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NIFA-Supported Investigation Innovates to Cut down Foodstuff Reduction and Squander: An Job interview with Robert Nowierski

6 min read
Posted by Jean Buzby, USDA Meals Decline and Squander Liaison in

Foodstuff and Nutrition
Wellness and Security

Jan 12, 2021

Closeup of a shopper’s hand picking an avocado in a grocery store bin
New packaging technological innovation can prolong the shelf-everyday living of produce this kind of as avocados, lowering food stuff reduction and squander. Photo credit score: USDA

The Nationwide Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is USDA’s extramural science-funding agency inside of USDA’s Analysis, Schooling, and Economics mission region. What is NIFA undertaking to support cut down foodstuff decline and waste? This interview capabilities insights from Robert Nowierski, NIFA, Countrywide Software Leader for Bio-Based mostly Pest Management.

Buzby: For people who really don’t know substantially about NIFA, can you be sure to share the massive photo?

Nowierski: Absolutely sure, NIFA’s mission is to invest in and advance agricultural research, schooling, and extension to fix societal challenges, this kind of as how to lower foodstuff reduction on the farm and food waste afterwards in the provide chain, these as extending the shelf lifetime of perishable foods. NIFA does not carry out research, instruction, and extension actions, but we help assist them at national, regional, point out, and nearby ranges, although guiding countrywide leadership and strategy in these vital precedence areas. We husband or wife with the Land-Grant College Program, as very well as other public schools and universities, authorities agencies, and private and nonprofit corporations to discover science-driven alternatives to the challenges dealing with food items, agriculture, and the natural environment and problems impacting equally rural and urban communities across the nation.

Buzby: Are these partnerships all by way of grants?

Nowierski: NIFA supports investigation, education, and extension functions at spouse establishments by means of aggressive grants, capacity resources, and interagency agreements. Noncompetitive capacity resources are authorized by Congress to help investigation, instruction, or extension actions at land-grant establishments on topics of relevance to a point out or area, in alignment with USDA strategic objectives. A single instance of a NIFA-funded investigate undertaking, which displays our early recognition of the foods decline and squander (FLW) trouble, was a 2014 convention held by the College of Pennsylvania titled, “The Very last Foods Mile: A Meeting on Foods Losses and Foods Waste In the United States.” The findings had been later printed in the ebook “Food items Waste Across the Provide Chain: a U.S. Point of view on a Worldwide Problem,” which is readily available online for cost-free.

Buzby: Why is innovation so essential for minimizing meals reduction and waste?

Nowierski: Innovation will be important in serving to to mitigate our foods loss and waste troubles in the foreseeable future. Revolutionary approaches in investigate, education and learning and extension will be necessary to lower foodstuff decline and squander from farm to table. And and lastly, next EPA’s meals restoration hierarchy will assistance lower food stuff decline and waste: decreasing the quantity of surplus foods donating excessive foodstuff diverting food scraps to animal feed employing waste oils for rendering and fuel conversion and food stuff scraps for digestion to get well energy composting, and working with landfill and incineration as a previous resort.

Buzby: When imagining about the overall farm-to-table food supply chain, how has NIFA supported innovations that lower foodstuff reduction and squander?

Nowierski: NIFA has helped help improvements that lessen food items decline and squander by way of its competitive grant systems and capability-funded projects. In response to this obstacle, NIFA developed a Food Reduction and Waste Template that delivers a roadmap for which NIFA grant applications could enable tackle foodstuff losses and squander at the distinctive foods provide chain stages, these kinds of as generation postharvest, dealing with and storage processing and packaging distribution and retail and foodservice and purchaser losses.

Buzby: What are some examples of NIFA-funded analysis and improvements aimed at reducing meals reduction and waste?

Nowierski: One particular innovation is what we contact ‘functional ice” (‘Functional Ice’ Shows Food Business How to Maintain Great and Decrease Decline), which is an additive-increased solution that extends foods storage and shelf-existence by creating decreased temperatures and melting more slowly but surely than standard water-centered ice. Added characteristics allow the slow-launch of antimicrobial methods that shield uncooked meals by eradicating the build-up of spoilage-triggering microbes. It has been proven to boost shelf lifestyle of tray-packed poultry thigh meat by 1 to two times. The scientists are now investigating its likely for commercialization, these types of as by on the lookout at the best means to integrate the technology into business ice-producing equipment.

A different NIFA-funded innovation underneath improvement, but displaying fantastic promise, is a remarkably delicate and particular test strip for big foodborne pathogens (e.g., Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica). This technologies noticeably decreases the time needed to test pathogens in meals from 24-72 hours to roughly 30 minutes. The time saved to exam pathogens may perhaps decrease the distribute of pathogens and limit foodstuff decline and squander.

Buzby: I fully grasp NIFA delivers funds to tiny organizations to support them establish and market new technologies – and this could help foods squander-similar technologies and goods come to sector. Tell us far more.

Nowierski: Yes, the Compact Business enterprise Innovation Investigation Plan (SBIR) from NIFA presents assistance to smaller firms through the Section I Plan for them to exhibit proof of idea of an thought that could be possibly commercialized (funding level $100,000). NIFA also supplies Period II Program funding for the successful Stage I applicants to acquire their idea to commercialization (funding level $600,000).

Buzby: So compact businesses with food items squander reduction systems really should attain out to NIFA to master much more about how USDA may possibly enable them convey these goods to market. That prospects me to my next question. Why is NIFA-supported investigation an crucial compliment to personal-sector analysis?

Nowierski: The food loss and waste problem is these kinds of a complicated issue that it will choose study investments and achievements from both public and personal sectors to enable take care of.

Buzby: How do you see food items loss and squander actions in relation to environmental sustainability?

Nowierski: It is truly worth noting that in 2016, NIFA’s Pilot Science Final result Committee (SOC) on Environmental Sustainability (led by Nowierski) analyzed NIFA investments throughout the foods loss and squander provide chain throughout 2009-15. This committee recognized food items reduction and waste as the prime science precedence that via supplemental investments, could support address environmental sustainability.

Buzby: Can you share a number of far more illustrations of investigate that NIFA has underway that display promise for lowering food loss and squander?

Nowierski: Positive, we have all varieties of interesting and promising research underway at the diverse farm-to-desk levels of the foodstuff provide. Some experiments aim on enhancing packaging, these kinds of as a little packaging insert or sachet that slows down deliver getting older and deterioration and raises shelf-lifetime by at least 40 per cent. For instance, this know-how can increase the 10-day shelf-life of Florida avocados by 9 days. We have supported other function creating value-additional solutions from foods marketplace processing waste. For instance, a single examine incorporated superior degrees of spent grain from the brewing market in diverse recipes and using various cooking solutions to appear up with a delicious sweet potato snack. Other research investigate how to convert food stuff waste into large-worth chemical substances, animal feed or renewable electrical power in ways that make perception economically and can support commercialization. A single study is acquiring the engineering for economical output of hydrogen from agricultural production and food processing waste. Hydrogen is thought of a promising alternative thoroughly clean energy resource simply because it doesn’t create greenhouse gases.

This blog sequence highlights the perform of innovators in the foods decline and squander earth as aspect of a federal interagency food items reduction and waste collaboration concerning USDA, EPA, and Food and drug administration and personal-sector associates to affirm their shared dedication to do the job toward the countrywide goal of lessening foodstuff loss and waste by 50 p.c by 2030.

For even further studying:
USDA weblogs on food squander

Classification/Matter:
Foods and Diet
Health and Basic safety

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