Feeding the Poorest of the Poor, One Dried Fish at a Time

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President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson of Iceland speaks on the triangle of ice, energy and food on Wednesday at the Marriott Hotel Downtown during the World Food Prize.
Photo by Jessica Schlager

By Rachel Zamzow

DES MOINES, Iowa — “The biggest challenge in food security is to preserve the food we already produce.”

That’s one of the main messages delivered by Iceland President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson in his keynote Thursday at the 2013 World Food Prize. Twenty percent of the food produced each day in India gets destroyed in one week due to spoilage while in storage. Iceland has also been guilty of a wasting problem, Grimsson said.

“Half of the fish we caught in Iceland used to be thrown back into the ocean,” he said. But Iceland has since made efforts to solve this problem, with fish heads no less.

Scientists in Iceland have used geothermal heat to develop a method of drying leftover pieces of fish, including their heads, that takes only five days, he said. The dried fish can then be exported to developing countries such as Nigeria and stored for up to two years without spoilage. Once purchased, the fish can be reconstituted in stews rich in protein. This process works for other foods like meat, fruit and vegetables as well.

“This (long term storage) can be done with zero infrastructure,” said Grimsson, who then repeated the statement for added emphasis. Interestingly, this solution is remarkably simple, he said.

“We have become accustomed to favor complicated, high-tech solutions,” said Grimsson. Going by a simpler route, Iceland has come up with a solution that uses low-cost clean energy, zero infrastructure for storage and has the capacity to feed those in poverty throughout the world, he said.

Utilization of the food countries produce should be at one hundred percent, said Grimsson. In this way, “we can help the poorest of the poor.”

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