Tracking technology has become ubiquitous in many industries, allowing small companies and international corporations alike to optimize processes while increasing the bottom line. The integration of IoT within the food industry holds unique potential, as it yields significant benefits to both businesses and customers. From Farm to Table, IoT can be included in every stage of the food supply chain – from cultivation to consumer.
In this blog, we will explore the primary ways IoT is being used in the food industry to:
- Improve supply chain management
- Increase the efficiency of agricultural practices
- Ensure food safety and quality
- Enhance food packaging
Supply Chain Management
IoT has become a fundamental component in improving management of the food supply chain. This technology provides 100% traceability of goods from farm to table. RFID tags and sensors provide valuable insight as to food items’ location, condition, and environment. This allows food management to become completely automated, reducing labor, and boosting shelf-life.
IoT solutions are efficient in the automated collection of data as well as data analysis. No amount of planning will keep shipments on track unless real-time information can be used to make rapid adjustments to minimize spoilage and maximize shelf life. Timely, accurate information must be immediately shared with suppliers and transportation providers to ensure seamless operations in all stages of the supply chain. Food manufacturers may wish to view production yields across multiple supply chains, and movements of specific ingredients and items, to better guide their own production and distribution plans.
Many events in recent years, including the ongoing war in the bread basket of Europe have added unprecedented stress on the global food supply chain. Innovative farmers and ranchers have leaned on IoT solutions to guarantee food security and sustainability. The deployment of sensors in the field or greenhouse provides insight into farm conditions and can be used to guide strategies for improvement. Data captured by these systems ranges from soil moisture and nitrate levels, to temperature, irrigation needs, animal health, and equipment efficiency.
Maintaining equipment is a frequent issue experienced by farmers and can have a major impact on operations. Some growers report they spend as much as 40% of their time preparing and repairing equipment. With RFID, data can be collected on a machinery’s health and status. Knowing when a piece of equipment needs to be repaired, or when a tool needs to be calibrated, can reduce or eliminate downtime. With continuous technology advancements, many farms today employ self-driving tractors and autonomous seeders. A farm worker can wear tagged clothing that tracks their precise location and relative position to all equipment to ensure safety.
Livestock tags can be used for similar reasons. Cattle farmers can create a digital profile for each animal by attaching an RFID tag to a cow’s ear, eliminating the need for branding. Farm workers can simply drive a truck near cattle to read tags; which stores information regarding health records and issues such as whether there are loans or liens on the livestock. Cattle movements can be tracked to determine how much pasture is available.
Data collected proactively and autonomously now streams information that global providers can use to better advise growers how to increase crop yields, reduce cost, and improve the safety and working conditions for farmworkers.
Year after year, the food processing and distribution system is challenged with costly food recalls of products including meat, nuts, dairy, and produce. On average, companies lose $10 million in direct costs per recall, as well as suffer reputation damage. Using IoT to help regulate food safety can effectively curb the emergence of major food safety incidents. Traceability provides companies with insights to quickly identify the source of food safety outbreaks and is key to minimizing financial loss, illness, and lost lives.
IoT solutions are effective in identifying the origins of food safety outbreaks, and can often prevent them from occurring. The ability to monitor environmental conditions throughout the many stages of transport ensures better food integrity and quality. IoT sensors provide real-time information on the temperature and moisture levels in the environment and can detect the presence of specific chemicals. If the storage temperature inside a transport truck increases beyond optimal levels, Visi-Trac can send an alert to the driver and operator and record how long a product is outside its threshold parameters. The increased level of visibility and instant data allows companies to act swiftly on any concerns and can greatly improve the farm to table cycle and reduce wasted product.
Visi-Trac can also be used to notify a distributor or retailer when a good is nearing the end of its shelf life. Information culled from an RFID tag can be used to prove food integrity, allowing goods to be sold as premium-grade products.
IOP – Internet of Packaging
IoP refers to intelligent packaging that has communications using technologies such as RFID tags, NFC, or QR codes. IoP has been fueled by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FMSA) and the FDA’s request for traceability records for certain foods.
Recent market studies show transparency and sustainability are crucial factors in buyers’ brand choices. Food and beverage manufacturers that provide end-to-end traceability can leverage this for competitive differentiation and strengthen brand trust. For instance, a peanut company could include a QR code on its packaging linked to data captured from an RFID tag. The consumer can then scan the QR code and trace the products’ journey across the supply chain back to the farm where the peanuts were grown.
Furthermore, companies can take advantage of this opportunity to promote or elaborate on their certifications – such as Grass Finished beef or Rainforest Alliance Certified. IoP will increase the brand-owner, retailer, and consumer experience.
IoT solutions are delivering openness, transparency, and completeness of information, as well as more strictly controlling the steps in the food supply chain. This innovation will provide enormous satisfaction and reward for businesses intent on addressing these challenges and improving the Farm to Table cycle.
If you would like more information on how to take advantage of IoT in your food supply chain, please contact us at email@example.com or via our “Contact Us” form.