NIFA-Supported Exploration Innovates to Reduce Food stuff Loss and Squander: An Interview with Robert Nowierski

Melissa M. Munoz
Posted by Jean Buzby, USDA Food items Reduction and Waste Liaison in

Foodstuff and Nourishment
Health and fitness and Basic safety

Jan 12, 2021

New packaging technologies can lengthen the shelf-daily life of produce these kinds of as avocados, minimizing foodstuff loss and waste. Picture credit history: USDA

The Nationwide Institute of Food items and Agriculture (NIFA) is USDA’s extramural science-funding company within just USDA’s Exploration, Education, and Economics mission area. What is NIFA executing to help minimize food stuff reduction and squander? This job interview functions insights from Robert Nowierski, NIFA, Countrywide Method Chief for Bio-Dependent Pest Administration.

Buzby: For all those who do not know significantly about NIFA, can you you should share the massive photograph?

Nowierski: Confident, NIFA’s mission is to make investments in and progress agricultural study, schooling, and extension to remedy societal difficulties, these as how to decrease foods decline on the farm and food waste afterwards in the offer chain, this sort of as extending the shelf life of perishable food items. NIFA does not perform exploration, instruction, and extension activities, but we enable assistance them at nationwide, regional, point out, and area concentrations, whilst guiding nationwide leadership and tactic in these vital priority regions. We lover with the Land-Grant University Process, as very well as other general public colleges and universities, federal government businesses, and private and nonprofit companies to obtain science-pushed methods to the troubles facing food stuff, agriculture, and the setting and issues impacting both equally rural and city communities throughout the country.

Buzby: Are these partnerships all by grants?

Nowierski: NIFA supports analysis, education, and extension functions at associate institutions by aggressive grants, capacity cash, and interagency agreements. Noncompetitive capacity cash are licensed by Congress to assistance research, education, or extension functions at land-grant establishments on topics of significance to a state or location, in alignment with USDA strategic targets. One case in point of a NIFA-funded analysis project, which displays our early recognition of the food stuff loss and waste (FLW) trouble, was a 2014 meeting held by the University of Pennsylvania titled, “The Previous Meals Mile: A Meeting on Food items Losses and Foodstuff Squander In the United States.” The findings have been afterwards printed in the guide “Food items Waste Across the Offer Chain: a U.S. Point of view on a World-wide Difficulty,” which is obtainable on the net for free of charge.

Buzby: Why is innovation so important for lessening meals loss and waste?

Nowierski: Innovation will be vital in helping to mitigate our food stuff reduction and waste issues in the upcoming. Modern techniques in investigation, education and learning and extension will be necessary to decrease food loss and waste from farm to desk. And lastly, following EPA’s food recovery hierarchy will assistance limit foods reduction and waste: minimizing the quantity of surplus food stuff donating excessive food items diverting food items scraps to animal feed applying waste oils for rendering and gas conversion and food items scraps for digestion to get better power composting, and making use of landfill and incineration as a past vacation resort.

Buzby: When considering about the entire farm-to-table food supply chain, how has NIFA supported innovations that lower meals decline and squander?

Nowierski: NIFA has served aid innovations that minimize food items loss and squander by its competitive grant courses and capability-funded tasks. In reaction to this challenge, NIFA made a Foodstuff Reduction and Waste Template that gives a roadmap for which NIFA grant packages could enable handle foodstuff losses and waste at the diverse meals provide chain phases, such as manufacturing postharvest, managing and storage processing and packaging distribution and retail and foodservice and customer losses.

Buzby: What are some illustrations of NIFA-funded exploration and innovations aimed at decreasing food items decline and squander?

Nowierski: Just one innovation is what we call ‘functional ice” (‘Functional Ice’ Reveals Food Market How to Hold Neat and Cut down Loss), which is an additive-enhanced product or service that extends food storage and shelf-everyday living by building decreased temperatures and melting much more slowly than common water-dependent ice. Extra functions allow for the gradual-launch of antimicrobial options that safeguard raw food by eradicating the develop-up of spoilage-resulting in germs. It has been revealed to boost shelf everyday living of tray-packed poultry thigh meat by a person to two days. The researchers are now investigating its likely for commercialization, these kinds of as by hunting at the very best ways to integrate the know-how into industrial ice-building devices.

One more NIFA-funded innovation underneath development, but demonstrating wonderful promise, is a hugely delicate and certain examination strip for key foodborne pathogens (e.g., Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica). This engineering drastically reduces the time expected to examination pathogens in foods from 24-72 hours to somewhere around 30 minutes. The time saved to test pathogens might lower the spread of pathogens and reduce food items reduction and waste.

Buzby: I realize NIFA provides funds to modest corporations to enable them build and industry new technologies – and this could help food stuff squander-linked systems and solutions come to market place. Convey to us extra.

Nowierski: Certainly, the Little Small business Innovation Investigate System (SBIR) from NIFA delivers assistance to modest companies by the Section I Application for them to demonstrate proof of notion of an idea that could be potentially commercialized (funding amount $100,000). NIFA also presents Phase II Plan funding for the successful Period I candidates to consider their concept to commercialization (funding degree $600,000).

Buzby: So modest organizations with foods waste reduction systems should really get to out to NIFA to understand extra about how USDA could possibly support them convey all those items to current market. That leads me to my following query. Why is NIFA-supported research an important compliment to personal-sector study?

Nowierski: The food items decline and waste situation is this kind of a elaborate difficulty that it will choose analysis investments and achievements from each community and non-public sectors to assist take care of.

Buzby: How do you see meals decline and squander actions in relation to environmental sustainability?

Nowierski: It is really worth noting that in 2016, NIFA’s Pilot Science End result Committee (SOC) on Environmental Sustainability (led by Nowierski) analyzed NIFA investments across the food decline and waste offer chain during 2009-15. This committee discovered meals loss and squander as the top rated science priority that via extra investments, could help address environmental sustainability.

Buzby: Can you share a couple extra illustrations of exploration that NIFA has underway that show guarantee for lowering food items decline and squander?

Nowierski: Guaranteed, we have all sorts of appealing and promising investigation underway at the various farm-to-desk stages of the foodstuff supply. Some studies aim on bettering packaging, such as a little packaging insert or sachet that slows down develop growing old and deterioration and raises shelf-existence by at the very least 40 p.c. For instance, this technological innovation can lengthen the 10-working day shelf-existence of Florida avocados by 9 times. We have supported other work creating worth-included merchandise from foodstuff business processing waste. For case in point, one particular research integrated superior concentrations of used grain from the brewing field in diverse recipes and employing unique cooking procedures to occur up with a tasty sweet potato snack. Other research discover how to convert foodstuff squander into significant-benefit substances, animal feed or renewable vitality in methods that make perception economically and can assist commercialization. 1 review is developing the technologies for affordable production of hydrogen from agricultural creation and food items processing waste. Hydrogen is thought of a promising alternative clear energy resource due to the fact it does not create greenhouse gases.

This site series highlights the get the job done of innovators in the meals decline and waste globe as portion of a federal interagency foods loss and squander collaboration between USDA, EPA, and Fda and private-sector partners to affirm their shared dedication to get the job done towards the national target of reducing meals loss and waste by 50 p.c by 2030.

For even further looking through:
USDA blogs on foods squander

Foods and Diet
Wellbeing and Safety

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