Food traceability is finding increased demand in the food retail business. IoT and blockchain are powering new solutions to optimise product quality and transparency for consumers.
Food is an essential component of human life as both a necessity and a pleasure. Globalisation has opened wider markets and allowed access to exotic foods, meaning food distribution is increasing in scale. Year by year, global food traceability market revenue is rising. The market is expected to generate $22.27 billion by 2025, a rise compared to its estimated value of $10.96 billion in 2017.
However, ensuring efficient transport, quality and preservation when importing and exporting food across long distances is a challenge. Add this to the growing global concerns around food ethics—availability, organic, chemical-free and ethical sourcing, and the demand for market optimisation is evident.
According to the Transparency Imperative report, approximately 90 percent of customers are concerned about the amount of detail provided on food labels. 74 percent of respondents are prepared to change brands in favour of more extensive product information, such as ingredients and sourcing.
The report also revealed that more than half of shoppers aren’t fully aware of what ingredients actually entail, to their confusion.
Food production and transportation companies need to meet the desire for fresher food that gets from the place of origin to the table as quickly as possible. In addition, they also have to align with consumers’ needs for more ethical products to be able to hold their market positions, for example, in more accurate labelling.
In recent years, companies have turned to technological solutions to improve their logistics, enhance customer experience, build long-term customer relationships and improve profits. In particular, they’re set to improve trust and transparency with specialised traceability solutions at the cross-over of IoT and blockchain technologies.
Improving Food Traceability
Food traceability is often not as simple as the “from field to dinner table” thinking makes out. It usually involves a number of steps such as harvesting, transportation, quality checks, packaging and more, each of which comes with its own challenges. These steps can be slight and discreet, but sometimes they result in food scandals, such as the UK’s horse-meat fiasco of 2013, which may have a long-lasting negative effect on business reputation.
To mitigate possible adverse impacts and to improve the overall transportation process, companies are increasingly engaging and benefiting from the assistance of the IT sphere, in particular, Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain technologies.
IoT helps track technical issues and malfunctions along the supply chain, including food items’ physical journey from one place to another.
At the same time, blockchain for food traceability allows all its participants to see the data recorded at previous stages, meaning that customers will be able to track their foods from the place of origin to their carts.
How Can IoT and Blockchain Be Used in Practice?
IoT and blockchain can be used in many ways to improve food traceability. Below, we’ll take a look at some of them:
IoT can enhance food quality by regulating temperature, lighting, air conditioning, watering and more. For example, for growing vegetables or fruit, IoT can be adapted to create favourable conditions for growth, ensuring food is at its optimal ripeness before picking and shipping.
IoT can examine foods on the production line to ensure compliance with food standards, meaning that no inappropriate products will be packed and sent to stores. It can be used to check size or ripeness of products to ensure that every item is of the same quality.
IoT can be applied to machinery, from autonomous transportation devices to delivery lorries, to optimise operating processes. To improve the machinery uptime, IoT systems can monitor and predict technical malfunctions and breakdowns.
If any contamination happens in the product supply chain, IoT makes it easier to track the product’s history, meaning faster detection of possible sources of the issue and reduced risk of initiating larger-scale product recalls.
Blockchain collects and provides customers, producers and anyone involved in the network with detailed information on product origin, processing, packing, delivery, storage conditions and ingredients. The data can be stored in customer-facing applications accessed by scanning QR product codes or labels, meaning end buyers can access information about specific products and batches from their gadgets almost immediately.
Collecting data with IoT allows integrating critical information from multiple sources into a single hub. In addition, blockchain provides a venue to store and operate this information in a secure way, with a deeper analysis of food supply chains.
These are just some of the IoT solutions that are already used successfully by companies seeking to boost productivity, customer satisfaction and revenue.
Source: IoT for All