According to the United Nations, one third of the world’s human consumption products are thrown out annually. Numbers and structure of food waste in Serbia show that this is an important issue regarding the ecology and sustainable development, estimating to over 250,000 tons of food being thrown annually in Serbia. This means that every person in Serbia throws around 35 kilos of food worth RSD 20,000 (200 EUR) a year. Throwing away food in Serbia is rarely mentioned and voluntarily donating food does not bring tax breaks to retail chains – which is a practice in the EU. Similar challenges are faced also in North Macedonia. UN ranks North Macedonia eighth in the world in terms of food waste per capita. North Macedonia often ranks among the countries with the highest food loss and food waste, while the country is faced with the inability to provide enough food for vulnerable social categories.
The existence of VAT on donations does not allow producers and distributors to donate surplus food and because of that they need to destroy food. About 90% of the food scraps in supermarkets are fruits and vegetables – which are precisely the items that are most lacking in soup kitchens. Processes of destroying food has a very bad influence on environment and are expensive for farmers and local food producers, at a time where their profit margins are already squeezed in the value chain by big retail chains.
The solution to the problem will be addressed with a mixture of technological, social and entrepreneurial innovations!
As a first, reducing environmental impact on food waste and costs of dispatch of food can be minimized with a platform for donations of food and food waste. This is an application for donation of food in Serbia that will also be extended in Macedonia. The application allows daily monitoring of food availability and create the conditions for improving existing systems between user organizations and food donors.
The main aim is to engage users from the entire value chain form Serbia and North Macedonia for the reduction of food waste in the countries, forwarding food to end users on a daily basis and simplifying donor-mediator communication. Moreover, to also establish a long-term sustainable food supply infrastructure, connecting the services of the app with a sustainable compost area where all the food that can’t be donated can be processed (only for Serbia).
The final goal is to make compost from food that can’t be donated through the application with use of machine learning technology, while also to make sure that the platform becomes a leading Android and IOS application where citizens can donate food in smaller scale. The application is made as a platform that connects agriculture holdings, supermarkets and other food producers and distributers with end users (socially disadvantaged) through charities and soup kitchens (intermediaries).
This approach provides motives to retail chains, who are the dominant players in the value chain, to incentivize farmers and local food producers in a Corporate Social Responsibility framework offering them better terms of collaboration when they become members of the app, thus contributing in rebalancing the value chain in favor of farmers and local food producers who introduce sustainability criteria in their practices.
Technological: Gaiasense holistic SF solution will help to increase the efficiency production and reduce costs, while making data available through the Ploutos traceability system using GS1 standards, to help with digital labelling.
Social: The social innovation enables the entire value chain to engage into a sharing economy framework that simultaneously addresses the issues of sustainability related to food waste and support socially vulnerable groups, which access to food.
Organizational/Entrepreneurial: The UC aims to strengthen the corporate social responsibility (CRS) profile of food sector companies and offer them the opportunity to contribute to broader societal and environmental goals, while at same time contributing positively in their profit margins.
Economic: Efficiency gains all across the value chain. Contribution to the sustainability of social kitchens and cost reduction for agri-food companies. Farmers and local food producers minimize losses of food waste as participants to their Corporate Social Responsibility programs.
Social: Access to food for social vulnerable groups.
Environmental:Input reduction due to better utilization of inputs used to produce food and environmentally friendly production of fertilizers through the utilization of the compost facility.