More than 1,000 exhibitors are expected to attend the first Universal Exhibition of Solutions for the Planet to be held at the Grand Palais in Paris from January 30 to February 1. Among them, three promising innovations are working to encourage the food transition our planet so desperately needs.
We are increasingly reminded of the emergency that our natural resources finiteness represents. In July 29, 2019, we had already consumed more resources than the Earth could produce in one year, according to the American NGO Global Footprint Network.
This chilling observation becomes a paradox when looking closer at the food issues we face. The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that one third of the world's food production goes to waste each year since 2011, while one out of nine people suffer from malnutrition, according to a 2018 report on food security and nutrition. In this context, initiatives to transform the food system are beginning to emerge in France. Some of these will be presented at the first Universal Exhibition of Solutions for the Planet, to be held at the Grand Palais in Paris from 30 January to 1 February 2020.
Founded in 2018, Pandobac offers for instance an alternative to food single-use packaging. "In Ile-de-France, nearly 300,000 packages are thrown away every day," says Shu Zhang, co-founder and CEO of the company. To tackle this, Pandobac has developed a reusable receptacle service, integrated across the entire value chain — from producer to retailer, to delivery and wholesalers.
In addition to renting and washing the receptacles offered to suppliers and food distributors, Pandobac raises awareness about food waste amongst them through a training programme. With a daily circulation of roughly 2,000 receptacles, Pandobac operates within a deliberately restricted perimeter in order to limit its transport-related environmental footprint. Now established at the Parisian Rungis Market, the company plans to open six new distribution centers by 2021.
Another example is Meal Canteen, which aims to prevent food waste in the catering sector thanks to "a tool that enables restaurateurs to reduce food waste while giving users a sense of responsibility," says Magalie Gretteau, responsible of key accounts for the company.
Thanks to a web and mobile app, the company offers users the possibility to book in advance their next meal with their caterer service, free of charge. In a sector that accounts for one million meals wasted each year according to Ademe, Meal Canteen helps catering managers to optimize purchases and production, by allowing them to know exactly how many meals need to be prepared. But the company has a broader ambition — involving consumers in the battle against food wastage, enabling them to play an active role in their own alimentation. With over 100,000 bookings to date, Meal Canteen is preparing to roll out its solution nationwide this year.
© Meal Canteen
But to what extent can stakeholders in the food industry also become players of this transition? That’s the idea that moves PUR Project, which seeks to show that the regeneration and preservation of ecosystems can also create value. "Since 2008, we have helped 150 companies around the world to integrate climate issues into their value chain in order to boost and preserve the ecosystems on which they depend, in collaboration with local communities," explains Emmanuelle Hervéou, head of communications. She adds: "We call this way of internally offsetting a company's environmental and social impact ‘insetting’.” It’s an approach that enables these companies to meet the expectations of their stakeholders by generating additional income for local communities, increasing their economic returns and protecting the environment.
© Clément Chapillon
While the worldwide food industry accounted for 37 percent of global CO2 emissions in 2019 according to the IPCC, these types of initiatives draw the contours of a food transition that could have the potential to address the world’s current environmental and social challenges.
This article has been written as part as a series of stories produced for open_resource by Sparknews, a French social enterprise that aims to foster new narratives that can help accelerate a social and environmental transition to tackle our world’s most pressing issues.