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Food Production

Leveraging Digital Tech


Alibaba Deploys Blockchain Pilot To Ensure Food Authenticity

Alibaba is testing blockchain technology to track products and ensure food authenticity. It is working with two food products, one from Australia and one from New Zealand – and giving consumers the ability to scan a QR code to verify product authenticity. Fake food has long been a problem in China and Michigan State University estimates it costs the global food industry $40 billion per year.  First announced in March 2017, the goal of this blockchain integration is to “achieve end-to-end supply chain traceability and transparency to enhance consumer confidence and build a trusted environment for cross-border trade,” said Alibaba.  Investment in blockchain technology has doubled to $2.1 billion and industry projections see that expenditure reaching $9.7 billion in 2021, according to reports from IDC. Numerous firms, such as Alibaba’s industry rival JD, are also delving into blockchain tech to streamline the supply chain, auditing, and compliance processes.

E-Coli Outbreak Underlines Key Blockchain Benefits For Agricultural Sector, Industry Regulators

Rapid and accurate tracking of food would help regulators better manage food contamination outbreaks, says SupplyBloc Inc. CEO Robert McNulty. McNulty used the April 2018 E. coli outbreak in romaine lettuce to illustrate how blockchain would have helped the FDA and CDC identify the cause and minimize collateral costs. According to McNulty, the blockchain technology’s decentralized ledger and smart contracts would ensure better business dealings among supply chain parties and improved tracking of the supply chain process, without room for data manipulation. All food products would be registered into the decentralized ledger, which would track the products’ movement along the entire supply chain process. This ledger, accessible to all supply chain participants, would be able to pinpoint any point of contamination or corruption, improving the sector’s transparency. 

Australia To Use AI To Map Its 65 Wine Regions

An agreement between Wine Australia and Consilium Technology covers the use of artificial intelligence to accurately map Australia's 65 wine regions. A national census of the country's winegrape area will be conducted in mid-2019 using Consilium Technology's Geospatial Artificial Intelligence for Agriculture software equipped with high-resolution satellite images and advanced machine learning. The software's accuracy was previously tested in mapping the Margaret River and Tasmania. Information from the scan is expected to enhance Australia's biosecurity activities and wine label integrity.

Irish Agricultural Technology Companies See Export Opportunities in the North American Agricultural Market

Enterprise Ireland sees large opportunities in the US for Irish agricultural technology companies and recently opened a Chicago office to help companies to secure business. It seeks to help companies that offer a range of products, often leveraging digitalization to help farmers optimize efficiency, maximize profitability, and reduce costs. For example, Moocall sells wearable sensors to the bovine industry to improve calving, MooMonitor provides a system to monitor animal health and fertility and MagGrow has technology that improves spraying efficiency and reduces spray drift by up to 70 per cent.

Dutch Beverage Group Refresco Tests Blockchain Technology With Supermarket

Netherlands-based soft drinks and fruit juice bottler Refresco has launched an initiative that allows consumers to track the supply chain of a supermarket's own-brand orange juice. The company is working with Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn to test the use of blockchain technology to record each step the orange juice takes – grower, processor, bottler, retailer – on its way to the Netherlands and the consumer. Supply Chain Information Management helped develop the blockchain.

Dutch Supermarket Chain Uses Blockchain To Make Orange Juice Supply Chain Transparent

According to International Supermarket News, Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijin is using Blockchain to make transparent the supply chain for its orange juice. The new system will be launched in partnership with Refresco, one of the company’s suppliers and will enable customers to track the product’s journey from Brazil to the Netherlands by using a QR code on the carton. The food industry is beginning to discover and embrace the potential of blockchain, helped by tech companies working on solutions for the sector. For example, Walmart has been working with IBM on a blockchain system to reduce food waste and improve food safety.

Land O’Lakes Launches Digital Tool To Help Farmers Get More Sustainable

Land O'Lakes SUSTAIN is to launch Truterra Insights Engine, an interactive digital platform to help farmers and food companies measure their sustainability in real time. The platform combines agronomic expertise and technical capabilities from several contributors, including the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, and combined with other tools can help farmers measure the economic and environmental benefits of their sustainability efforts. It also helps them identify farm management options. The company claims Truterra Insights Engine is better suited to farmers since it was created by a farmer-owned cooperative.


Hershey Rolls Out New Omnichannel That Blurs Online and Offline

Hershey Co. has a ‘digital’ strategy that is centered on four components, search, content, conversion, and community. It is designed to enhance the company’s competitive advantage and help it succeed in the emerging omnichannel marketplace and holds that there is no offline and online division, but rather a continuum between the two. The initial goal is to convert a purchase, but the long-term goal is repeat purchases and to earn a place on the consumers digital shopping list. Hershey is also experimenting with digital impulse sales.  

AI And Robots Gain Traction In Food Manufacturing

Food manufacturers are adopting vision-automation technology by combining advances in laser vision with artificial-intelligence software to carry out more-complex tasks. Process times for some applications can be about 100 times faster than humans, creating the potential of significant efficiency gains. For example, a sausage factory is using vision technology to cut sausage strings at a rate of 200 a minute. Food industry applications include optimal meat cutting, ensuring frozen pizzas have the correct toppings and ultrasonic slicing of cheese. Effective three-dimensional imaging will allow broader applications but costs are currently too high.

Startup Ripe.io Secures Finance For Its Block Chain Platform

Agritech startup, Ripe.io, received $2.4 million in financing from investors that include Maersk Growth and food innovation hub Relish Works. Established by two professionals from the finance industry, Phil Harris and Raja Ramachandran, Ripe.io seeks to use blockchain to address several problems that beset the food industry including fraud and food safety. Ripe.io’s first foray into blockchain technology was the Internet of Tomatoes that used sensor machines to collect information related to tomato growing. Harris claims that the food industry needs to undergo a ‘digitization event’ and that Ripe.io, with its blockchain platform, can enhance transparency for consumers by providing details about the food they are about to purchase.


The Romaine Lettuce E-Coli Outbreak Highlighted Blockchain Potential For Food Sector

Although Blockchain technology is penetrating the supply chains of many industries, the food sector has some catching up to do. The romaine lettuce e-coli outbreak in the U.S. earlier this year highlighted the need for the food industry to improve transparency in supply. Despite efforts from some companies, such as Walmart, to improve food safety procedures, much of the industry remains reliant on paper-based systems. There are a number of hurdles to overcome in switching to digital systems, including the cost, but new technologies like blockchain have the potential to improve safety for businesses and consumers. 

Research & Insights

Blockchain Vendors IBM And Grainchain Emphasize Benefits In Argentina

At a farming conference in Argentina two providers of blockchain applications emphasized the benefits to food production. IBM pointed out how traceability and certificate management generate trust through the supply chain, especially when done at speed: in Mexico its system enabled Walmart to determine the origin of each mango in two seconds compared to six days previously. UK-based Grainchain, which offers an "ag-tech" platform for commodities trading, emphasized how blockchain helps both sides have faith in a contract. Each party knows the contract is verified, is unalterable and will be honored. Use of blockchain solutions is at an early stage in Argentina but as processes get standardized and benefits become clear, vendors see large potential in this agriculturally intensive nation.
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