Consumer confidence is crucial if we are to drive positive change in the agricultural industry. Does digital traceability technology hold the key to true transparency?

The agricultural industry is made up of countless complex supply chains. As an interconnected system of organisations, people, activities, data and resources, a supply chain can deliver economic, social and environmental benefits to stakeholders, but also great risks. Whether it’s a local fruit and vegetable supply chain in the heart of Spain, or a huge Chinese global spice supply chain exported to Italy, it’s important to be able to track products through these increasingly complex supply networks.

Digital traceability is the process of tracking a product through digital systems, eliminating the risk of human error. Traceability, by definition, is the ability to identify and track the history, distribution, location and application of a product, to ensure the reliability of sustainability claims, in the areas of human rights, labor (including health and safety), the environment and anti-corruption.

Benefits of digital traceability

Digital traceability can alleviate and reduce many of the most pressing risks facing the agricultural industry. For example, these technologies can streamline corrective actions by quickly identifying problems and reduce risks associated with food safety and food fraud by making it easier to track route of a problem. They can also optimize the use and reuse of Fonte Windo materials or resources, promoting sustainability and cost-effectiveness of the food supply chain. In fact, it is estimated that farmers who switch to digital technology bring in about $10 benefits for every $1 spent.

The United Nations Global Compact defines supply chain sustainability as “managing environmental, social and economic impacts, and encouraging good governance practices throughout the life cycle of goods and services.” service”. This therefore means that supply chain traceability policies, programs and technologies can provide key opportunities for agribusinesses to expand their sustainable practices and contribute to progress of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This is also reflected by evolving consumer needs and wants. In the recent EIT Food Trust Report, which surveyed nearly 20,000 consumers across 18 European countries, consumers spoke out about the growing need for farm-to-fork supply chain transparency. three, natural products and better information labeling. This suggests that if agribusinesses expand their transparency efforts and deploy digital traceability technologies, they will respond directly to consumer demand and potentially increase trust in these businesses in the process. Consumers are also turning to more digital and online services amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with 45% more grocery shopping online. So, is it time to invest in digital farming technology?

Barriers to digital traceability

Despite these obvious benefits, there are often concerns about the implementation of these technologies. For the food supply chain to be truly traceable, and for everyone to feel the benefits in the food value chain, the use of these technologies must become ubiquitous. With barriers such as price, accessibility and acceptance, the absorption of key digital solutions like blockchain – a decentralized system for recording and protecting transactions and data – has been limited due to a lack of technological maturity”. Other factors may include reluctance from smaller businesses or farms in developing countries, for example, who view digitizing processes as costly and complex.

There are also more than 10 million farms in the EU. How can these technologies be deployed so that all farms, manufacturers, retailers, manufacturers and officials have universal access to them and all have complex supply chains? follow the same traceability standards.

Digital Traceability in Reality

Using technology to rebuild trust

Technology can be used to transparently relay information by eliminating the risk of tampering and tampering, which can, as a result, build consumer trust. At EIT Food, we work with a number of startups and innovation partners to develop and sustain this trust and make digital traceability the standard in the agricultural industry. For example, EIT Food Rising Foodstar Connecting Food has created a digital platform that can track a product in real time, tracking and digitally auditing each batch of product as it travels through the supply chain.

“In the past, food marketing was based on a culture of secrecy and essentially hiding everything that happened to food products along the value chain. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a lot of consumers feeling abused by brands and distrustful of the claims made about products” said Colin Laurent, Marketing and Tradition Manager at Connecting. Food, says technologies like blockchain can help ease it.

Speaking to EIT Food on an episode of the Food Fight podcast, Connecting Food co-founder Maxine Roper added that “consumers want more transparency, but brands and retailers can’t do that today.” because supply chains are complex and the systems that actually manage them are pretty outdated.

She explains that the information consumers want is too much to fit physically on food labels, so enabling this digitally via QR codes, for example, means brands can can tell a full, authentic story behind a product. This will allow brands to communicate “where it came from and who made it, connecting [consumers] back to the people who are actually behind that particular food product.”

