WASHINGTON and PHOENIX (June 5, 2019) – In the US, more than half of produce is wasted, and 30 percent of total food production is lost before it reaches consumers. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a $963,513 grant to Arizona State University researchers to develop tools that enable farmers to more effectively meet consumer demand and reduce food waste. Arizona State University and New Mexico State University contributed matching funds for a total $1.93 million investment.
Rising consumer demand for healthy food and strict regulations for handling produce requires more efficient supply chains to ensure fresh food reaches consumers with the right quality.
Produce is usually shipped across long distances and is highly perishable. Without information about current and future market demand, some farmers produce a surplus of food that ultimately goes to waste.
Arizona State University and New Mexico State University researchers are teaming up with local businesses and organizations to develop market intelligence and supply chain planning tools to sell and deliver fresh produce. These tools will enable small-scale growers to both predict consumer demand and sell produce directly to consumers. Farmers will be able to coordinate supply chain logistics to reach the right markets at the right time.
“Maintaining farmer profitability and reducing food waste are key goals for FFAR. This research helps small-scale growers compete in emerging markets, reduce food waste and provide consumers consistent access to affordable, nutritious food,” said FFAR’s Executive Director Sally Rockey. “The resulting technology will be a win-win for farmers and consumers.”
Researchers will use mathematical modeling to develop analytical tools that enhance supply chain planning and engage with growers to help them effectively use these tools. This project creates a roadmap for small growers to successfully compete in emerging markets such as direct-to-consumer produce channels led by Amazon Fresh, Instacart and Walmart Grocery, among others.
“I am excited to accept this grant on behalf of the research teams at Arizona State University, New Mexico State University, and the several small businesses and grassroot organizations we are working with on this effort,” says Dr. Jesus Rene Villalobos, the project lead and an associate professor of industrial engineering in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “With this funding from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, we have the opportunity to advance the state of the art in logistics coordination tools to help growers efficiently reach their customers, provide small growers with the resources to reach the best markets with the least waste, and create a roadmap for small growers to use market and logistics analytics to avail themselves to direct-to-consumer produce channels.”
Project participants include Local First Arizona, Stern Produce, Duncan Family Farms, New Mexico University, La Montanita Cooperative, Sol y Tierra Cooperative and New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service. Researchers will provide training and education to effectively employ supply chain planning tools.
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. This research supports FFAR’s 2018 Making My Plate Your Plate Challenge Area, currently the Urban Food Systems Challenge Area. FFAR’s work in this area supports innovative, systems-level approaches aimed at reducing food and nutritional insecurity.
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.