Bringing the Lebanese thought leadership to the Abu Dhabi International Food Exhibition (ADIFE), QOOT Cluster manager and agricultural engineer Dr. Marc Bou Zeidan was invited to give a stage talk as part of the ADIFE line-up. He discussed “Innovation Strategies in Food Waste Management,” where he emphasized sustainability as the heart and central pillar of food waste management strategies. His presentation included alarming statistics showing the environmental impact of current production strategies and consumer behaviors. The talk generated many questions from attendees who were intrigued by his proposed solutions for a circular economy.
Dr. Bou Zeidan was keen on granting the public the needed information to develop a rigorous understanding of the topic, from explaining sustainability in theory, and drawing comparisons between linear and circular economies, to then conclude with presenting concrete examples of the latest innovations in food waste management.
The Pertinent Question: Why Should We Tackle Food Waste, but Importantly, How?
Dr. Bou Zeidan relates worrying figures quantifying losses incurred by food waste mismanagement across the whole value chain. The Emirates generates economic losses in that scope, amounting to USD 3.5B annually. In response, the speaker proposes a “secret recipe” combining all the factors for transforming waste and losses into valuable opportunities and gains. Three complementary ingredients constitute the recipe:
- Facilitating Technical Support; through bridging academia and industries, enhancing synergies and exchange at that level.
- Promoting Financing Mechanisms; securing a myriad of financial schemes to support the provision of technical assistance, creation of linkages, and the scale-up of research and lab-scale solutions to industrial ones.
- Advancing Policy and Legislation; Dr. Bou Zeidan speaks about the importance of having a developed and mature legislative framework to ensure accountability and proper impact.
Innovation in Food Waste: The Future Is Already Here
In the talk, Dr. Bou Zeidan corroborates food waste innovations as being current, tangible solutions being deployed and tested in markets rather than products of wishful thinking or rocket science. The speaker exemplifies the statement by sharing two interesting cases available in the market: bioplastic and bio-ware developed from wheat straws and antibacterial gel bandages from durian husk (a national fruit in Singapore). The case study of palm date trees was thoroughly discussed to contextualize innovation further and put it into the proper perspective. Dr. Bou Zeidan suggests that 500,000 Tons of palm trees waste are generated annually in the Emirates – “this waste is actually richness,” as the latter confirms by engaging the public in an interactive exchange to explore the untapped potential of the trees’ waste. Biofertilizers, biochars, compost, and natural fiber composites (NFC) are all exciting suggestions the public provided, which Dr. Bou Zeidan further delved into.