PRESIDENT’S DESK : Focus on Converting Food Waste to Wealth

Posted by Adaora Anozie

On November 17, 2015

Environmental protection and conversion issues have become very popular for some years now. However awareness about environmental degradation seems to be growing much faster than practical measures to salvage the situation. We helplessly watch as activity of man steadily breaks down the ecosystem. The food supply chain system contributes to environmental challenges. Agronomic and farm field practices from farm bush burning to application of various herbicides and pesticides contributes to polluting the environment. The post-harvest practices also add to the load of environmental difficulties especially as it concerns disposal of food waste.   Many Food Scientists and Technologists have been working on conversion of food wastes into useful products. Adding value to food waste will help to expand the food value chains and reduce the burden of dumping “raw” waste into the environment. Lack of efficient waste disposal system in most parts of the country further compounds the situation. Food wastes can be converted to several by-products such as animal feed, organic fertilizer, fuel gas, construction material, raw material for production of different products, electricity generation etc. Some food processing companies are already showing some inspiring examples like combusting spent grains to support steam generation, fermenting effluent for generating methane gas for boiler fuel and forklift fuel. The task before us as Food Scientists and Technologists is to fully understand the current policy on environment protection and to critically evaluate the possibility of converting food wastes anywhere along the food chain. Innovation is a requirement to fully obtain the benefits this conversion. For example the Abakaliki Rice Mill cluster is the largest hub of small scale rice mills in Africa. The rice processing waste produced at Abakaliki which is one of the largest Food waste dumping site in Nigeria has formed a small range of “mountains” which is taller than a building of 5 floors high. UNIDO has estimated that rice husks produced at Ebonyi state is enough to generate electricity to serve the state. Meanwhile if the millers were using modern rubber roll mills about 30% of that waste would have been separated out as bran which is a useful material food livestock feed formulation. Instances like this are all around us therefore we must apply our knowledge to save the environment by proper management of food wastes.