Fighting Waste

Why Is Food Wasted At The Farm?

Fighting Waste
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As a food-producing nation, fresh food is abundant in Aotearoa New Zealand – which is something to be thankful for. But if we look beneath the lid (or under the kitchen bench into the rubbish bin!), approximately 100,000 tonnes of perfectly edible food is wasted every year in our country, equating to roughly $1,510 per household, or $3.2 billion of wasted food for the whole country. When we dig in to fruit and veggies in particular, it's estimated that 30-40% of produce grown in New Zealand doesn't make it off the farm.

So we went on a tikki tour, talking to growers about this farm-stage waste...and it turns out there's a fair few factors behind this forgotten veg!

High Produce 'Beauty Standards'

In this era of 'food-gramming', and so many options available at our fingertips, there's been an increasing demanding for perfect-looking fruits and vegetables. The grading system for produce appearance, with designations like 'Tag 1', 'Tag 2', and 'Tag 3', inadvertently leads to wastage. Major retailers prefer 'Tag 1' produce, which pushes down the prices of the lower-graded 'Tag 2' and 'Tag 3' products. Consequently, growers often find it financially unviable to harvest these lower-graded lines, resulting in perfectly edible produce being ploughed back into paddocks.

The Weather's Unpredictable Wrath

Growers consistently grapple with unpredictable weather patterns, impacting crop quality and quantity. Prolonged rainfall creates wet conditions, which can lead to surface marks on products like parsnips and pumpkins. Vegetables such as Silverbeet can suffer damage when pulled from overly damp ground. On the flip side, excessive sunlight can stunt the growth of various vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Unfortunately, farmers are at the mercy of nature's whims.

Being Short of a Helping Hand

The labour shortage in the agricultural sector, exacerbated by border closures during the lockdown, resulted in thousands of unpicked fields of produce. Migrant workers play a crucial role in harvesting, and their absence hindered the timely collection of crops. While we've heard from Growers that their overseas picking communities are returning, it remains a challenging issue to keep up with the harvest.

Escalating Costs of Production

The sharp increase in fuel prices by over 70% and a near tripling of fertiliser costs have put a significant financial strain on growers. With escalating input costs, farmers are cautious about investing in harvests without assurance of profitable returns. This hesitancy can lead to waste as growers prioritise economic viability.

How Does Wonky Box Help?

We've made it our mission to make it easy for caring Kiwis to combat some of these issues, and support our local growing community. Each week we team up with growers from around the country to see what needs rescuing that very week. It may be fruit and veg that look a little funny, are too big, too small, or have even just grown too much! We give the growers a buyer for produce they otherwise wouldn't be able to make money from, so they are rewarded for spending their extra time to harvest it and send it off the farm. Then we build these quirky cuties into your Wonky Boxes and deliver them straight to your door!

We work with different growers in our different Warehouse locations, to help with reducing food travel miles. That's why what your Wellington cousins gets in their box may differ slightly from yours if you're in the Upper North Island.

What Else Can You Do About It?

While this can make for a disheartening read, fear not! There's lots of awesome things you can do to combat food waste, and support growers in moving more than just the 'Tag 1' beauty pagent produce off farms.

  1. Embrace Quirks & Curves In Your Kitchen: When slicing, dicing, and chopping veg...Does it really matter if it had a few bumps or bruises to begin with? A curly cucumber will taste the same in your favourite salad as a perfectly straight one. As long as the flesh is fresh, tasty and free from mould, let's not let cosmetic imperfections get in the way. Choose wonky wonders when selecting your weekly produce (or let us do it for you in your weekly Wonky Box!)
  2. Support Development of New Grading Systems: By buying the misfit veggies of the world, this helps encourage the industry to develop grading systems that consider factors beyond appearance, rewarding growers for sustainable practices and resource conservation.
  3. Choose Local: When you buy NZ-grown produce, not only are you supporting our local farming community financially, but this also reduces emissions associated with long-distance transportation.
  4. Get Creative with Food Scraps: It can take a bit more planning, but donning your chef's hat and making the most of often overlooked peels, leaves and stems is a fun way to reduce your family's food waste. Here's a few of our favourite No Waste recipes to try:

With the help of customers like you, we've already rescued a whopping 2 MILLION KGs of produce that could have otherwise ended up at waste, and this is just the beginning! Thank you if you've been a part of our journey so far.


Why Is Food Wasted At The Farm?

From travelling from farm to farm and listening to growers galore, we’ve learned some of the main reasons why pear-fectly edible produce isn’t getting to hungry tummies.

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