About 30 million metric tons of corn, 20 million metric tons of wheat, and nearly 3 million metric tons of soybeans – with an estimated value at more than US$14 billion – went to waste worldwide according to the most recent 2007 data from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
ADM chairman, CEO and president Patricia A Woertz said that only five per cent of all agricultural research dollars currently goes to the study of postharvest handling and infrastructure.
According to the FAO, one of the principal factors of postharvest loss is damage caused by the use of inappropriate tools, chemical contamination or rough handling during loading, packing or transportation.
The ADM spokesperson for the commodities giant told BakeryandSnacks.com that it was too early to speculate on how many metric tonnes of wheat will be saved as a result of the new institute.
The ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss will be based within the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois.
The unit will carry out research and outreach functions with a goal of preserving the millions of metric tons of grains and oilseeds lost each year to pests, disease, mishandling and other factors.
The spokesperson explained that much of the postharvest loss occurs as a result of the lack essential infrastructure, technology and training needed to prevent spoilage and waste.
“As the problem is multifaceted, it requires a multifaceted approach to effectively combat it,”
she said, “The ADM Institute’s educational, research and outreach functions showcase the necessity for a 360-degree approach to this global problem,” she said.
The initial project focus areas will be India and Brazil, but the research will potentially of worldwide benefit, said the spokesperson.
Research will include promoting technology advancements and improved supply-chain and information systems.
She explained that technological advancements can therefore provide farmers in the developing world with appropriate equipment and latest knowledge to preserve more of what they grow.
In addition, the institute aims to establish strategic partnerships with government organizations, other academic institutions and NGOs to identify research needs and to enhance implementation of research results.
The centre will also provide training on best practices and technologies for minimizing losses; and establishing a Web-based postharvest loss data clearinghouse and resource center.
Yields could double
This strategy is in line with the recently released ‘Global Food and Farming Futures’ report which said that in many places, under the right conditions, wheat yields could double.
The Government Office for Science claims that among the major wheat producers, only the EU countries (the UK, Denmark, France, Germany) have actual yields close to, or even higher than those potentially attainable, said the report.
In all other major producers with predominantly rain-fed wheat production, the gaps between actual and attainable yields are significant.
“This illustrates the large room for growth in productivity that might be achieved if socio-economic, institutional and political conditions were more favourable to the uptake of new technologies and practices,” the report said.