Skip to main content

USDA awards grant to research from ASU that uses machine learning to reduce food waste

man's portrait

Timothy Richards.

July 10, 2019

Nearly a third of the world’s food supply gets thrown out — from produce surplus in farmers’ fields to expired products discarded by retailers to leftovers. That’s the issue Timothy Richards, the Morrison Chair of Agribusiness in the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, will be trying to solve with a new grant from the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (NIFA).

“Food waste occurs at virtually all stages of the supply chain from the farmer to the retailer to the consumer — resulting in the disposal of potentially usable food in nearly every sector of the food system in the distribution channel between farmers and consumers,” Richards said.

The goal of the research is to combine grocers’ inventory with machine learning algorithms to develop a better system for matching supply to consumer demand fluctuations. This would ensure customers get what they want without the need for excess food.

In 2017, Richards and a colleague looked at online marketplaces and mobile apps, as well as scan-based trading through a $1 million grant from the USDA. And in a 2018 study, Richards and a colleague found that online marketplaces offer a promising solution for preventing food waste.

“If we combine better inventory management systems with new marketplaces for excess products, we may be able to save a significant share in food retailers’ waste each year,” Richards said.

His paper, “Big Data and Food Loss Mitigation in the Supply Chain,” won an Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities (AERC) grant totaling $499,999 through the Economic Implications and Applications of Big Data in Food and Agriculture program, which is a joint effort between the Economic Research Service and NIFA.

More Environment and sustainability


Headshot of Rajul (Raj) Pandya

Rajul Pandya joins Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College to lead Global Futures Education Lab

Rajul “Raj” Pandya has joined Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College as the Fulton Presidential Professor of…

February 26, 2024
Group of ASU faculty pose for a photo.

ASU faculty honored for contributions to extreme heat research

In a remarkable recognition of their contributions to the field of geographical research, several faculty and researchers from…

February 23, 2024
Collage showing hands collecting water sample, women working in a plastic recycling microfactory, a man looking at a carbon capture device, the city of Phoenix and men looking out over an array of solar panels

The role of the university in changing the world

Editor’s note: This is the first story in a series exploring our biggest environmental challenges. In this article, leaders from…

February 14, 2024