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Sustainability in food production
a digital approach to environmental impact

Michael Benko
24 Jan 2024

According to data released by the World Food Programme (WFP) in 2021: “Around one third of food produced for human consumption is either lost or wasted, amounting to a financial loss of about US$1 trillion annually… food loss and waste are prevalent in a world where enough food is produced to feed the world’s 7 billion people, yet 811 million people still go to bed hungry each night.”

The WFP also reports that food loss and waste account for over 3 billion tons of greenhouse gases per year. If this were a country, it would be the third largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world, after the US and China.  

And, as the world grapples with the urgent need to address climate change and its associated challenges, sustainability has become a priority in virtually every industry – food production is no exception.

Food production is a major contributor to environmental degradation, and finding sustainable solutions to mitigate its impact has become paramount. In this post, we will explore how a digital approach is revolutionizing food production and enabling the industry to reduce its environmental footprint.

The environmental challenge

Food production is a multifaceted industry that includes agriculture, a complex supply chain, and significant resources to produce finished goods. It starts with food grown around the world. Prices are agreed, with crops and meats shipped (often over great distances) under carefully controlled conditions. Products are treated and produced in factories to precise recipes, then are packaged and shipped again to retailers and supermarkets to finally be sold to the customer.

This all comes at a considerable environmental cost. It contributes to water use, greenhouse gas emissions, and single-use plastics waste. As the population continues to grow, the demand for food increases, further straining our planet’s resources.

Sustainability: the imperative

Sustainability in food production involves producing food in a way that meets our current needs, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.  There are many dimensions to consider when addressing environmental, social, and economic concerns. The incorporation of sustainable practices is critical, but is a significant challenge, given the complexity of the industry.

The digital transformation

The integration of digital technologies in food production is paving the way for innovative solutions to tackle sustainability challenges. Here’s how a digital approach is changing the game.

  1. IoT and smart manufacturing
    • Internet of Things (IoT) devices enable real-time data collection within the factory..
    • Smart Manufacturing applications can track energy and water usage, tied back to recipe and process development. Optimizations can be made to reduce energy and water consumption.
  2. Data analytics
    • Advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms can process vast amounts of data to predict yields and detect supply chain disruptions, based on disease outbreaks.
  3. Supply chain optimization
    • Tracking sustainability metrics from vendors and co-manufacturers enables better reporting and the ability to focus on impactful initiatives.

The benefits of a digital approach to sustainability

  1. Resource efficiency
    • Reduced resource consumption, such as water and energy, leads to lower environmental impact.
  2. Reduced packaging waste
    • Enhanced packaging design tools can lead to less material usage and/or more compostable material usage in product packaging.
  3. Lower emissions
    • Optimized supply chains and reduced energy usage in manufacturing decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
  4. Sustainable sourcing
    • Enhanced transparency in supply chains supports responsible sourcing practices.

Conclusion: nourishing the world, safeguarding the planet

Sustainability in food production is no longer an option; it’s a necessity.

As the global population continues to grow and environmental pressures mount, we must find innovative solutions to ensure a sustainable future. The integration of digital technologies into food production is revolutionizing the industry, offering a promising path to reduce its environmental impact.

By embracing a digital approach, we can make significant strides toward a more sustainable and eco-friendly food production system. It’s time to harness the power of technology to nourish the world, while safeguarding our planet for generations to come.

Want to learn how a digital approach can help us to reduce the environmental impact of food production and be more sustainable, or find out how to implement it in your business? Connect with Michael now.

Want to read more? In previous articles in this blog series, we cover how digital technology can transform food packaging , product development and quality & compliance.


Michael Benko

IT consultant and process engineer
Michael Benko is an IT consultant and process engineer with broad cross functional expertise. His industry experience includes food & beverage and pharmaceutical manufacturing, along with software pre-sales, implementation consulting and numerous enterprise level software implementations. Michael combines his expertise in Product Lifecycle Management with new product development best practices to solve a range of businesses’ most pressing problems.

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