September 04, 2018
How digital technology can help secure the food chain
Data is a valuable resource across all sectors and this also stands with food production. While many technologies remain at early stages of development, the potential for newer and 'smart' devices to offer business continuity and consume protection is considerable. A recent review by Bio-Expert provides a detailed analysis of some of the emerging technologies. Some of the technologies are profiled below.
Smart sensors have the capability of monitoring and collecting data for analysis from the physical environment, to provide metrics as to how food has been stored. In many cases temperature and humidity readings are critical, with drifts outside of set conditions potentially leading to food being unfit for human consumption. Sensors are a combination of sensing element plus processing capabilities provided by a microprocessor. The signal from the sensor is linked to a microprocessor for data processing. This enables time and temperature data to be collected, giving the food company real-time analytics. An example of a food environment sensor is FreshSurety, which records and reports location, and temperature every ten minutes.
Internet-of-Things allows interrelated computing devices to be connected. In relation to the above, these include various sensors designed to gather data. The advantage of using software with connectivity is to provide an overview for the manufacture into multiple storage areas or transport between warehouses and distributors. This enables food manufacturers to track processes.
Decentralized digital ledgers, secured through cryptographic communications allows participants in the food supply chain to share ledger data, each party acting as a publisher and subscriber. A key advantage is understanding where the food products came from and how ownership has altered over time. The advantages are security and automation. In terms of greater control, costs associated with foodborne illness stand at $55 - 93 billion in the U.S. alone; in addition, one-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. Blockchain has the potential to address these concerns through better tracking and oversight, as well as preventing unsuitable food from being sold.
With each of the above technologies, all data can be stored in a cloud, accessible by any parties with an interest in the data and is authorized to access the information. As example, big data and analytics enable food producers to gain insight and knowledge about their customers. Food manufacturers can analyze data to size markets, review consumer habits, work out new product strategies, target specific categories of consumers, and develop marketing campaigns.