Special Issue "Agricultural and Food Systems Sustainability: The Complex Challenge of Losses and Waste"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Alessandro Suardi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
CREA Research Centre for Engineering and Agro-Food Processing, Via della Pascolare, 16, Monterotondo, Rome, 00015, Italy
Interests: agricultural mechanization; agricultural residue management; environmental assessment; biomass; bioenergy; industrial crops
Dr. Nadia Palmieri
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
CREA Research Centre for Engineering and Agro-Food Processing, Via della Pascolare, 16, Monterotondo, Rome, 00015, Italy
Interests: consumer behavior; food science; willingness to consume; willingness to pay; agricultural economics; environmental and economic assessment

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to announce a Special Issue of Sustainability on “Agricultural and Food System Sustainability: The Complex Challenge of Losses and Waste”. 

According to FAO (2018), one-third of the food produced globally is lost or wasted, which has environmental, economic, and social impacts on the overall food value chain and on society. Food loss and waste translate to economic losses for farmers and higher prices for consumers, both of which affect food insecurity by making food less accessible for the poorest and more vulnerable groups (FAO, 2018). The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Goal 12—“Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”) calls for renewed efforts to reduce food losses along the production and supply chains. Achieving this goal also requires greater efforts globally in implementing food loss reduction policies and intervention. Although progress has been made in identifying the direct causes of food losses and quantifying their magnitude, there is a need to focus loss reduction strategies on technological solutions without overlooking the relevance of socioeconomic factors influencing the functioning of the food value chain. 

In addition, at farm level, another aspect that appears to be of increasing importance is represented by the sustainable management and use of byproducts from agriculture, including agricultural residues (such as non-edible parts of vegetables’ plants, stalks or wood resulting from pruning, discarded fruits, and crops grown but not harvested).   

For this Special Issue, we welcome conceptual and empirical studies that analyze actions:

  • To reduce losses of products and byproducts at the farm level;
  • To promote sustainable agriculture;
  • To provide insights into the relationships between consumers and household food waste behaviors;
  • To evaluate the market potential of food obtained from byproducts;
  • To promote the reuse of waste and byproducts to increase the nutritional value of food;
  • To underline causes of food waste and its correlation with climate change, agriculture, and population growth.

The papers must show originality and make a significant contribution to the scope of the Special Issue.

Dr. Alessandro Suardi
Dr. Nadia Palmieri
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Consumer behavior 
  • Food waste 
  • Food byproduct 
  • Waste-to-value (WTV) products 
  • Consumers’ acceptance 
  • Agricultural residue 
  • Harvesting losses 
  • Food crops 
  • Industrial crops 
  • Sustainable agriculture

