Agro Waste Management

Decarbonization Avenue : Agro Waste Management

Significant amounts of agricultural produce are wasted post their harvest - either on the farms or before they reach the destination where they are stored or consumed. Such wastage, in addition to resulting in significant economic losses to farmers, greenhouse gas emissions (from the energy needed to the amount of harvest that has been lost and also from the biomethanation of some portion of such waste), also results in serious negative implications for society.

Estimates suggest that a staggering 400 million metric tons of grain alone (about 20% of global grain production) were lost in 2018. For many smallholder farmers in Asia, rice post production processes from harvesting to milling are estimated to incur losses of 20 to 30% of the rice grain produced. In addition to other aspects, this also implies a significant economic loss to these farmers, many of whom are in developing or underdeveloped countries. Estimates are likely to be similar (or worse) for perishable food items like fruits and vegetables.

Main causes of this postharvest loss include lack of temperature management, rough handling, poor packaging material, and lack of education on how to maintain the harvest. 

The losses occur at different stages of the supply chain for different regions, complicating unified solutions development. In Peru for instance, most farmers dry their crops in the field, directly on the ground, which exposes them to rodents, birds, and insects, resulting in losses. On the other side of the world, in Thailand, the largest fraction of wastage occurs during handling and storage.

In addition to crop loss post harvest, agriculture also generates significant amounts of crop waste after harvest. For instance, India generates about 350 million tonnes of agricultural waste every year.

All these make post harvest agricultural waste an important domain to work on.

For the 2020-2030 period, key innovations in this domain can be expected in solutions for post harvest crop storage & protection, platforms that enable farmers to sell surplus harvest profitably, and solutions for recovering value from a wide range of agricultural residues & waste.

Decarbonization potential

According to the FAO, food loss and waste globally account for about 4.4 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year; and a significant portion of this is from on-farm agricultural emissions and losses before the food reaches the market or consumer shelves.

The magnitude of such post harvest losses can be seen from just this estimate: a staggering 400 million metric tons of grain (about 20% of global grain production), were lost in 2018 worldwide.

Post harvest waste is thus a double whammy - the world needs to produce this much more grains and the associated greenhouse gases, and a good portion of the post harvest waste could also end up emitting CO2 or even methane when they degrade in the environment.

Similarly, residual agricultural waste (paddy straw, corn cobs, sugarcane thrash, cotton stalks…) could either decompose on farms and release methane or if burned (as they are in some countries like India), release CO2. A study estimates that crop stubble burning alone could release about 150 million tons of CO2 annually, worldwide.

All these present significant decarbonization opportunities while at the same time enhancing incomes for key aggri stakeholders, especially farmers.

Industries impacted

  • Agriculture & farming
  • Logistics
  • Packaging & plastics
  • Power
  • Paper & forest products
  • Textile & apparel
  • Waste management

Latest News on Agro Waste Management

Themes & Topics

  • Minimizing waste

    • On farm

    • During transport

    • During storage

  • Minimizing waste through

    • Storage of agro produce, including cold storage

    • Connect with the market

    • Efficient logistics

    • Efficient cultivation practices to reduce wastage

    • Improved awareness of farmers about market needs

    • Improved weather intelligence

    • On-farm processing challenges for recovering value from agri waste

    • On-farm processing of harvested agro produce

    • Packaging of harvested agro produce

    • Contamination management of post harvest produce

    • Sustainable drying of agro produce

    • Effective agro produce logistics

    • Collaboration with other farmers for sustainable post harvest best practices

  • Use of IT & digital

  • Enabling policies

  • Education & capacity building







  • Utilization of agricultural waste

    • Conversion to power

    • Conversion for heating

    • Conversion to biofuels

    • Agricultural waste to bioplastics

    • Agricultural waste to sustainable packaging materials

    • Agricultural waste to biochar

    • Agricultural waste to compost & soil nutrient

    • Agricultural waste to cosmetics

    • Agricultural waste to products for human health & wellness

    • Agricultural waste to high-value bio-products

    • Agricultural waste for construction materials

    • Challenges for recovering value from agri waste

  • Collaboration between farmers and:

    • With industry & businesses & entrepreneurs

    • With government

    • With logistics providers

    • With researchers & academia

    • With financial investors 

  • Trends in different regions

    • North America

    • South America

    • Europe

    • Asia

    • Middle East & Africa

    • Oceania





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