Manage food waste on your farm

According to the UN, the world's population will grow by more than 2 billion people by 2050, making it imperative for all parts of the food supply chain to be optimised to make sure we're making the most of the food we produce. Food supply chain links must all work at their highest capacities and communicate with each other in the most effective way possible, and this must begin at the very beginning - the food producers.

In farming, food loss is primarily comprised of two types of losses: food that is grown and never harvested, and food that is lost between harvest and sale. It is important to address both of these common sources of food waste simultaneously in order to get your food waste levels to a minimum.

By optimising your farm to produce as little food waste as possible, you'll not only do your bit for the planet, but also grow your bottom line in a tough economy.

The first thing you can do when it comes to reducing the amount of waste on your farm is evaluate the market opportunities for the produce you can grow in your climate and conditions. Produce that meets a demand will prevent it from going unnoticed, and therefore end up as waste. 

While this requires deep market knowledge (which can often only be gained through years of experience), advanced planning skills, and appropriate weather conditions, getting this right will be the biggest step towards reducing food waste and maximizing profits.

In addition to researching the market and selecting the best crop to grow in your region, you need to apply a systematic approach to the preparation of your growing strategy. Every day from now until harvest must be planned for maximum results, and you and all your employees must know where, when, and how each crop will be planted, nurtured, and harvested.

You should always keep harvest in mind during the growing season. As an example, it's pointless to invest in the best quality fertiliser to get a higher yield if you don't have the equipment or manpower to process the extra food after harvest. You therefore need to consider how many resources you can devote to pulling them up once they are harvested when selecting how many crops to plant and nurture.

Developing an agile farming plan

You can never plan for the weather, and so you need to ensure that your plan can adapt to the effects of an especially good or bad season. It's impossible for a farmer to plan perfectly for their crops since so many variables are out of their control.

For your crops to produce at their best, you have to pay close attention to the effect the weather is having on them — if they are growing slower or faster than you had initially planned, then you can adjust your plans accordingly rather than sticking rigidly to your estimates.

After you develop your plan, you need to put a system in place that makes sure every member of your staff knows exactly what he or she should be doing on a daily basis. The best way to ensure the success of your plan is to establish clear lines of communication and give properly trained people clear tasks to complete at a certain time. As a result, there will be as little food waste as possible.

Furthermore, you will need to arrange your transportation well in advance of harvest. When transport links are unreliable or nonexistent when your crops must be transported to markets, food on which you would otherwise make a profit may end up going to waste. Therefore, harvest-time logistics are one of the most important components of your plan, so be sure to arrange them in advance.