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Postharvest Losses of Pomegranate Fruit at the Packhouse and Implications for Sustainability Indicators
Sustainability 2021, 13(9), 5187; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13095187 - 06 May 2021
Viewed by 173
Abstract
Pomegranate fruit, like other types of fresh horticultural produce, are susceptible to high incidence preharvest and postharvest losses and waste. Several studies have been done to improve the production and handling of pomegranate fruit to meet market standards, but little has been done [...] Read more.
Pomegranate fruit, like other types of fresh horticultural produce, are susceptible to high incidence preharvest and postharvest losses and waste. Several studies have been done to improve the production and handling of pomegranate fruit to meet market standards, but little has been done in loss quantification, especially in the early stage of the value chain such as the packhouse. Therefore, the aim of this study was to quantify the magnitude of pomegranate fruit losses at the packhouse, identify the causes, and estimate the impacts of losses. The study was conducted on a case study packhouse in the Western Cape Province of South Africa from February to March 2020. The direct measurement method, which involved physical identification of the causes of loss on individual fruit, was used for data collection. Loss quantification involved the calculation of lost fruit proportional to the amount put in the packhouse processing line. The results showed that losses ranged between 6.74% to 7.69%, which translated to an average of 328.79 tonnes of pomegranate fruit removed during packhouse operation per production season at the investigated packhouse. This magnitude of lost fruit was equivalent to over ZAR 29.5 million (USD 1,754,984) in revenue, in addition to the opportunity costs of resources used to produce lost fruit. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Postharvest Losses in Quantity and Quality of Table Grape (cv. Crimson Seedless) along the Supply Chain and Associated Economic, Environmental and Resource Impacts
Sustainability 2021, 13(8), 4450; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13084450 - 16 Apr 2021
Viewed by 277
Abstract
High incidence of postharvest losses is a major challenge to global food security. Addressing postharvest losses is a better strategy to increase business efficiency and improve food security rather than simply investing more resources to increase production. Global estimates show that fruit and [...] Read more.
High incidence of postharvest losses is a major challenge to global food security. Addressing postharvest losses is a better strategy to increase business efficiency and improve food security rather than simply investing more resources to increase production. Global estimates show that fruit and vegetables are the highest contributors to postharvest losses and food waste, with 45% of production lost. This represents 38% of total global food losses and waste. However, the lack of primary data on postharvest losses at critical steps in the fruit value chain and the unknown economic, environmental and resource impacts of these losses makes it difficult to formulate mitigation strategies. This paper quantifies postharvest losses and quality attributes of ‘Crimson Seedless’ table grapes at farm and simulated retail levels. Table grapes were sampled from four farms in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, the largest deciduous fruit production and export region in Southern Africa. Mean on-farm losses immediately after harvest was 13.9% in 2017 and 5.97% in 2018, ranging from 5.51% to 23.3% for individual farms. The main reason for on-farm losses was mechanical damage (7.1%). After 14 days in cold storage (−0.3 ± 0.7 °C, 81.3 ± 4.1% RH), mean grape losses were 3.05% in 2017 and 2.41% in 2018, which increased to 7.41% in 2017 and 2.99% in 2018, after 28 days. After 10 days of further storage under simulated market conditions (5.4 ± 0.6 °C, 83.7 ± 2.9% RH), fruit losses were 3.65% during retail marketing and 4.36% during export. Storing grapes under ambient conditions (25.1 ± 1.3 °C and 46.6 ± 6.0% RH) resulted in a higher incidence of losses, increasing from 7.03 to 9.59 and 14.29% after 3, 7 and 10 days, respectively. The socioeconomic impacts of these postharvest losses amounted to financial losses of over ZAR 279 million (USD 17 million according to the conversion rate of 20 October 2020) annually, and this was associated with the loss of 177.43 million MJ of fossil energy, 4.8 million m3 of fresh water and contributed to the emission of approximately 52,263 tons of CO2 equivalent. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Inulin Content in Chipped and Whole Roots of Cardoon after Six Months Storage under Natural Conditions
Sustainability 2021, 13(7), 3902; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13073902 - 01 Apr 2021
Viewed by 265
Abstract
Industries currently rely on chicory and Jerusalem artichoke for inulin extraction but also cardoon is proved to synthetize and store high quantity of inulin in roots as well. Cardoon is a multipurpose crop, well adapted to marginal lands, whose main residues at the [...] Read more.
Industries currently rely on chicory and Jerusalem artichoke for inulin extraction but also cardoon is proved to synthetize and store high quantity of inulin in roots as well. Cardoon is a multipurpose crop, well adapted to marginal lands, whose main residues at the end of cropping cycle consist of roots. However, cardoon roots are a suitable source of inulin, that is of high interest for new generation biodegradable bioplastics production. On the other hand, a sustainable supply chain for inulin production from cardoon roots has not been developed yet. In particular, in the inulin supply chain the most critical part is storage, which can negatively affect both cost and inulin quantity. In the present study the effect on inulin content in cardoon roots stored as dried chipped roots (CRt) and dried whole roots (WRt) was investigated in a 6-month storage trial. Our findings suggest that chipping before storage did not affect the inulin content during the storage. Furthermore, it reduced the time needed for drying by 33.3% and increased the bulk density by 154.9% with the consequent reduction of direct cost for drying, transportation and storage. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Economic and Environmental Assessment of Two Different Rain Water Harvesting Systems for Agriculture
Sustainability 2021, 13(7), 3871; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13073871 - 31 Mar 2021
Viewed by 318
Abstract
Increasing aridity and subsequent water scarcity are currently among the major problems of agriculture. Rainwater harvesting could represent a way to tackle this issue, and, as a consequence, scientific research has been more and more focused on such topic. On the other hand, [...] Read more.
Increasing aridity and subsequent water scarcity are currently among the major problems of agriculture. Rainwater harvesting could represent a way to tackle this issue, and, as a consequence, scientific research has been more and more focused on such topic. On the other hand, few scientific studies related to economic and environmental assessment of rainwater harvesting systems in agriculture are available. The present study carried out an economic and environmental analysis of two different systems for rainwater harvesting: a typical pond and an innovative flexible water storage system (FWSS). The environmental and economic performance of the systems was compared using the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Life Cycle Costing (LCC) methodologies, referring to a functional unit (FU) of 1 m3 of storable water. The FWSS showed better environmental end economic performance than the pond system, resulting with both lower environmental impacts (17.04 g per m3 CO2vs 28.2 g per m3 CO2) and lower costs (16.94 € per m3vs 20.41 € per m3). Moreover, the pond system was more impactful than the FWSS for all the 17 categories investigated. Therefore, the FWSS can be a suitable solution for water harvesting in agriculture sector, showing interesting features for farmers. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Assessing the Camelina (Camelina sativa (L.) Crantz) Seed Harvesting Using a Combine Harvester: A Case-Study on the Assessment of Work Performance and Seed Loss
