Building Zim knowledge, innovation start-up communities for the food sector

17 May, 2024 - 00:05 0 Views
Building Zim knowledge, innovation start-up communities for the food sector Nokuthula G Moyo-Muparuri

eBusiness Weekly

Nokuthula G Moyo-Muparuri

The last article about the textile and clothing sector emphasised the need to be self-sufficient in meeting the national demand for the textile and clothing needs. At the present, Zimbabwe has very minimum capacity to clothe her own citizens.

This article is about building knowledge and innovation start-up communities in the food sector.

The following will be discussed; developing sustainable agriculture and food production; determining national agri-food systems; developing clear food safety procedures and high quality food standards; producing high quality nutritious food; ensuring food security and economic benefits of food trade; fostering culture through food; developing a national unified food strategy and developing the start-up community partners.

Determining national agri-food systems

There is need to determine the country’s agri-food systems. Agri-food systems encompass the primary production of food and non-food agricultural products, as well as in food storage, aggregation, post-harvest handling, transportation, processing , distribution, marketing, disposal and consumption.

Within agri-food systems, food systems comprise all food products that originate from crop and livestock production, forestry , fisheries and aquaculture and from other sources such as synthetic biology and that are intended for human consumption.

Agri-food systems have three main components: Firstly, there is primary production, which includes food from agricultural and non-agricultural origins, as well as non-food agricultural products that serve as inputs to other industries; secondly there is food distribution that links production to consumption through food supply chains and domestic food transport networks.

The food supply chain comprises all the stages that food products go through during their movement from producer to customers and consumers.

There are certain key stages that appear in the food supply chain, such as production, handling and storage, processing and storage, distribution, retailing and consumption.

Production is where the food supply begins at a production level and where the food is sourced. Whether it is grown or developed, the food will follow local and international guidelines to ensure quality and food safety. Handling and storage refers to the preparation and last minute steps that food undergoes once the product has been harvested.

This step will occur before food is sent to be processed. Processing and packaging is where the food, whether it be from plants or animals, is converted into an edible form.

Here it is especially important that the food meets all food safety requirements before it is packaged for sale and distribution.

Distribution is where, once the food is edible, it is transported and distributed to the necessary retail or supplier.

Retailing is the process used to deliver the products from suppliers to consumers and involves everything from obtaining the food to selling it on. Consumption takes place once the customer purchases food from a retailer.

Supply Chain Management is crucial for the food industry as it involves the coordination and management of various activities from food supply to consumption. The food supply chain is complex, and it involves numerous stages from the production of raw materials to packaging, distribution and retail.

Therefore, effective food supply chain management is essential in ensuring that food products are delivered to consumers efficiently, cost-effectively and with maximum food safety. One of the biggest challenges in food supply chain management is food safety and food waste.

Effective food supply chain management requires careful planning and coordination among suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers to ensure that products are delivered to consumers before they expire. Effective logistics and transportation management is another critical aspect of food supply chain management.

This requires careful planning and coordination of transportation routes, scheduling and delivery times to minimise delays and disruptions. The food industry also relies on effective communication and collaboration between all parties in the food supply chain.

Establishing clear expectations, sharing information and data and working together to identify and address any issues or challenges that arise are essential for ensuring that all parties are working together to deliver high-quality food products to consumers.

By leveraging the latest technology and working collaboratively, food companies can ensure that they are delivering high-quality products to consumers in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.

Developing clear food safety procedures and high quality food standards

There is need to develop clear food safety procedures and maintain high quality food standards. Food safety refers to practices and conditions that preserve food quality to prevent contamination and food-borne illnesses during preparation, handling and storage.

The correct food safety practices assure that food will not cause harm to the consumer when it is prepared and eaten according to its intended use.

Examples of food safety procedures and policies include personal hygiene, personal presentation and preparation, pest control, waste management, cleaning and sanitising, temperature control and measurement, food safety hazard identification.

These food safety procedures should be in place in a food handling environment. Food quality refers to features and characteristics of a food product that is acceptable to consumers and meets their expectations; has value for money; conforms to the required specifications and is profitable to the company.

Examples of food quality attributes are as follows; external factors such as appearance; texture; flavour; correct labelling with the ingredients, nutritional information and supplier/manufacturer details listed; products must be properly packaged and sealed; ingredient standards are maintained; food quality also deals with traceability, should a recall of the food product be required.

Producing high quality nutritious food

The country needs to produce high quality nutritious food. Nutrition is the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth. It broadly encompasses all actions necessary for obtaining, handling, preparing, serving, eating and utilisation of food by the body.

When individuals or communities do not feed appropriately, they face a possibility of becoming malnourished and can face serious health problems. Good nutrition refers to a state when the food we eat is able to provide the recommended amounts of nutrients for the body to perform all its physiological activities.

It is dependent on one’s age, physiological status, physical activity, level and sex. Good nutrition is important throughout the life cycle; right from pre-conception, conception, pregnancy, infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

Good nutrition makes an individual healthy, more productive and improves the quality of life. Good nutrition is important because it enhances physical and cognitive development, builds or boosts body immunity reducing susceptibility to disease, reduces costs involved in disease management and control and enhances productivity.