Connecting Food has raised around 5 million euros since its founding in 2016 and is planning to accelerate technological and commercial development in the coming years.

Another project focused on digital traceability is Digital Twin Management by EIT Food partners Siemens, Givaudan, Fraunhofer, Strauss and Technical University of Munich. The project aims to make food production more transparent and sustainable by giving an overview of production and logistics processes.

The digital twin management system creates digital twins – the digital footprint of products, their production and their lifecycles – making it possible to learn product insights as it happens. move through the food supply chain. The project has been centered around the development of software solutions to manage these digital twins.

The team worked to enable the software to collect and share information related to food production. This involves developing the platform’s functionality and tools for data analysis and management. These tools act like applications and can be added to the platform to enhance its functionality for users.

“We can use technology to help make the food system transparent, safe, efficient and sustainable. Technology such as specialized IT systems and platforms enables us to do this by improving the availability of information about food and its production across the entire value chain.” Dr. Rudolf Sollacher from partner EIT Food Siemens

The digital era of the COVID-19 pandemic

Another startup in the EIT Food Consortium RisingFoodStars that helps brands connect with consumers – via QR codes – is ScanTrust. In an episode of the Food Fight podcast, Ricardo Garcia, ScanTrust’s Head of Blockchain Consulting and Partnerships, said that he believes consumers should be able to learn more about the products they’re buying and the agri-food industry. obligated to provide this to them.

“At ScanTrust, we are focused on enabling brands to build trusted communication channels with their consumers and restore the trust the food industry has lost over the past few years. We do this by allowing food and beverage brands to give each of their products a unique QR code on their packaging, allowing them to associate information with specific products. .” Ricardo explained.

He argues that there has been a loss of trust structure for food brands – especially with millennials – but the COVID-19 pandemic has created a unique opportunity for traceability technologies. Digital traceability becomes the norm and promotes trust.

“Consumers are getting used to using QR codes during COVID-19] this has made it much easier to talk to brands about using QR codes on food packaging,” he said. “The next thing for us is to capitalize on this wave.”

DNA testing to improve supply chain safety

SwissDeCode, an EIT Food RisingFoodStar, is an expansion using another form of digital traceability to optimize the food supply chain. The Swiss company helps food manufacturers grow and deliver food that is safe to eat by providing real-time certification of the authenticity, safety and quality of products, processes and facilities.

SwissDecode’s DNAFoil technology enables farmers, food producers and other actors in the food value chain to quickly detect soil, animal and plant diseases, as well as food contamination or adulteration , on-site and without laboratory delays. This fast, on-site form of testing means that processes can be streamlined and risk can be reduced. Once this data is digitally secured and the food product enters the supply chain, stakeholders continue, including consumers, to have access to the information, giving them confidence that safe, authentic and traceable products.

SwissDeCode recently closed its first round of funding led by VisVires New Protein (Singapore) and EIT Food to accelerate the development of the technology. “Our solution will provide a user experience equivalent to espresso and a certificate equivalent to that issued by laboratories,” said CEO and co-founder Brij Sahi. The automated system aims to deliver ISO certified results in just 30 minutes compared to current processes that can take up to 7 days.

Is the future of traceability digital?

Traceability would have been a simple process where farmers and local markets were trusted by villages and small towns, but in the globalized world as we know it today, real brands products and companies now face the challenge of producing for the mass market while maintaining the integrity and trust of consumers.

The EIT Food Trust Report reveals that trust in retailers – the main point of contact in the agriculture industry for many consumers – is indeed on the rise, but more work remains to be done. The study found that consumers acknowledge that many retailers are actively trying to adjust to consumer demand but emphasize they want retailers to be more explicit about their criteria for real products. products and increase transparency in their supply chains. This presents a clear opportunity for hingers to capture consumer needs and act in the public interest by potentially going digital.

Government agencies, manufacturers and farmers also have work to do to build consumer confidence. The findings of this Trust Report show that online platforms for picking up and interacting with farmers, for example, can increase consumer trust and confidence – a digital step that can probably in the right direction.


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