Challenge 2023

Topic: Upcycled Ingredients from Food Loss

Venture Science Program Overview

CSIRO’s venture science program is a market-led innovation approach to co-create science ventures that address key industry challenges. The program runs in 5 phases: whitespace exploration, inspiration+ ideation, market validation, proto-venture, and venture build over 12-18 months.

Proposed Program

  • Whitespace Exploration
  • Inspiration + Ideation: Jan – March 2023
    • Industry and Entrepreneur EOI – by 7 February
    • Workshop – 20 February
    • Idea assessment & Talent Recruitment
  • Market validation
  • Idea showcase
  • Proto Venture

Reducing food loss and waste for more sustainable food systems

Globally, our food chains are wasting 1.3 billion tonnes of food per year, equivalent to USD 1 trillion, which generate 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. In Australia, approximately 28 million tonnes of agricultural and fisheries waste are generated each year, accounting for over 65 percent of Australia’s organic waste production. Australia’s food chains alone generate 7.6 million tonnes of food waste per year which costs the Australian economy AUD 36.6 billion. In addition, 2,600 gigalitres of water is used for production of food that is not utilised and wasted food contributes 1.7 million tonnes of carbon emissions. There are considerable social and environmental implications of food waste from the forgone macro- and micro-nutrients that could feed food-insecure people. This is especially important where one in six Australian adults and 1.2 million children experienced severe food insecurity.

Upcycling food loss and waste

Edible food waste left on farms, as well as side streams and by-products of food processing, have potential to be re-purposed. Particularly, edible food loss may be upcycled into value-added healthy foods and ingredients if this organic material is treated and considered as valuable raw material resource for the food industry.  Increasingly agri-food companies are requiring ESG credentials to operate and attract investment. This could provide the impetus for agrifood companies to commit to reduce loss and waste, and so contribute to food and nutrition security and the sustainability of current and future food systems.

Australia’s national food waste baseline indicates several sectors where high value nutrients are lost at primary production and food manufacturing that may be recovered, upcycled, and repurposed into materials and consumer goods:

  • Cereals and grains, oilseed, and pulses,
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Animal origin waste including dairy, bovine, fish, and seafood, where large volumes are currently diverted into animal feed

Our focus

CSIRO’s focus is to engage multiple stakeholders through the value chain to address:

  • Fresh agricultural (plant and animal)/aquaculture/marine produce from Australian primary producers that has not entered the retail chain and could be converted into higher value food products.
  • Major edible side streams of food processing that are currently underutilised or wasted for secondary processing into high value food ingredients

These areas are targeted as opportunities of most interest in Australia because of the large amount of wasted resources – being estimated at AUD 1.8-3.2 billion from primary production in agricultural/aquaculture/marine and AUD 0.7-1.2 billion in side streams of food processing

We are interested in seeking expressions of interest from stakeholders in various parts of the value chain (i.e., including existing companies, research corporations, venture funders, research providers including CSIRO) who are willing to work together to develop innovative solutions for reducing edible food loss and waste and contribute to improving the sustainability of the food system.

Our approach

CSIRO uses a Venture Science Model that brings together the founders (science, investor, entrepreneur, and industry) required to co-create science ventures that address market-led opportunities. We aim to capitalize on the food loss and waste reduction opportunity where companies are becoming increasingly reactive to consumer sustainability trends.  Companies are also making sincere efforts to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal Target 12.3, to halve food waste by 2030, and meet environmental policies and regulations.  This has been driven by the general move to operate in a more socially and environmentally responsible fashion as well as by shareholders who are seeking, where possible, for companies to reduce food waste, buy sustainably produced items that are recyclable, biodegradable, as well as water and environment efficient. Many companies are targeting carbon negative operations and there is a move toward digital solutions to minimise and divert waste.

There are plenty of white spaces in these sectors for venture creation using circular concepts. Venture science efforts may include the repurposing of on-farm and broadacre and horticulture crop waste and looking at “whole of crop” opportunities that enable farmers to fully harvest their produce. There have been various initiatives to value add to animal by-products and there are significant gaps to realise the whole transformation potential of animal material (livestock, fish, milk derived waste, other) into high value co-products including food, feed and biomaterials. Australia produces 6.49Mt of biomaterials, including plant-based, that currently go into animal feed, which can be upcycled into foods using renewable energy approaches. There are also strategies to create alternative animal feed from foodservice and consumer landfill waste that can be used as replacement, for example insects.

Why now?

Australia and APAC are creating financial incentives for companies to start investing in using the by-products of other food manufacturing processes. Those incentives are moved to uncover the commercial advantages of using the by-products of processes or buying unused ingredients from others at a low cost, but also to enter the carbon scheme.

Reference list

Stroosnijder S, Hetterscheid  B, Castelein B (2022). A journey into the world’s food systems in search of losses, waste and ways to solve them. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research

Hetherington JB, Juliano P, MacMillan C, Loch AJ (2022) Circular economy opportunities and implementation barriers for Australia’s food, feed, and fibre production. Food Policy Journal, Australian Farm Institute, 30-42.

Arsic M, O’Sullivan CA, Wasson AP, Juliano P, MacMillan CP, Antille DL, Haling RE, Clarke WP (2022) Food Policy Journal, Australian Farm Institute, 46-60

FIAL A Roadmap for Reducing Australia’s Food Waste by Half by 2030,, accessed 11/01/2023

Augustin MA, Sanguansri L, Fox EM, Cobiac L, Cole, MB (2020) Recovery of wasted fruit and vegetables for improving sustainable diets. Trends in Food Science & Technology 95:75–85. doi:10.1016/j.tifs.2019.11.010.

Technical platform on the measurement and reduction of food loss and waste,, accessed 11/01/2023

Interested in addressing this challenge?