How Can the Food Supply Chain Become More Sustainable?

For the past few months, the world has been experiences many supply chain issues due to many different factors, the most prominent one being the pandemic. This has been true for the food supply chain as well, as many different events have caused disruptions in the system. It turns out that the food supply system connects to the environment in quite a big way. The food supply chain refers to all the steps that get our food from farm to table. This includes farming, manufacturing, transportation, retail, etc.. Because of current farming, manufacturing, and transportation practices, the food supply chain can have quite a big impact of the environment, which many are looking to reduce. Technological advancements in farming contribute greatly to the reduction of the environmental footprint of the food supply chain as it is a vital part of it. Embracing more sustainable farming practices, such as vertical farming, regenerative agriculture, and in some cases, organic farming, reduces the environmental impact of the farming itself, which reduces the overall impact of the supply chain. Secondly, minimizing the supply chain all together is one of the most beneficial ways to reduce this impact. Buying as locally as possible reduces the transportation needs, which can have a big environmental footprint. Storing food is also one of the parts of the supply chain that uses the most energy. Powering huge warehouses, especially ones that house perishable foods, takes huge amounts of energy and therefore has a substantial impact on the environment. Finding ways to reduce the energy consumptions of these storage facilities, such as using LED lights, insulation, and natural sources of electricity (solar powers, wind mills, etc.) can greatly reduce the impact they have. Perhaps the most challenging part of reducing the impact of the food supply chain is finding ways to minimize food waste. A big part of the food bought in the United States is never eaten and is just thrown out. Because of low compost rates, this means that the waste gets collected and produces methane over time, which is a harmful greenhouse gas. If technological advancements allow food waste to be broken down and handled in a way that does not produce as much greenhouse gas, the impact that the food supply chain has on the environment can be reduced greatly. Overall, the reduce the environmental impact of the food supply chain altogether, we must look at individual parts of the system and alter them accordingly.