A third of food generated annually on a worldwide basis-running up to 1,3 billion tonnes-is wasted or lost. At the same time, global populations are predicted to rise exponentially by 2050, generating a need for continuous food production. This only serves to exacerbate the existing waste management problem.
Fermentation has been suggested as a way of dealing with agri-food waste. The process, which sees microorganisms break down sugars into simpler compounds, serves to extend the shelf life of products. As a technique, it dates back to ancient civilizations, which effectively discovered the production of bread and wine through this method.
The enzymatic transformation in material provides more scope for easy digestibility as well as enhanced flavour.
Danish startup Resauce is set on fighting food waste via fermentation.
The company converts excess food into sauces, syrups and jams with long shelf life. Specific products produced include fermented tomato sauce, bean paste as well as chili sauce.
Fermentation is characterized by low costs, low energy consumption as well as low wastewater generation. The tendency of fermentation to enhance sensory characteristics also renders the process profitable.
“It is sometimes a challenge to give plants a more complex taste as well as to create structures in the food that appeal to consumers, which fermentation can contribute to,” explains Lene Jespersen, professor in Microbial Ecology and Food Fermentation the Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen.
“Fermentation can help, as you can create many different tastes and structures and thus introduce completely new product types,” she said.
Further research into fermentation may generate a greater understanding of the ways microbial breakdown could help to build an energy efficient green technology to tackle food waste.