Saldos Frescos is a recovery strategy of fruits and vegetables in Corabastos, the main agricultural market in Bogota. In this place, wholesalers waste 4,5 tons of food every day. Due to their high-quality standards, they end up discarding products that are still edible. However, in Corabastos the are also itinerant retailers who face a precarious economic situation. In the retail market, quality judgments are flexible, allowing retailers to sell products withdifferent quality levels.
Saldos Frescos facilitates the collection, classification, and commercialization of food that is considered waste by wholesalers, but is still edible and has value in the context of retailers. Thus, it seeks to reduce food waste and increase the income of itinerant retailers.
Saldos Frescos was the graduation project for my bachelor’s degree. I decided to work on this topic because I was intrigued by the amount of food that is wasted in agricultural markets in Colombia and the impact design can have in social issues. I worked with several vendors at Corabastos and carried thorough research and prototyping processes.
Aug. - Dec. 2014
Through a system of objects, Saldos Frecos reduces the waste of fruits and vegetables at the wholesale market by creating a value chain that allows itinerant vendors to use and take advantage of this food.
The system has three baskets: one Recovery Basket that prevents that the products that the wholesaler discharges get contaminated with other kinds of waste and allows itinerant vendors to collect them; and two Exhibition and Classification Baskets where retailers sort the products according to the kind of damage (this determine the conditions of their commercialization), and display them to sell them at the itinerant market.
Wholesaler – 46 years old
Fernando owns a store in a warehouse in Corabastos where he sells products in big numbers to restaurants from all over Bogota.
Throughout the day, he selects the fruits and vegetables that are no longer top quality and throws them away. For him, this is very important because he wants to make sure he offers the best possible food for his clients. He does not matter throwing away slightly damaged products because compared to the big amount he commercializes, these do not represent a significant loss of money.
Retailer – 56 years old
Martha sets an itinerant stand in Corabastos every day. In the morning, she looks for the cheapest products she can buy at the warehouses and then sells them at her stand to low-income families looking for cheap groceries. Eventually, some of these products get over-ripened, bruised or have some other kind of damage, but are still edible. Martha cleans them and sometimes cuts the damaged part so they look better for her customers. Although she enjoys her job, her income is barely enough to pay for rent and food, and she struggles financially to support her family.
How it Works
Martha takes the Recovery Basket to the store of one of the wholesalers she already knows.
Martha asks Fernando to use her Recovery Basket instead of his regular trash can to dispose of food that no longer has value for him.
She leaves the basket at the wholesaler’s store and they agree on an hour for her to collect the products the next day.
Through the day, Fernando selects the products that he usually throws away, and he leaves them inside of the Recovery Basket.
The next day, Martha goes to Fernando’s store and collects the basket with the products.
At her stand, she sorts the products depending on their deterioration and puts them in the Classification and Exhibition Baskets.
Then she throws away the products that are definitely not suitable for consumption.
She puts the Classification and Exhibition Baskets at her itinerant stand to display and sell the products.
During the research phase, my goal was to understand how and why food was being wasted at Corabastos. I conducted interviews with several wholesalers and retailers, I also used methods like Fly on the Wall and Day in the Life to gather information about them, their daily routine at Corabastos, and their perceptions about the quality of fruits and vegetables they sell.
With the results, I created a map that traces the perceptions of food quality of different types of vendors and identifies critical moments where these perceptions are the cause of edible food being wasted.
The first prototypes included things like tools to help vendors to commercialize fruits of different qualities and packaging interventions with recipes suggesting what to cook with fruits of a certain quality.
However, the concept of Saldos Frescos proved to be the most useful to reduce food waste and increase the income of retailers and was developed through further prototypes.
For the final prototype, a crate was left at the store of one of the wholesalers and she was asked to use this crate instead of the trash can she usually used to dispose of fruits and vegetables. The next day, the products that she put in the crate were collected. Since she considered they were garbage, she did not charge for them.
Out of these products, the retailer selected the ones that were still edible and disposed of those that were not. She sold the edible products for 2,000 COP (0,60 USD), which represented a 10% increase in her daily income.
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