Optimising Transportation and Logistics to ensure Food Security

Food security has gained significant relevance over the past decade due to growing concerns about climate change. Fuelling the growing fear of severe food shortage by 2050 is the recently released 2014 GAP report which indicated a crucial gap in agricultural productivity. According to the report countries across the world will be grappling to feed 9 billion mouths in the next forty years. While various countries, associations, organisations and famed individuals have already set into motion a chain of events to reverse the impact of climate change, transport and logistics has emerged as a key facilitator for sustainable food supply chains.

Transport and Logistics – Why the significance?

  • From the farm to the plate up to 50% of harvest approximately goes to waste
  • Transport accounts for 15% of the overall greenhouse gas emissions. 60% of which is attributed to road transport
  • Logistics proves extremely expensive for small farmers (up to 23% of their total costs)
  • Cold storage facilities and transport refrigeration units for example consume lots of electricity (diesel-based in most cases) contributing to greenhouse gas emissions

Thus the development of agro-logistics transport can help tackle the food security challenge more effectively from farm to plate and all stages in between. It is also fundamental to maximize efficiency of goods movement as well as minimize social and environmental impacts (like climate change).

Making transport and logistics sustainable

Aircraft, probably the most energy intensive mode of transport is already subject to emission caps in 2012 under the EU submissions Trading Scheme. Replacing this mode of transport is road transportation which is however under intense scrutiny. Organisations can adopt a wide range of strategies from reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions from vehicles comprising utilisation of alternative energy and hybrid vehicles to developing new service models. Another option is offering employees and customers incentives to reduce their energy use and emissions. At the same time, organisations should better employ technology. For instance, combining dynamic route planning with real-time traffic data will help discover the quickest and least congested routes to deliver and pick up shipments. Collaboration with the government, trade associations and other business partners however is vital to make transportation go the green way.

Real-time control of goods is the future of the logistics. Made possible by technological advancements, organisations will be able control various business processes through internet interfaces. Alternatively, moving from using small trucks to inland water, rail or pipeline which can potentially reduce CO2 emissions by 80%. Solar-powered mobile transport refrigeration units, cold storage facilities and dry-bulk storage solutions (packaging) are the other options available.

To improve sustainable logistics and transportation however organisations and governments across the globe need work in tandem. Collaboration is imperative to adopt a proactive approach to ensure food security. 

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