Ensuring food security and economic benefits of food trade

There is need to ensure that the country develops a balanced food system that meets domestic needs and delivers the important economic benefits of international food trade. Food security is defined when all people, all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and health life.

Four pillars of food security are availability, access, utilisation and stability. Availability is when sufficient quantities of food of appropriate quality are supplied through domestic production or imports.

Access is when individuals have adequate resources for acquiring appropriate foods for a nutritious diet.

Utilisation of food happens through adequate diet, clean water, sanitation and health care to reach a state of nutritional well-being. Stability refers to access to food at all times, without risk of sudden shocks or cyclical events disrupting this access.

Trade moves food from surplus to deficit countries, increases the availability of food, reduces prices and can promote food security. Trade promotes economic growth through efficient allocation of resources.

Trade can increase the diversity of foods, as foods that cannot be produced domestically can be imported from other countries. Trade helps to offset the impact of production shortfalls and dampen domestic price volatility. Well-functioning markets strengthen the adaptation role of trade in promoting food security.

Fostering culture through food

There is need for Zimbabwe to identify a national dish so as to define and perpetuate her culture. A national dish is a culinary dish that is widely considered to be a country’s most representative or iconic food, it is strongly associated with a particular country and its culture and often has a long history and deep cultural significance.

Food is an essential part of every culture. It’s more than just a means of sustenance, but a way of expressing oneself, connecting with others and passing on rich cultural heritage. Food is simply ingrained in people’s cultural identity and serves as a representation of their heritage, history and values.

Food customs are also important in promoting cultural diversity and understanding. Food can also serve as a bridge between culture, allowing people to learn about and appreciate other ways of life.

Traditional recipes, cooking techniques and dining etiquette can reflect the values and beliefs of different communities and are vital part of cultural heritage. Traditional food is an integral part of cultural identity.

The food itself and the associated preparation techniques and social customs serve as a reminder of the past and provide a connection to historic and cultural roots.

Food also plays a significant role in social interactions and rituals. It is often the centrepiece of celebrations and gatherings, such as weddings, birthdays and holidays. Traditional dishes are passed down from generation to generation and family recipes are cherished and kept secret.

The preparation and sharing of food can bring people together and create a sense of community and belonging. Cultural foods and traditional foods customs can also promote good nutrition and health.

Traditional foods are often made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients and prepared using traditional cooking methods that have been passed down for generations.

As a result, they tend to be healthier and more nutrient than processed or fast food. Traditional diets are also typically rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grain, lean proteins, and healthy fats, which help lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart diseases, diabetes and certain cancers.

To keep traditional food and dining etiquette alive, it is important to educate and pass down these practices to future generations. Schools and organisations can offer cooking classes and workshops to teach traditional recipes and techniques.

Families can share their recipes and cooking traditions with their children and grandchildren, ensuring that they are passed down to future generations. Traditional restaurants and markets can also play a role in preserving cultural heritage by promoting traditional dishes and ingredients.

Developing a unified national food strategy

There is need to develop a unified national food strategy. Food is central to people’s health, the economy, the environment and the health of the planet.

As such, a unified national food strategy would deliver the following; a clear framework that underpins and connects policy relating to food across all sectors; more equitable access to affordable, nutritious high quality foods; better population health, education, and productivity outcomes by reducing the burden of diseases related to poor nutrition; a food nutrition ecosystem that embraces and respects traditional foods and cultural identity; optimised local food production and distribution systems that reduce food waste and are resilient to disruption by adverse events; a balanced food system that meets domestic needs and delivers the important economic benefits of international food trade and informed, timely adaptation to climate change by food producers.

Developing the start-up community partnerships for food innovations

Establishing the knowledge and innovation start-up community will ensure all the different actors critical to the development of start-ups in the food sector convene and have one voice.

This community should include the ministry responsible for the food sector that is the Ministry of Tourism, the Industry Associations such as the Food and Nutrition Council, the financial institutions with a specific focus on financing food businesses, and businesses in the food sector.

The community needs to establish one food industry regulator by harmonising the activities of the Food Standards Advisory Board and the National Biotechnology Authority.

In partnership with the Food and Biomedical Technology Institute, which is housed within SIRDC (Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre), the start-up community can carry out research activities to identify challenges requiring innovative solutions across the food sector.

The community can start by developing a unified national food strategy which will be used to come up with a food innovation challenge for start-ups.

Nokuthula G Moyo-Muparuri is a senior lecturer at the Midlands State University in the Faculty of Business Sciences. She is also the founder of the Institute of Applied Entrepreneurship. The mission of the institute is start-up/innovation skills development and start-up/innovation ecosystem development. The institute has established a Zim Start-Up Funding Unit to facilitate private equity funding, angel investment, crowd funding, grants and loans for start-ups. Those interested can contact the institute on +263718747621

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