How Data battles Food Waste and Improves The Climate

The food industry produces about one-third of the world's greenhouse gasses. This is due in part to the fact that there is a lot of food waste generated. So what can be done to minimize the amount of food wasted and help our environment? Find out here how data helps us reduce it and improve the climate.

the global food waste problem

Each year, 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted. That’s enough to fill the Empire State Building twice! Not only is this a huge waste of resources, but it also contributes to climate change. Food waste is responsible for 4.4 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

food waste

There are many reasons why food is wasted in the food industry. One reason is that food often goes bad before it can be sold. This is because of the way food is produced and distributed. Another reason for food waste is that stores often discard foods that are not cosmetically perfect. This happens even though these foods are perfectly safe to eat.

The impact of food waste on the climate

One of the biggest ways that data can help to reduce food waste is by helping us to understand the impact it has on the climate. Food waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and it is estimated that if food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the world.

To put it in numbers.:

  • Global food waste costs $940 billion a year.
  • Global food waste has a carbon footprint of 4.4 Gt CO2 (> 8% of global greenhouse-gas emissions).
  • Global food waste has a water footprint of 205 cubic KM (3.6 times the annual water consumption of the USA).
  • The amount of food wasted globally equals 1.4 billion hectares. An area bigger than Canada.

By understanding the impact of food waste on the climate, we can work to reduce our emissions and make a positive impact on the environment. Data can help us to understand where food waste is coming from and what steps we can take to reduce it.

How data can help to reduce food waste

There are many ways that data can help to reduce food waste. Considering the 7 domains in the farm to table ecosystem (the farm, food logistics, manufacturing, product innovation, packaging, distribution, and table) there are numerous ways how data can help.

food waste farm-to-table-ecosystem

the farm

Farm owners are struggling with feeding a growing population with a finite set of natural resources. An acre results in low margins as the cost of commodities fluctuate, equipment is expensive, and the work is labor intensive.

how data can help:

  • Farm automation
  • Animal health analytics
food waste farm
food waste logistics

food logistics

Transporting food requires lots of coordination and planning by food and agriculture companies. It comprises the transportation of produce, meat and dairy.

An emerging concern for meat and dairy companies is energy consumption for refrigerated transportation from farms and processing facilities.

how data can help:

  • Logistics fleet optimization
  • supplier performance management


Sustainability is becoming more and more important. This means that the food industry has to make manufacturing less energy and water intensive. Meat and dairy manufacturing can be especially energy intensive.

In short, food manufacturers need to control costs and wastage without sacrificing quality.

How data can help:

  • Real-time performance and OEE management
  • Automated predictive maintenance
food waste factory
food waste innovation

product innovation

Getting consumer feedback is hard. This is a significant challenge for companies that are disconnected from the end consumer due to complex distribution processes that involve third parties.

A lack of good input data in a product development process can lead to product failure or a missed business opportunity.

how data can help:


The environmental impact coming from usage of single-use packaging containers is the biggest challenge for food producers.

With new regulations and pressure from consumer groups, companies need to find cost-effective but more sustainable packaging options.

how data can help:

  • Advanced analytics-driven packaging design
  • Packaging dematerialization
food waste packaging
food waste distribution


Getting the right products, in the right quantities, to the right channels (with time as a constraint given the perishability of fresh products) is a significant and age-old challenge for food producers and distributors.

Food manufacturers need to consider trade-offs between the margins or the quality of sourcing at specific locations based on distance to distribution/delivery hubs.

how data can help:

  • Warehouse picking route optimization
  • Automated pricing adjustments

the table

It is difficult for food producing companies to identify exactly who is buying their product (consumer persona), where the transaction occurs (channel), and at what price.

Lack of access to the end consumer is a big challenge that impacts the development of brand loyalty, consumer-centric programs, and marketing initiatives.

how can data help:

food waste table


Reducing food waste is a complicated issue, but data can help. With the right data, we can better understand where food waste occurs and what factors contribute to it. This understanding can then be used to develop targeted interventions to reduce it.

There are many ways data can help reduce food waste in the food industry. One way is by helping to optimize agriculture, logistics and manufacturing. Data can also be used to sustainably innovate products, packaging, and distribution.

By reducing food waste in the farm-to-table-ecosystem we significantly reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and have a positive impact on the climate.

Do you want to eliminate waste with data, but you do not know how to get started?!  Just ask the author a question!

about the author

Portrait of Sjors Otten

Sjors Otten

“Insights without action is worthless”

Sjors Otten is a pragmatic and passionate data & analytics architect. He excels in leveraging the untapped potential of your organization’s data. Sjors has a solid background in Business Informatics and Software Development.

With his years of experience on all levels of IT, Sjors is the go-to-person for breaking down business- and IT-strategies in workable and understandable data & analytics solutions for all levels within your organization whilst maintaining alignment with the defined corporate strategies.