In the first blog on the Global Farm Loss Tool (GFLT) Project with the CGF’s Food Waste Coalition of Action members, we laid the foundation that food loss and waste (FLW) is a critical issue needing to be addressed to achieve multiple objectives, including: mitigating Scope 3 emissions, reducing natural resource use and land conversion pressures, improving food security and access to nutritious foods, and boosting economic productivity via new market channels for surplus (such as upcycling, secondary markets, and value-added processing). In only a few weeks since the first blog was published, food loss and waste was one of six climate related commitments to come from the North American Leaders Summit, and was a focal point in food systems discussions and commitments made at COP28 in UAE. Additionally, a new national voluntary agreement was launched in the US, the US Food Waste Pact, which includes a whole chain project focused on measuring and reducing food loss across strawberry and frozen potato supply chains using the GFLT.

The timing is ripe to scale farm loss measurement and rapidly deliver on the FLW commitments being made at national and international levels to reduce Scope 3 emissions and increase food access. The reality is that loss is not measured or tracked consistently on most farms, which makes it challenging to understand why or where it’s most happening to then manage the issue. Current reports and research (especially at a global level) are primarily based on estimates, which is not primary data and scaled to sizes that often fail to reflect a specific crop or geography. The complex web of factors that drive on-farm loss—including market structures that separate farmers from buyers, retail specifications, labor shortages, unpredictability of weather events, political conflict, market and trade dynamics, and inflexible or short-term contracts—emphasize the need for these efforts to be carried out jointly between growers and buyers.

The Global Farm Loss Tool

What Growers and Buyers are Saying about the Global Farm Loss Tool

Through programmes such as WRI’s 10x20x30, commitments made by food manufacturers and retailers to reduce food waste and loss extend to supporting growers and suppliers upstream to set targets, measure, and act on food loss. The Global Farm Loss Tool  and the methodology supporting it is a practical means to deliver on these commitments. Here’s what participants who beta tested the tool have to say about the process.

How it Works

The GFLT was designed after the successful development and launch of the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops (SISC) Food Loss Metric (based in the US) and WRAP’s Grower Guidance tool. The GFLT’s primary objective is to collect data in-field and in further stages using a sampling methodology developed by Dr. Lisa Johnson that allows growers to easily measure what’s left behind in their fields directly after the harvest. WWF has worked closely with growers to pilot and beta test the GFLT internationally to ensure it’s grower centric, and has sought peer feedback from members of CGF, Olam, African Postharvest Loss Institute, Solidaridad, Dr. Lisa Johnson, and World Resources Institute. The GFLT critically guides growers through an in-field sample measurement via a web based platform, which then scales the sample results to the whole farm or field size, and can report this loss data to the aggregator/buyer (if desired).

The GFLT’s focus is on farm stage food loss and defines ‘loss’ as applying to any outputs from primary food production that are, or were at some point, intended for human consumption, but which end up not entering, or being removed from, the human food supply chain. The scope of this tool starts from the point at which crops are “mature and ready for harvest”.

It enables growers and others to collect data on the amount of crop that is left in the field after harvest, is never harvested (i.e., “walked-by”), or is discarded in post-harvest undertakings on farms (for example: in storage or packhouses). The scope may continue beyond the field into “Further Stages” of loss which may include processing, packaging, transportation and storage. Data collection for further stages utilizes a mass balance approach as opposed to sampling. Growers can also enter a total amount if they have directly weighed the crop left in the field or rejected at further stages. 

The GFLT covers measurement and reporting for fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts. It is also possible to use the tool for row crops but may require technical support from the development team (WWF). The tool was not designed for crops grown for animal feed or biofuel. It is only relevant for measuring food which was intended for the human food supply chain, including food that has spoiled.

Measuring In-Field Loss

As mentioned, measuring in-field loss is what provides increased accuracy to better understand how much loss is occuring harvest after harvest, and why. This type of data, collected year over year, will provide growers and buyers with critical insight to make targeted decisions on solutions that will more fully utilize the harvest (and help to shrink the footprint of food).

For the in-field stage, data can be collected through either sampling or direct weighing. For further stages, a total amount can also be entered if all the crop lost at a further stage has been assessed. Below is a snapshot of the step-by-step process of how to sample and collect appropriate input data for in-field losses that will be encouraged in the Global Farm Loss Tool. For more details on the in-field sampling method and the seven steps, please visit the Measurement Photo Guide. The links below have a snapshot of the step-by-step process of how to sample and collect appropriate input data for in-field losses that will be encouraged in the Global Farm Loss Tool:

Additionally, the Global Farm Loss Tool collects data on loss destinations, the reasons for loss and the economic viability of returning to the field to harvest what’s left behind under various donation and wholesale scenarios.

The Global Farm Loss Tool is slated to go live in April of 2024, when it will be encouraged by members of 10×20,000 to adopt the tool with their suppliers in addition to existing and forthcoming projects under the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment, US Food Waste Pact, and The Consumer Goods Forum’s Food Waste Coalition of Action that will continue to implement the Tool’s usage with buyers and suppliers for large-scale adoption.

In our next blog, we will explore the opportunities that collecting consistent data about farm stage food loss can unlock, and how measurement can lead to focussed action through collaboration between growers and buyers.