- July 06, 2017
By Aniket Maindarkar, Infosys
The food and farming industries are embracing technological solutions that support sustainable farming and processing. When done well, these innovations can cut costs, promote efficiency, and increase consumer trust by providing transparency into the food supply chain.
By Aniket Maindarkar, Vice President of Retail, CPG & Logistics, Infosys.
Sustainable, quality food is a top priority for the food industry today. Customers demand fresh goods planted, harvested, packaged and shipped in an environmentally friendly manner. To accommodate, the food and farming industries are embracing technological solutions that support sustainable farming and processing.
When done well, these innovations can cut costs, promote efficiency, and increase consumer trust by providing transparency into the food supply chain. These successes are the result of integrating various technologies across agriculture and food production. Progress in robotics, automation, machine learning and analytics help to automate the farm-to-table journey and are helping make our meals a little bit more wholesome.
All the goodness of nature
The food industry is rife with high risk and low rewards. Unpredictable weather, logistical challenges, perishability, and transient trends contribute to an industry dominated by uncertainty. Innovative enterprises, however, can convert uncertain factors into a sustainable food business.
Froozer, a Colorado-based company committed to providing pure and natural frozen foods, is an example. Its approach to sustainability as a business is unique: it sells 'ugly produce,” fruits and vegetables that look less than perfect, but taste the same, produces the same nutrition and mitigates food waste, alongside typical their foodstuff. The company uses its technology to flash-freeze, blend and package freshly-harvested fruits and vegetables while they’re at their ripest. Consumers, as a consequence, get natural, preservative-free frozen foods while they’re at their most flavorful.
Spot the bad apple
In upstream food packaging and processing, automation is the word on everyone’s lips. Robots, using machine vision, imaging-based automatic inspection and analysis, use their dexterity, speed and accuracy to expedite food inspection.
Key Technology Inc., a Washington-based supplier of process automation solutions, uses vision guidance technology in its multi-sensor, pixel fusion platform. This platform, according to the company, fuses sensor data at a pixel level to further identify and remove subtle product defects. More specifically, this platform helps identify irregularities while processing a large number of food products in chutes and belt sorters. Because food companies have such high standards in their products, accurate sorting is a must.
Its vision technology also automates palletizing, an automated method to stack cases of goods or products, and de-palletizing in food logistics, ensuring the appropriate shipping label is placed in the correct orientation.
Here comes the rain again!
Big data, smart machinery, and climate science are the three main ingredients for a high-yield farm today. In fact, the right combinations of these agricultural innovations could create a farm that runs with minimal oversight.
For such an automated ecosystem to exist, a small army of sensors will need to work together. For example, small monitors placed in the soil would need to collect and deliver data about moisture while the local weather channel provides updates on humidity and temperature. These streams of data, together with an artificial intelligence (AI) solution, can pinpoint tracts of both arable land and land in need of specialized, drought-resistant seeds. Finally, a smart harvester can be calibrated to harvest crops, monitor crop quantity, and identify the most fertile patches of farmland for replanting.
CNH Industrial, a manufacturer of advanced farming machinery, is pioneering this type of machine-centric farm. It envisages precision farming on a connected farm without a human stepping on the land through recent developments called telematics solutions. This technology, in which data is transferred wirelessly from the machines at work in the field to the farm office, enables real time monitoring and two way communications that allow for a farm’s ecosystem to be connected, smart and supported. The company has designed an autonomous tractor, which could come to the market as early as 2020, to completely allow remote deployment, monitoring and control of the machines.
Growing consumer trust, nurturing consumer confidence
Trust is the key ingredient for the future of the food industry. To nurture this trust, brands go to great lengths to make their supply chain as transparent as possible for consumers. They have mostly been successful, but improvements can still be made. To realize this, companies are eyeing new technologies like permissioned blockchain networks, which make tracing a product from farm to packer to quality certification possible. For example, a consumer buying coffee from a specialty retailer could scan a QR-code through their mobile phone to trace the origins of the coffee bean, even while the coffee is steaming in their cup.
Traceability in other products is similarly simple, be it organic meat or produce or other foodstuffs. Smart contracts in blockchain can trigger alerts to warehouses and trucks on product expiry and initiate an auto recall with all the participants in the supply chain real time.
Voglio la pizza! (I want pizza)
In the United States, pizza delivery is a $ 9.7 billion industry. The industry is so successful that many of domestic leaders in the U.S. use an established franchisee model to compete across the globe. Zume Pizza, a Californian pizza delivery startup blending robotic automation with a patented delivery and logistics system, could spur even more growth by reducing the number of people involved with creating and delivering a pizza.
It starts in the kitchen, where a robot applies sauce on flatbread. The flatbread is then moved on a conveyer where pizza handlers add cheeses and toppings. Another robot picks up the flatbread and places it into an oven. Headquarters then issues a command to the delivery trucks over the web. Once the command is received, the ovens are switched on and the pizza is delivered to the customer as fresh as possible.
It’s clear the farm of the future will be digital. With the help of technologies such as robotics, remote monitoring, and artificial intelligence, sustainable farming practices are innovating rapidly across the industry, bringing greater success to food growers and greater transparency to consumers.
About the Author
Aniket Maindarkar is Vice President of Retail, CPG & Logistics at Infosys.
Aniket is responsible for managing several key Retail and CPG clients globally, besides managing the industry vertical for Latin America and driving growth in the geography. Over the last 16 years, Aniket has played multiple roles at Infosys. Most recently, he was responsible for heading the Americas Operations for Infosys BPO, where he oversaw a team of 1,400 people across centers in US, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica and Brazil.Learn More
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