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Crop yield optimization: Efficient food production: TOMRA

In order to meet the global population’s growing demand for food, research by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) predicts that the worldwide food manufacturing and processing industries need to increase their total output by 70 percent by 2050.

Yield Optimization

With the rise in the planet’s population around 60 million people per year, it is an issue that cannot be ignored.

Optimization of crop yields

There are several ways, each with varying degrees of difficulty, to enhance the efficiency of food production. These include tackling climate change, increasing the availability and fertility of land and improving the supply of water. However, an important element of food production which must be addressed immediately is the further optimization of crop yields as it will be a hugely significant factor in ensuring the 2050 target is met.

Whilst tackling climate change, improving the quality and fertility of arable land and supplying water will take time, increases in food sorting efficiencies are possible now. This can be done by utilizing the latest available food sorting technologies and machines, which deliver greater yields, enhanced profitability for processors and, importantly, advanced knowledge from data which can be used further along the processing line.

It is important to recognize that, in addition to the demand for more food, the desire for choice and variety is also growing. This is especially the case in developing countries that are adopting western, middle-class consumption habits such as the desire for a greater variety of food types and outlets in which food is served and consumed.

140.000 tons of French fries

As people move away from traditional home cooked meals, the demand for convenience food and ready-meals is increasing, bringing with it opportunities to benefit but also obstacles to overcome.

For instance, an average French fry plant produces 140.000 tons of French fries per year. By increasing yields by as little as 0.5 percent through modern sorting technologies and techniques, a processor could take an estimated 90 truck-loads off the roads, which has been estimated on an average truck capacity size of 25 tons.

It is important to highlight that this principle can be extended and implemented in all areas of food production. This is especially relevant since the United States Department for Agriculture (USDA) recently claimed that 31 percent of American-grown food was not available for human consumption at retail and consumer levels. With a commitment to yield optimization, industries can help minimize this waste.

In terms of volume, the same report stated that over 51 million tons of food was lost in America. In monetary terms, this waste represented over $161bn (€145.3bn) as purchased at retail prices.

Increasing yields by just one percent

To help overcome this, the food sorting industry is investing in its technological development to ensure that efficiencies continue to be made. For example, the TOMRA 5B sorting machine is a system that not only sorts to customers’ specifications, but also provides them with an increasing supply of data and easy-to-interpret statistics which can be used to improve future yields.

TOMRA’s smart surround view can reduce false rejections by 20 percent, exponentially increasing the amount of good final end product, in turn limiting waste.

The ability to efficiently sort vegetables, potatoes and nuts – which represent over 19 percent of the total amount of food wasted in the United States alone – could have a huge impact. By increasing yields by just one percent, it is possible to increase the final amount of this type of produce in the US by 11 million tons. Apply this on a global scale and the 2050 food level objective starts to look more achievable.

These improvements, as delivered by the TOMRA 5B sorting machine, will result in recovered produce that would once have been identified as waste being utilized. A food type that does not make the grade for sale in its original form can be recouped for the creation of potato flakes, tomato sauces or other alternatives. It can also be sold as a grade B product, ensuring that waste is reduced at every stage of the process.

Benefits of yield optimization

  • Increase the availability of raw material
  • Boost profitability
  • Ensure food can be used for its initial purpose
  • Identify what produce can find its way into the food chain with an alternative use
  • Make valid decisions about the quality of the product
  • Maintain the high levels of quality expected by consumers who are increasingly interested in what they are purchasing

Read all about yield optimization in the thought leadership article by Roel Molenaers, Head of Product Management, TOMRA Sorting Food.