VICTORIA holds the rather unenviable title of the highest level of on-farm losses from vegetable production and is runner-up to Queensland in losses calculated from fruits, nuts and wine grape production.
Just over 250,000 tonnes of vegetables, and close to 50,000 tonnes of fruit, nuts and wine grapes are classified as food waste per annum, which can be driven by several factors, including weather, market conditions, food safety scares, buyer quality standards, labour shortages, surplus to requirements, and no longer ‘fresh’.
Based on FAO food loss estimates and 2015-2016 ABS production figures, the figures for on-farm losses are calculated across a wide range of crops from cabbages, pumpkins, beans and carrots to broccoli, sweet corn and lettuces, along with citrus, stone, berry and pome fruit (nashi fruit, apples and pears) and wine grapes.
Food and Fibre Gippsland co-deputy chair Andrew Bulmer, who is also managing director of Bulmer Farms, said the opportunities for Gippsland horticulture producers to reduce these figures, and convert food waste into revenue are significant, but requires strategic planning, collaboration and a long-term commitment.
“We are identifying and facilitating ways to drive a circular food economy, where we can create income streams from a range of food waste,” Mr Bulmer said.
“There is a myriad of options and we are keen to help find the right models and processes for Gippsland – and ones that represent the best value,” he said.
Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre CEO, Dr Steve Lapidge, recently visited Gippsland to take part in the official launch of Food and Fibre Gippsland at Farm World, and deliver a series of information forums about food waste.
Not surprisingly, the forum that attracted the most attention was the one that focused on the horticulture industry.
Interim CEO of Food and Fibre Gippsland, Dr Nicola Watts, said that being part of the ‘Fight Food Waste CRC’ is building more awareness of the ‘size of the prize’ from reducing waste and transforming food waste streams into products which have value.
“One of the six capability platforms identified to accelerate sustainable growth is the development of future industries,” Dr Watts said.
“One key opportunity we are pursuing is a high-tech vegetable processing hub to transform waste produce into high value nutraceutical and functional food products,” she said.
“Food and Fibre Gippsland is committed to working collaboratively with industry partners and researchers and government to continue to minimise waste and explore ways to turn food waste into revenue generating resources.”