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Waste not, want not

A new innovation consortium aims to reduce by 30 per cent the loss and waste from the production of potatoes and vegetables. This will give a much needed boost to the food industry's competitiveness and earnings and make the production more sustainable.

2014.05.06 | Janne Hansen

Reducing food loss and waste by 30 percent can reduce the impact on the climate by almost 14,000 tons CO2. Photo: Colourbox

Since year 2000, Denmark has lost competitiveness partly as a result of food loss and waste in the value chain from farm to fork. This is particularly so for potatoes, fruit and vegetables: about 368,000 tonnes are lost and wasted every year from the time the fresh produce  leaves the farm until it reaches the dining tables. This corresponds to the amount of fresh produce that can be shipped on an unbroken lorry train stretching roughly from London to Manchester. A new innovation consortium, for which Aarhus University will be leading the research part, will examine how loss and waste from farm to fork can be significantly reduced.


- The high amount of loss and waste means that production costs are too high and that primary producers are losing about 30 per cent of the earnings on the production of potatoes, fruit and vegetables, despite having had the expense of growing, harvesting and storing the products, says the consortium's research director, associate professor Merete Edelenbos from the Department of Food Science, Aarhus University.


Less food loss and waste benefit the environment

The lost income for the primary producers from having this loss and waste has an estimated annual value of 600 million DKK according to the Department of Food and Resource Economics at University of Copenhagen. The consortium expects that if the current raw material loss and waste is reduced by up to 30 per cent, this will increase the annual value to primary producers by about 180 million DKK.


Aarhus University will focus on reducing losses in production by developing methods to improve product quality assessment at each stage of the supply chain until processing and packaging so that losses can be minimized. AgroTech and the other actors in the value chain will implement these methods so that handling can be optimised and losses reduced in the growing, harvesting and storage supply chain.


Reduction of raw material waste will also render agricultural food production more sustainable. A reduction of 30 per cent in total food waste will reduce the carbon footprint by nearly 14,000 tonnes CO2. The reduction is because of the higher resource use efficiency in production which will also use less water and fewer nutrients.


AgroTech A/S is responsible for the overall management of the four-year project, while Aarhus University leads the research part. The project has a total budget of 37.3m DKK, of which 14.6m is funded by the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation under the Ministry for Higher Education and Science. The rest is financed by the participating companies and research institutions.


Consortium participants:

Knowledge institutions:

Aarhus University, Department of Food Science (leader of the research part) and Department of Environmental Science

Plant Research International, Wageningen University and Research Centre

AgroTech A/S – Institute for Agri Technology and Food Innovation (Consortium leader)



SeedCom A/S

Bejo Zaden BV


Primary producers:

Gyldensteen Estate

Axel Månsson A/S



Technological enterprises:

Grimme Scandinavien A/S

ASA-Lift A/S


Hallum Trading ApS

Airvention ApS


Sales organisations:

GASA Nord Grønt I/S

DLG Food


Professional organisations:

Danske Kartofler (Danish Potatoes)

Dansk Gartneri (Danish Horticulture)


Educational institutions:

Kold College


Further information:

Associate professor Merete Edelenbos, Department of Food Science, e-mail: merete.edelenbos@agrsci.dk, telephone: +45 8715 8334, mobile: +45 2945 0133