4 Types of Green Technology in Food Production and Processing

Implementing green technology in food production and processing

Green technology in food production and processing is a popular topic with the rise of environmental awareness. More consumers are looking for more products produced with fewer negative environmental impacts. So we’ll discuss the different green technologies in food production and processing that can help meet this demand.

One study reported that nearly 64% of Americans are willing to pay more for sustainable or “green” products. And 78% are more likely to support eco-friendly companies that produce products clearly labeled as environmentally friendly. 

This is why the industry is investing heavily in green technology and practices. Read on for more insight into which green technologies are currently in use in food production and processing.

Key Takeaways

    • Green technology systems, processes, and practices are designed to reduce negative environmental impacts.
    • Green technologies support the production of food products and maintain food security for people now and in future generations.
    • Green technologies also help protect the environment by improving efficiency, reducing waste, and conserving natural resources.

What’s Green Technology in Food Production?

Green technologies in food production and processing are designed to minimize the environmental impact of food production and processing. 

These technologies can help reduce negative impacts such as deforestation, overuse of water, and the release of greenhouse gases. They can also improve the health of the soil, water, and food safety.

What’s Accelerating Green Technology in Food Production?

Green technology in food production is accelerating to address the following issues:

Increased Consumer Demand

Currently, agricultural activities are responsible for a great deal of deforestation, water consumption, terrestrial biodiversity loss, and land degradation. 

The environmental impact from the lack of green technology in food production and processing

Source: World Wildlife Fund: 2020 Living Planet Report

To address these concerns, more people are demanding food products that are green and sustainable. They want food produced with less environmental impact and less reliance on fossil fuels.


Environmental Conservation

Food production and processing have a direct influence on the global environment, impacting:

  • Natural resources (i.e., water and land) to produce food and feed livestock for consumption
  • Energy consumption to produce and transport food
  • Greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., methane and carbon dioxide) from livestock, croplands, and processing facilities

If food production and processing were fully sustainable, these environmental impacts could decrease. For instance, if greener technologies were adopted in the transportation of goods, it could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 9 to 15% by 2025.

The Need to Improve Food Production without Increasing Waste

Today, the foodservice and food retailing industries supply approximately $1.69 trillion worth of food worldwide. However, around 1.3 billion tons of the food slated for human consumption goes to waste every year.  

Green technologies can help reduce food waste in a few ways:

  • More precise harvesting techniques and precise timing for planting and harvesting crops using artificial intelligence
  • Using reusable plastic transport containers when transporting food products from producers to retailers 
  • Vertical farming and hydroponics to produce food closer to where it will be consumed

Green Technology in Food Production: 4 Technologies Worth Considering

One study showed that while greenhouse gas emissions were up, they rose at a slower rate between 2000 and 2014 than expected, thanks to changes in green technologies in food production and processing.  

Technology that incorporates some form of green technology can provide significant environmental benefits for the production and processing of foods. You can apply these technologies at many different scales: 

1. Solar Energy

Solar energy can reduce the consumption of traditional energy sources, such as coal, gas, and oil. Solar energy is a clean, sustainable, and renewable energy source that can power the production and processing of food.

Solar energy can power mechanical equipment, lighting, and heating. Many small-scale and large-scale farmers are now looking into the use of solar greenhouses because they provide controlled temperatures and supply as much natural lighting and heat to the crops as necessary to maintain optimal growth conditions.

2. Hydroponics 

Hydroponics is the cultivation of plants without soil and using only water, light, and nutrients. A controlled environment enables farmers to grow crops without the influence of soil, while still allowing the use of natural light and air. 

This makes it a more environmentally friendly method of food production by eliminating the need for pesticides, fertilizers, and other materials that can harm both humans, animals, and the environment as a whole. 

It also helps to cut down on the amount of water used to sustain the plants. Research shows that hydroponic systems use up to 10 times less water than traditional field crop watering methods. Instead of allowing water to run off and drain into the surrounding environment, these systems utilize a capture and reuse system. 

3. Automation

Many automation technologies can be applied to the food production and processing industry, from robotics in farming to autonomous vehicles in processing. The use of automation can help ensure that the food produced is safe, nutritious, and hygienic. 

It can also help reduce labor costs, increase efficiency, and reduce the use of natural resources. Automation in the food industry can also reduce the carbon footprint associated with food production and distribution.

Pros and cons of using robotics in food production and processing

Source: CSIRO

Currently, some of the most common uses of automation in food processing and production include automated guided vehicles and robotics in greenhouse settings to maintain ideal environments for crops.  

4. AI and Digital Agriculture

Artificial intelligence (AI) can streamline processes and create efficiency in the food production and processing industry. 

Using AI can help: 

  • improve food safety and traceability
  • improve the efficiency of food production 
  • increase crop yields
  • analyze crop yield data, soil quality, and climate

For example, you can place AI sensors in the soil to monitor the soil’s water content and the location’s climate data. You can analyze and use the data collected to create a customized irrigation schedule based on the climate and the needs of the soil and crops.

Going Green with SIAL America

One of the main goals of SIAL America is to provide those in the food and agricultural space with the latest and greatest in food technology. Here, you can learn everything you need to know about green technology in food production and processing. 

To learn more about food production and processing innovations, join other food professionals at SIAL America’s educational food and beverage conference!