Sustainable Supply Chains: eliminating waste and unlocking business opportunities

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Agrifood value chains are known for their efficiencies: they’ve been optimized to grow, process, and deliver massive amounts of safe food all over the world. But efficiency is no longer enough. Consumers and investors want supply chains that are climate resilient (or positive), sustainable & ethical, and free from waste. 

How can we deliver against these pressures? What changes in technology and practices will be needed? How do we build trust so consumers and industry alike have confidence in the sustainable promises farmers, companies & brands make?

In this episode, we’re joined by Olympia Yarger, CEO and Founder at Goterra, Jessica Vieira, Senior Director of Sustainability at Apeel Sciences, and Lachlan Monsbourgh, Head of Sustainable Business Development at Rabobank, to examine how farmers can capitalize on the increasing value of growing sustainable food, the opportunities for new players and new technologies to remove food waste and packaging from the supply chain, and signals indicating that the mood around sustainability might be about to shift. 

No time to listen? Here are two key takeaways.

Aligning incentives to drive change in supply chains is tricky. 

For example, agribusiness bankers want to encourage farmers to manage the risks posed by climate change, and the increasing consumer and market demands for environmentally sustainable produce. However, as Lachlan explains, it’s a fine line to walk: if a bank pushes too hard, their client may simply take their business elsewhere.

Brands also have a role to play. They have the power to wield a “carrot” to drive change along the supply chain, for example by offering incentives to their suppliers such as long term contracts or market access for more sustainable products. They can also use a “stick”- putting pressure, or targets, on partners and suppliers. Which approach to use is not a straightforward choice! 

Software is not enough.

Much of the investment thus far into eliminating food waste has focused on the upstream supply chains (e.g., pre-consumer). However most (60%) of the food waste happens at the end of the supply chain- with restaurants, retailers, and consumers. Tools to collect and analyze data to understand where food waste occurs is one step forward, but knowing where waste happens doesn’t reduce it because, well, changing human behavior is hard! Instead, we must go beyond software to deep tech solutions in hardware and science to eliminate & sustainably manage waste without needing to tackle the human psychology problem. 

Olympia and Jess both have great examples of this from Goterra and Apeel, respectively. Goterra is designing infrastructure to “meets waste where it is,” including managing all kinds of nasty non-organic items that get mixed into waste streams. Likewise, Apeel is focused on fitting into the existing retail system, targeting produce that doesn’t have labels or barcodes that require packaging.

For more insights and examples on sustainable supply chains, listen to the full episode above or wherever you get your podcasts!

And don’t forget, please let us know what you want to hear more of on the podcast by filling out this ~3 min survey!

Other resources mentioned in the episode:

This episode is an edited version of a recent AusAgritech Meetup, sponsored by Foodbytes! by Rabobank and brought you by the Agthentic Group, Sprout X and Platfarm.

Key takeaways