What is the first thing we look at whenever we pick up any packaged food items? Majority of the people look at the Manufacturing Date and the expiry date which gives us a sense of security that the item is good for consumption or usage within the prescribed time period. But are we really sure that the item is really good for consumption? I mean, the manufacturers have a business motive to make sure the shelf-life of the item is as long as possible but we all know for a fact that every passing day on the shelf makes the item unfit for consumption.
“In developing economies like India some middleman and dealer go the extend of pasting fake expiry date to sell the product even beyond its safe usage period which is a big health hazard."
Wouldn't it be nice to know where and in what condition the food we eat are grown ! What were the soil and environment conditions it was grown, when was it harvested, how long it was in transit, in warehouses and how fresh it is when it reaches the shelf before we pick up for consumption. If we had this transparency in data, wouldn't we pay an extra premium for our food and wouldn't farmers pay extra attention to make sure we get the best quality produce as customers. it’s a win-win situation for the producers and the consumers alike ! So why aren’t we doing this ?
According to UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), nearly 14% of world's food is lost between harvest and retail. UN estimates nearly 40% of the total food grain production in India is wasted in the Warehouses due to poor oversight and maintenance before reaching the consumers. According to data released by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, over 1,550 tonnes of food grains had been damaged in Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns during the COVID-19-induced lockdown period in April and May 2020.
What if we can build a mechanism so that we can monitor and measure real-time data during the entire life cycle of any packaged food items right from the Condition of the environment like Temperature, humidity, soil pH, NPK Fertilizers, soil moisture on the ground, to conditions of processing and packaging units like temperature and air quality of the factory and warehousing and transportation of the item by GPS tracking the product before it reaches the shelf for consumers. With the advancement in the field of technologies like IoT, Blockchain and Artificial intelligence such a transparency with data is becoming possible and it will become vital for our food security for a foreseeable future.
Nibiaa Devices is working on a complete end-to-end Agri-Tech Hardware and software solution providing with solutions for “Sensors which ca be deployed in fields” to “Sensors deployed in Storage” to “Sensors in transport units” using LPWAN Technology and data transfer using Blockchain technology where the telemetry data is stored in distributed blockchain which makes it next to impossible to manipulate and bringing transparency, accountability and sustainability in packaged food industry by providing critical set of input data to stakeholders in the supply chain through precision agriculture hardware and software solutions.
“The data collected is valuable in every step in the value chain from Food Production, Packaging and manufacturing units and final distribution where the data collected from the prevision stage is used as an input for transparency in the next stage; take for example the upstream value stream in the tea supply chain"
Sensors can be placed in vast Tea estates to monitor the Environment conditions, soil condition, Change in Weather patterns, precipitation etc. to track decision for Pruning, plucking, fertilizer application by the tea garden managers. Tracking devices can be worn by Tea pluckers during the pruning and plucking activities for proper resource management and allocation. Sensors can be placed on Tea leaves weighing machines to check accurate counts of tea volume collection and this data can be transferred real-time to the IoT cloud platform with telemetry data stored in distributed blockchain during the production phase of the supply chain.
The Sensor data collected from the various production units can be directly used by the Manufacturing units who buy these leaves by weighing scale and using the data to choose the best variety of tea leaves from different gardens who have installed theses devices and encouraging those gardens who are doing best practices to get the best quality leaves.
After collecting the tea leaves the factories and warehouses can also be monitored by placing various temperatures, humidity, air quality sensors to monitor the weathering, rolling, fermentation and drying process. Sensors can also be placed on the machineries to monitor fault detection and any servicing and maintenance problems. The data collected from these sensors can be utilized by the plant managers to remotely monitor and control the entire manufacturing process.
The finished Tea tests is the process when majority of the India tea is getting rejected for export due to traces of pesticides and overall quality checking. At this stage the various data collected in all the previous steps will be vital in making sure to convince the Auction houses and direct sellers to get a premium tag.
Blending and Packaging process can also be monitored through sensors and the transit and shipment process before it reaches the shelf can also be tracked using GPS sensors during distribution.
Finally all these data collected can be given to final consumer and end users by letting the final consumer just scan a QR Code printed on the package though which the entire set of sensor data collected from the Ground to manufacturing to transit can be nicely depicted using dashboards providing accurate and reliable information which is not only depended on the Manufacturing data and expiry date. We feel such level of transparency will be a game changer in processed food industry whether processed meat, poultry, RTD (Ready to Drink) beverages or any packaged food item so to say!
We hope such a solution can bring about a monumental change in brand royalty for manufacturers of processed food items brining about the next level of transparency , accountability and sustainability by promoting best practices in agriculture industry.