Sustainability 2021, 13(1), 195; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13010195 - 28 Dec 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 450
Abstract
The growing demand in food and non-food industries for camelina oil is driving the interest of farmers and contractors in investing in such feedstock. Nonetheless, the cost, performance and critical aspects related to the harvesting stage are still not properly investigated. In the [...] Read more.
The growing demand in food and non-food industries for camelina oil is driving the interest of farmers and contractors in investing in such feedstock. Nonetheless, the cost, performance and critical aspects related to the harvesting stage are still not properly investigated. In the present study, an ad-hoc test was performed in Spain in order to fulfill this gap. The results support the hypothesis to harvest camelina seeds with the same combine harvester used for cereal harvesting without further investment. Theoretical field capacity (TFC), effective field capacity (EFC), material capacity (MC), and field efficiency (FE) were 4.34 ha h−1, 4.22 ha h−1, 4.66 Mg h−1 FM, and 97.24%, respectively. The harvesting cost was estimated in 48.51 € ha−1. Approximately, the seed loss of 0.057 ± 0.028 Mg ha−1 FM was due to the impact of the combine harvester header and dehiscence of pods, whilst 0.036 ± 0.006 Mg ha−1 FM of seeds were lost due to inefficiency of the threshing system of the combine harvester. Adjustment of the working speed of the combine and the rotation speed of the reel may help to reduce such loss. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Factors Influencing Consumers’ Attitude Towards Biopreservatives
Sustainability 2020, 12(24), 10338; https://doi.org/10.3390/su122410338 - 10 Dec 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 535
Abstract
Biopreservatives have received considerable attention in recent years as natural alternatives to synthetic preservatives. This seems to be a response to an increased demand for natural and organic foods. This study investigates the potential market for products enriched with biopreservatives in Italy. Data [...] Read more.
Biopreservatives have received considerable attention in recent years as natural alternatives to synthetic preservatives. This seems to be a response to an increased demand for natural and organic foods. This study investigates the potential market for products enriched with biopreservatives in Italy. Data were collected from a sample of Italian consumers (N = 479) using a web-based survey. The main results indicate that 64% of respondents declared themselves to be willing to consume biopreservatives only if they replaced synthetic preservatives. Principal component analysis (PCA) was applied to reduce the number of variables. The factorial scores of the components obtained from PCA were used for a Cluster Analysis related to consumers’ perceptions about biopreservatives. Moreover, the survey highlights that the respondents had positive opinions about biopreservatives, although they showed difficulty in perceiving the exact meaning of the term. The study could provide useful implications for food manufacturers and facilitate the design of marketing strategies for foods enriched with biopreservatives. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Environmental and Economic Assessment of Castor Oil Supply Chain: A Case Study
Sustainability 2020, 12(16), 6339; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12166339 - 06 Aug 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 795
Abstract
Among the species currently cultivated for industrial vegetable oil production, castor could be a good candidate for future investments due to the good resistance to pests, tolerance to drought, and suitability for marginal lands cultivation. In addition, the production of castor oil from [...] Read more.
Among the species currently cultivated for industrial vegetable oil production, castor could be a good candidate for future investments due to the good resistance to pests, tolerance to drought, and suitability for marginal lands cultivation. In addition, the production of castor oil from Ricinus generates a large quantity of press cake, husks, and crop residues that, in a framework of bioeconomy, could be used as by-products for different purposes. Using a case study approach, the work presents results of the environmental impact assessment and economic feasibility of the production of castor oil from two different castor hybrids comparing four by-products management scenarios and two harvesting systems (manual vs. mechanical). Castor hybrid C-856 harvested manually and that involved only the soil incorporation of press cake obtained by the oil extraction resulted as the most sustainable. The hybrid C-1030 resulted as more profitable than C-856 when harvested with the combine harvester. The ratio between gross margin and GWP emissions was applied to calculate the economic performance (gross margin) per unit of environmental burden. Findings showed that Sc1B scenario in case of C-856 cultivar hybrid had a better ratio between economic performance and greenhouse gas (GHG) emitted into the atmosphere (€3.75 per kg CO2eq). Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Comparison between Two Strategies for the Collection of Wheat Residue after Mechanical Harvesting: Performance and Cost Analysis
Sustainability 2020, 12(12), 4936; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12124936 - 17 Jun 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 622
Abstract
The growing population worldwide will create the demand for higher cereal production, in order to meet the food need of both humans and animals in the future. Consequently, the quantity of crop by-products produced by cereal cropping will increase accordingly, providing a good [...] Read more.
The growing population worldwide will create the demand for higher cereal production, in order to meet the food need of both humans and animals in the future. Consequently, the quantity of crop by-products produced by cereal cropping will increase accordingly, providing a good opportunity for fostering the development of the sustainable supply chain of renewable solid fuels and natural feedstock for animal farming. The conventional machineries used in wheat harvesting do not guarantee the possibility to collect the chaff as additional residue to the straw. The present study investigated the possibility to equip a conventional combine with a specific device, already available on the market, in order to collect the chaff either separately (onto a trailer), or together with the straw (baled). The total residual biomass increased by 0.84 t·ha−1 and 0.80 t·ha−1 respectively, without negatively affecting the performance of the combine when the chaff was discharged on the swath. Farmers can benefit economically from the extra biomass collected, although a proper sizing of the machine chain is fundamental to avoid by-product losses and lower revenue. Full article
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