Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. A British Columbia company that feeds food waste to insects to produce pet food has received $6 million from the federal government for it's new state-of-the-art plant just north of Calgary. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

Opinion: Reducing food waste

Every year, over half of the food produced in Canada is wasted. Crops are left unharvested in the field. Food spoils during transportation. Reusable by-products are cast aside during processing. Retailers and consumers fall short on selling and eating food before it spoils.

According to the experts at Second Harvest, it’s like building 95 CN towers out of wasted food every year. Uneaten food often ends up in landfills and creates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. A staggering 8% of all greenhouse gases worldwide are the result of food waste.

Food waste is a major challenge – and a major opportunity.

The team at Enterra Corp. is more than up to the challenge. Enterra runs a large state-of-the-art facility just north of Calgary. Every day, they gather 130 tonnes of surplus fruits, vegetables and other food from local farmers, grocery stores and food processors. They bring the waste back to their facility and feed it to large colonies of black soldier larvae. The larvae are then dried and offered as a nutrient-rich pet food and plant fertilizer in an attractive packaging.

Altruism isn’t driving Enterra’s success – it’s a viable business model to recycle food waste. Our Government recently announced an investment of $6 million to help them expand.

We need more Enterras. A lot more.

Last November, our government launched the $20-million Food Waste Reduction Challenge, offering cash prizes to innovators with solutions to prevent or divert food waste at any point on the food supply chain, from farm-to-plate.

We launched the challenge, not knowing what kind of response we would get.

We were thrilled at the response. Already, 343 proposals have poured in from all across the country, from start-ups and entrepreneurs ready to tackle this issue in Canada. A first round of winners will be announced in the coming months and another round of applications will be open in the spring, this time focused on new technologies that extend the life of food or transform food waste into new foods or value-added products.

While we’re making good progress on re-using and recycling waste, the biggest challenge remains waste prevention – preventing food waste before it ever happens. And we can all start with a simple solution right in our own homes. Some of us are unsure about is whether to eat food after the best-before date. The best-before date indicates to consumers that if the product has been properly handled, the unopened product should be of high quality until the specified date. Best-before dates are about food quality and not food safety.

Being confined at home during the COVID-19 pandemic has helped us all discover (or rediscover) the joy of cooking. Personally, I enjoy the challenge of cooking a delicious meal using the forgotten ingredients in the back of my fridge.

Tackling food waste is a challenge for all of us.

It’s a key focus area for the Food Policy for Canada, which our government launched two years ago. Reducing food waste can save us money, support those in need and create new business opportunities. Whether it’s a multi-million dollar business venture or a back-of-fridge stew, let’s keep working on solutions.

Marie-Claude Bibeau is Canada’s Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

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