UMD Team Receives $5M Grant from the National Science Foundation for Tech Solutions to Reduce Food Insecurity and Waste

The UMD team is led by ENST's Dr. Stephanie Lansing

The NourishNet team.

Image Credit: Graham Binder

February 7, 2024 Graham Binder

The journey of a lowly surplus tomato from a grower to a hungry family may start with a quantum-powered nose.

This portable sensor created by a University of Maryland engineer uses advanced physics to detect if the tomato is still fresh. The sensor is integrated with a new app from a data scientist across campus that can match the fruit (and a pile of its friends) to a community pantry. If the nose sniffs spoilage, the tomato can be composted or converted into fertilizer or bioenergy through a system developed by a professor of environmental science and technology.

This multidisciplinary team has been awarded $5 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to put this food insecurity-fighting system into practice at first locally and eventually on a national scale. Called NourishNet, it will unite a network of producers, donors, distributors and those who are hungry to fill food pantries with fresh produce and reduce food waste.

“This project has several ambitious goals, but our main focus is to deploy NourishNet on a national scale to increase food accessibility for all populations, and reduce spoilage to build a more sustainable and responsible food system,” said Stephanie Lansing of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and lead researcher on the project.

In the U.S., 34 million people are food-insecure, she said. And while the country produces enough food to feed its population, 35% of that food is wasted, resulting in 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions and creating 25% of its landfill content.

Read full story on Maryland Today site