virtual Warehouse development process, Connexxion has engaged in consultation with the agriculture and Not for Profit sectors and is always seeking input on the potential of this ground breaking product.
Visit www.cxxvirtualwarehouse.com for further information or call Mitchell Westra 02 6262 6288.
Connexxion is also a national provider of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), custom software and applications, and IT support services. Visit www.connexxion.com.au to see how Connexxion can support your NFP vision.
For more information about Silo Bags go to www.silobagsinternational.com.