Future of Food Supply Chain - IoT and its impact on food production and supply

The Future of Food: 6 Ways IoT is Impacting Food Supply Chains

The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the way the world thinks about food. Consumers now have the option of having their favorite brands and ingredients delivered right to their door. Farmers are looking to mitigate risk and weather while maximizing their yield. Additionally, logistics companies are trying to transport food items to consumers in record time without inflating the cost of delivery.

Luckily, the IoT is helping companies better manage every aspect of the food supply chain. From at-home deliveries to better crop management, it’s all about simplifying the data collection process and using this information to make better business decisions.

6 Ways the Internet of Things Is Impacting the Food Supply - 1) Smart Thermostats... says @DMaddenCE Click To Tweet

We’ve broken down how the IoT is changing the food industry for the better.

1. Smart Thermostats for Better Quality Assurance

With over 20 million pounds of recalled food in the U.S. in 2018, food companies need to make sure their products are safe for public consumption. But as soon as a company sends these products out for delivery, there’s always a chance that certain temperature-sensitive items may get too warm, which could lead to a nasty food-borne illness that will put the public at risk. While investing in temperature-controlled packaging can help, some companies are using smart thermostats to monitor the temperature of their products in real time. If an item drops below a certain temperature, companies can take the product out of circulation to keep consumers safe.

Related: Improving Food Safety

Consumers can even use their smartphones to scan QR codes in the store to make sure the item is safe for consumption. Both the consumer and the food company will have more peace of mind knowing that every temperature-sensitive item arrives contaminant-free at its destination

2. Inventory Sensors for Warehouse Management

Everyone needs to eat, so with some food items flying off the shelf, keeping track of inventory can be a challenge for some manufacturers and retailers. But with pressure-sensitive sensors, companies will always know when they need to place a new food order. As soon as an item runs low, the sensor will alert the company that it needs to restock its shelves. These sensors take the guesswork out of inventory management, helping companies reduce their warehousing costs. Companies can also use this information to predict future inventory shortages based on previous customer orders. If the company’s consumers have a habit of ordering more chicken broth around the holidays, these sensors will alert the company before it becomes an issue.

Based on these benefits, it’s no surprise that the IoT is expected to yield a 15 percent increase in manufacturing productivity in terms of innovation and supply chain performance.

3. Smart Consumer Appliances for Food Alerts and Inventory Reminders

Consumers are making use of smart sensors and the IoT as well. New smart appliances like refrigerators can keep track of nearly every food item the consumer brings into their home. Once the consumer runs low on a certain item, the refrigerator will alert them that it’s time to run to the store or place a new delivery order. This will help consumers run their homes like clockwork as they try to keep up with the demands of their family. This data can also be used to better predict customer orders, so retailers and manufacturers can anticipate consumer needs before they fill their cart, either at the grocery store or online.

Related: Grocery Retail’s $10B Problem

Smart consumer appliances will even alert customers when they have a contaminated product in their home. If a food recall happens after the consumer has already purchased the item, their refrigerator will politely suggest they throw it out.

4. Drones for Efficient Crop Management

Big data from the IoT is also changing the farming industry. Food suppliers are using drones and other digital tools to monitor and anticipate changes to their crops. Drones can quickly fly over miles of farmland, capturing photo and video of the crops in real time, so farmers can quickly spot any problems. These drones collect information on the weather as well as what’s happening on the ground. If the drone senses an issue with the growing conditions of the food, the company can address the problem and alter its course before it leads to a food shortage.

5. Self-Driving Tractors

Tractors need drivers, autonomous tractors don’t. They perform day or night, hot or cold. Further, with a human driver, if a tractor takes a wrong turn in the field, it could delay the harvest or ruin a portion of the crop. That’s why many farmers are choosing to remotely pilot their farming equipment using smart sensors instead of putting drivers behind the wheel.

Autonomous tractors are changing the way food is produced, working day and night and eliminating human error - @DMaddenCE Click To Tweet

Farmers can now upload a map of their fields to the sensor so that the tractor always knows where to go. This removes human error from the equation, and farmers don’t have to worry about their yield changing because a driver made a mistake.

6. The Rise of Precision Farming

In addition to using drones for crop management, farmers are starting to bolster the idea known as precision farming. This means farmers are using an abundance of digital tools to manage their fields and the condition of their crops, including critical performance data such meteorological trends that may affect their yield in the coming months, humidity levels, storm patterns and soil samples. Farmers can look for trends in their growing operations to predict and prevent crop failures. Companies can collect data throughout the growing process to make sure they’re utilizing their fields to the best of their abilities. With a changing climate, farmers need to stay one step ahead if they want to produce as much food as possible.

The Food Supply Chain of the Future

With so many variables to keep track of in the food industry, farmers, retailers and food manufacturers need to use every tool at their disposal to make sure they are maximizing their yield and keeping consumers safe. A slight error or the effects of changing climate could ruin the company’s food supply, driving up prices or putting consumers at risk. Thanks to these smart digital tools, the world’s food supply chain is changing for the better.

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David Madden

David Madden is founder and CEO of Container Exchanger and an efficiency expert. His passion and business is to save companies money through the use of used, reusable and repurposed industrial packaging such as plastic and metal bulk containers, gaylord boxes, bulk bags, pallets, ibc totes, and industrial racks.

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