ITHACA and WASHINGTON (April 30, 2019) –An estimated 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted, often because consumers unknowingly dispose of food before it expires. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a $590,000 Seeding Solutions Grant to Cornell University to develop technology that provides consumers with a more accurate shelf-life predication for perishable products. The FFAR grant has been matched with funding from the Department of Food Science at Cornell University, New York State Dairy Promotion Order, and Chobani for a total $1.56 million investment.
The “best-by” labels on perishable products indicate when the food is at peak quality. However, many consumers mistakenly interpret these labels as an expiration date and discard food on or before that date without realizing that the product is safe for consumption. Without a way to accurately predict shelf-life, food waste has become increasingly common and costly. Milk spoilage alone costs the United States $6.4 billion annually.
Cornell’s researchers will develop models that predict milk spoilage and shelf life as well as the effectiveness of interventions that predict when food spoils and how to prevent consumers from disposing of items that are still safe. The project will initially focus on milk, applying the results to other perishable food and beverages. Ultimately, the research team aims to develop way for consumers to scan a QR code linked to a time/temperature indicator on a food product, providing a precise estimate of the item’s remaining shelf life.
“To sustainably feed a growing population, it is imperative that we advance technology to accurately predict food spoilage,” said Sally Rockey, FFAR’s executive director. “This research will bring us closer to predicting the expiration of perishable food, which is essential for reducing avoidable food waste while ensuring nutritious food is safely consumed.”
FFAR’s Seeding Solutions grant program is an open call for bold ideas that address a pressing food and agriculture issues in one of the Foundation’s Challenge Areas. Cornell’s research supports FFAR’s 2018 Food Waste and Loss Challenge Area, currently the Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area. FFAR’s work in this area supports innovative, systems level approaches aimed at reducing food and nutritional insecurity and improving human health in the United State and around the globe.
“This project represents an exciting application of digital agriculture tools to reduce food waste and further improve the sustainability of our food supply,” said Dr. Martin Wiedmann, professor of Food Science at Cornell University and the principal investigator of this project.
Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research
The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization originally established by bipartisan Congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, builds unique partnerships to support innovative and actionable science addressing today's food and agriculture challenges. FFAR leverages public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to enhancing sustainable production of nutritious food for a growing global population. The FFAR Board of Directors is chaired by Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum, Ph.D., and includes ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation.
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is a pioneer of purpose-driven science and home to Cornell University’s second largest population of students, faculty and staff. We work across disciplines to tackle the challenges of our time through world-renowned research, education and outreach. The questions we probe and the answers we seek focus on three overlapping concerns: natural and human systems; food, energy and environmental resources; and social, physical and economic well-being. The Cornell CALS experience empowers us to explore the boundaries of knowledge, supported by the leading minds of today and surrounded by the leading minds of tomorrow.