New research project launched to tackle the issue of food waste

Researchers from Plymouth and Turkey are to work together on a new project focused upon the issue of food waste in the Mediterranean country. 

The team has been awarded a Capacity Building Grant from the Newton Fund to investigate why food loss occurs in the agricultural production supply chain, and whether new ‘Industry 4.0’ technologies and circular solutions can provide an answer.

The 12-month project is being led by the University of Plymouth, in collaboration with Yasar University, Izmir, Turkey. Other partners include Brunel University and Devon & Plymouth Chamber Of Commerce in the UK, and Pınar Et Industry Co., Ödemiş Municipality and Izmir Farmer Cooperatives in Turkey.

Dr Sachin Kumar Mangla, Principal Investigator, and Lecturer in Knowledge Management and Business Decision Making in the Plymouth Business School, said: 

“We know that the main causes of food loss in Turkey are due to structural problems in the supply chain, such as small and fragmented farms and poor levels of cooperation, lack of knowledge exchange of new agricultural practices, poor temperature management, and inefficient processing, packaging and distribution. When you consider that Turkey is among the top 20 countries in the world for wheat, milk and agriculture production, this translates to a wastage of around 15% of its national income.”

Over the course of the project, the team will establish a research network through which they will conduct student and distance learning initiatives, as well as knowledge transfer. Through the wider partnership, the researchers will engage with industry, local authorities and public decision-makers to help them identify the causes of food waste. They will then look at how technologies and processes associated with Industry 4.0, such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, automation and data exchange and circular business models, can be used to improve production and reduce waste in a circular economy.

The Newton Fund is managed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and supports projects aimed at improving the overall quality of research and innovation taking place around the world, particularly those aimed at large scale issues like climate change, public health, peace and security.

“The ultimate goal is to help farmers and producers raise economic and social welfare as well as ensuring healthy and safe food standards for society,” 

adds Dr Kumar Mangla. 

“We also hope that the project will lead to long-term, sustainable links with Turkey, providing opportunities for socioeconomic development and job creation and helps to achieve UN Sustainable Development Agenda.”