Why is one-third of all edible produce being wasted on farms in the U.S.?

One-third of all edible produce is wasted on farms in the U.S. because of a disaggregated supply chain that has historically been offline.  For a perishable product like produce, this means that surplus and imperfect goods cannot find ways to market in a timely enough manner.  Full Harvest is working to solve this problem with the first B2B marketplace for surplus and imperfect produce, connecting farmers to food manufacturers. 

 

What types of produce does Full Harvest sell?

Full Harvest specializes in selling surplus and imperfect produce, some of which is Full Harvest’s own Innovative Grade and/or Verified Rescued™ produce.   All Full Harvest produce helps reduce food waste to some degree, while increasing farmers’ revenues.  Below is a detailed overview of the types of produce that we sell on our marketplace. 

USDA #1 Surplus

USDA’s #1 Grade is the highest cosmetic standard used for retail and foodservice for direct consumer consumption. In order to reduce food waste, we sell growers’ USDA #1 Grade surplus when they either grow or harvest too much or experience a loss in demand. 

 

#2 Grade (otherwise known as Imperfect, Off-grade or Ugly produce)

#2 Grade produce has wider cosmetic tolerances than USDA #1 Grade, but is still perfectly edible, great quality and delicious. This produce can be sold into value-add food production that processes the produce in some way, removing the need for cosmetic perfection.  However, many commodities do not have robust secondary markets, so we help suppliers establish markets for this quality, “imperfect” produce. Some specific #2 Grade specifications you may see include Juicer, Peeler, and Commercial grades. Buying this produce grade helps increase revenue to farmers and a portion of it helps to reduce food waste.

 

Full Harvest Innovative Grade

Full Harvest's Innovative Grade is #2 Grade produce that Full Harvest has developed unique specifications in partnership with our farmers. We innovate with our growers to capture perfectly edible produce that is typically wasted during harvest - simply because it is not part of a traditional retailer USDA #1 and #2 specification. Our Innovative Grades are unique to our marketplace, are among our most sustainable offerings, and represent the largest category within our Verified Rescued ProduceTM offerings (see Verified RescuedTM definition below).  Please review these specifications closely in the marketplace to ensure the product will meet your production needs.

 

What is Verified Rescued produceTM?

“Verified Rescued” is defined by Full Harvest as produce that was grown for human consumption but is not being utilized for human consumption purposes at the time of evaluation.

While all Full Harvest produce either falls into surplus or imperfect and is being sold in service of reducing food waste, only some of it can be Verified RescuedTM - meaning that it can be verified that it would have gone to waste at the time of evaluation. Any category of Full Harvest produce above can qualify as Verified RescuedTM if it meets our strict verification requirements at the time of evaluation during our auditing process. When verified by a Full Harvest audit, the produce is officially considered “rescued”, meaning that it reduces food waste, and therefore qualifies for environmental benefits (Water savings and CO2 emissions avoidance). 

Why isn't surplus or imperfect produce always considered verified rescuedtm?

While all Full Harvest produce is in service of reducing food waste and helping farmers increase revenues, only some of it can be verified that all of the order definitively would have been wasted if not for a purchase through Full Harvest.  In order to truly verify whether or not produce is rescued, it requires a robust evaluation of the type of produce, market conditions and harvest conditions. Some examples as to why there may be some cases where we cannot verify that all of the purchase would have gone to waste are:

  • There are a few commodities that have more mature off-grade markets such as apples, carrots, berries, tomatoes, oranges and potatoes as they are used in processed products such as apple sauce and orange juice. In the case where a commodity has some existing off-grade markets, a produce order may not be able to be Verified RescuedTM if, for example, we believe at the time of evaluation that another buyer could purchase that same order for another use.

  • For #2 grade commodities, we work with farmers and buyers to widen the specification to include more cosmetic imperfections, so a portion of the produce would potentially have gone to waste if not for a wider spec; however, the full order may not be able to be Verified RescuedTM if at the time of our proprietary auditing process we believe that another buyer could have potentially purchased the produce.

  • On the surplus side, a farmer could possibly find a buyer outside of their traditional network of buyers last minute on their own.  In this case, our auditing process looks at the farmers’ unique situation and evaluates the likelihood of a sale against the market conditions. We can verify it as Verified RescuedTM if we believe that the surplus would not otherwise have had a buyer based on our evaluation.

  • For Full Harvest Innovative Grade produce, we worked directly with growers to find waste streams of edible produce, so we know that the produce would have definitively gone to waste otherwise. This is our largest category for Verified RescuedTM produce with only a couple minor exceptions due market shifts that would deem it otherwise.

What is imperfect produce and how does it lead to waste?

Imperfect or “ugly” produce does not meet strict retail aesthetic standards simply because, for example, it is discolored or misshapen.  Only the produce or parts of the produce that meet strict specifications are harvested and the remainder is sometimes sold as off-grade, but is often left to rot. Only a small portion is sold to animal feed or donated.

 

What is surplus produce and how does it lead to waste?

Surplus produce is a result of overproduction, lack of selling opportunities or loss in demand. Forecasting is difficult for both the supply and demand side, so, for example,  if produce is contract grown in advance, and demand shifts before or after harvesting, there can be a lot of surplus product available with no home.  Without a buyer, farmers are forced to leave the produce to rot on their farms or if it has already been harvested, send it to the landfill.

 

Can surplus or imperfect produce have farmer and environmental benefits even if it’s not Verified RescuedTM?

There are many times when we know that a purchase has resulted in some degree of food waste avoidance but it is very difficult to calculate the exact amount with certainty and therefore difficult to calculate the exact impact.  For example, there are many times when we work with growers to increase tolerances for a specific type of produce, allowing for a greater harvest of produce that would have otherwise been left to rot in the field. In this scenario, we have no way of knowing which of the produce was picked because of the widened specification, but we know that there was definitely some food waste avoidance.  We are currently working with academia and the non-profit community to work on a methodology to capture the impact benefit for these more complex scenarios.

What are the environmental benefits for Verified Rescued ProduceTM?

As Verified RescuedTM equates to full food waste avoidance, we estimate that every one million pounds of “rescued” produce results in 60 millions gallons of water saved and 350k kg of CO2 emissions avoided based on reported food waste reduction metrics.  It is important to note that these calculations are generalized and do not account for farm and geography specific variations in water savings and CO2 avoidance.  A detailed water and CO2 lifecycle analysis is recommended for understanding exact environmental benefits.

 

Why is food waste defined as “food that would not have gone towards human consumption”?

The growing of food requires water, energy and inputs like fertilizer that all have an environmental footprint.  When food is grown, but never harvested or consumed by humans, all of the water and carbon emissions associated with this growing is wasted.  In addition, the U.S. has 54 million food insecure people. As a result, the US EPA has defined human consumption at the top of the food recovery hierarchy pyramid as the single most important priority for the growing of food.   

 

What is Full Harvest’s audit and verification process?

Full Harvest’s proprietary verification process evaluates three key factors to determine if produce is rescued: type of produce, market conditions and harvest conditions.  We also offer Auditing Services for food & beverage companies’ existing supply chains to identify potential Verified Rescued ProduceTM streams.