Strategic Workshops

In the ongoing crusade against food waste, innovative strategies are emerging to confront the challenge head-on. Recently, stakeholders from diverse sectors converged in workshops organized by the ZeroW project to discuss and refine strategies for scaling up Sustainable Innovation Living Labs (SILLs) initiatives.

These workshops aimed to incorporate expert inputs to enhance systemic innovation and mature SILL solutions for successful scaling. However, amidst the optimism, numerous barriers and challenges were identified across various SILL initiatives.

Living Labs 4 and 7 combating food waste and reducing hunger

The workshops for Living Labs 4 and 7 in September 2023 highlighted the multifaceted challenges faced in combating food waste. For Living Lab 4, which focuses on a flexible processing unit to valorise fruit and vegetable losses, barriers such as diverse regulations, entrenched farmer mindsets, and a lack of suitable business model challenges hinder progress. The participants of the workshop highlighted the fact that the mobile aspect of the processing unit is less important than its’ flexibility and ability to process smaller quantities. Other enablers identified are the appeal of local production and a close interaction with policy makers.

Similarly, Living Lab 7 endeavours to revolutionize food bank efficiency and waste reduction. Challenges such as surplus food supply unpredictability, retailer disinterest, and infrastructural limitations impede progress. While tools for efficiency and data transparency offer solutions, collaboration and policy incentives are critical for success. Additionally, behavioral shifts towards dynamic distribution concepts are pivotal but challenging to initiate. 

Living Labs 3, 5, and 6: Innovations in agricultural technology

The workshops for Living Labs 3, 5, and 6 in October 2023 highlighted the complexities inherent in agricultural technology. Living Lab 3, focusing on waste reduction in greenhouse tomato production, faces challenges related to uncertain harvest prediction and infrastructure limitations. Overcoming these challenges requires collaborative efforts - ideally coordinated by a third party organisation, such as a farmers union. Opportunities to scout are i.e. policy initiatives and funding support.
Similarly, Living Lab 5's focus on addressing substandard tomatoes encounters technology limitations and worker acceptance challenges. Implementing this solution at a large tomato processing facility will allow a larger amount of substandard tomatoes to be reprocessed instead of wasted. Replicating this solution in areas without large processing facilities will demand stronger stakeholder collaboration.
Finally, Living Lab 6’s aim to introduce more continuous quality control processes in meat production results in a more stable and predictable production process. To achieve this increased efficiency there are some hurdles to overcome in terms of recalibration requirements and data ownership issues.

Living Labs 1 and 9: Food waste data collection and sharing to change behaviour

The stakeholder workshop for Living Labs 1 and 9 in November 2023 identified obstacles to scalability. For Living Lab 1, challenges include cumbersome data collection procedures, technological barriers, willingness of actors to share data and concerns about platform sustainability. Although promising enablers such as user-friendly technological solutions exist, strategic implementation is necessary to unlock the potential of Living Lab 1's.

Meanwhile, Living Lab 9's work on a new label for food products faces hurdles related to consumer adoption, producer cooperation, and regulatory support. Challenges in consumer adoption stem from either potential feelings of paternalism or a lack of label literacy. Obtaining accurate data for the label and navigating evolving legislation pose significant hurdles. While enablers like menu planning and technological advancements offer solutions, successful implementation requires a very performant application and collaboration among stakeholders. 

Living Labs 2 and 8: Smart labels and a circular feedstock for micro-algae

Innovations in smart labels and compostable packaging, addressed by Living Lab 2, face resistance due to policy barriers, stock management adjustments, and consumer adoption concerns. Although targeted marketing campaigns and stakeholder engagement offer solutions, convincing packaging manufacturers remains a challenge.
Similarly, Living Lab 8's exploration of micro-algae-based products encounters challenges in finding profitable applications, logistical complexities, and regulatory hurdles. While priority actions like identifying concrete applications offer solutions, navigating these challenges demands concerted efforts and innovative approaches.
 In conclusion, the journey towards a zero food waste supply chain is fraught with barriers and challenges across various living lab initiatives. Overcoming these obstacles demands innovative approaches, collaboration, and concerted efforts from stakeholders. 

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