Written by guest contributor Megan Ray Nichols, a freelance stem writer and the editor of Schooled By Science. For more from Megan, you can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her blog here.
The food ecosystem has remained stagnant for years, decades even, but that’s changing — and more rapidly than ever before. Many companies and organizations are disrupting the food supply chain and distribution sectors with help from newer technologies. They’re transforming the way we grow, store, transport, distribute, prepare, order and consume foods.
One company named Froozer, for instance, has produced innovative technology to store and blend various fruits and vegetables. Its system flash-freezes foods, blends them together and then allows them to be packaged in pure form. This allows for easier transportation, storage and distribution of foods and also allows for better preservation during the height of their nutritional value and health.
This is merely one example. When used appropriately, technology can completely alter the face of the food industry as we know it. Let’s take a look at the many benefits technology has to offer, as well as some of the ways it’s being used today.
Farming Production and Cattle Efficiencies
You’d be forgiven for thinking modern technology and cloud computing has no place in the farming industry. It makes sense, though — especially considering farming is done outside through more natural means. However, big data and analytics tools can help farmers and cattle owners increase their production and improve efficiencies of their shipments.
BovControl, for example, is a tool that allows farmers and cattle owners to improve and optimize their production of meat, milk and genetics. It delivers a series of visual analysis options that help farmers boost the profitability of their business.
This showcases the way in which these systems and platforms could be used to boost production of all modern foods in the supply chain.
Food Preservation and Expiration
Food that sits on store shelves may sometimes remain there remarkably close to their expiration dates. Often, the dates provided are instead a recommended sell-by date. This results in the wasting of many different types of foods and meals. Many grocery and department stores are forced to throw away expired foods, whether they’re still good or not.
This situation can be improved through the use of modern technology and mobile apps. Food Loop allows supermarkets to scan expiring products and set a discount for them. Customers can visit the app, find foods they need and buy them at a discount, albeit with a shorter shelf-life. This allows people to get foods and groceries for a discounted price and also helps eliminate unnecessary waste.
Winnow is another tool, for commercial use, that allows chefs and restaurant managers to analyze what’s wasted. In this way, they can optimize and improve efficiencies, eliminating the amount of food waste that occurs during preparation.
Proper Plastic Disposal and Recycling
Walk into any grocery or department store and you’ll see hundreds — if not thousands — of plastic bags in use. They’re used in retail and commercial industries as well, further exacerbating their abundance. It’s no secret that plastic is not beneficial for the environment, but there are many other materials of concern too.
Many modern technologies can eliminate the high potential of waste and damage that materials like plastic can cause. This is important for all aspects of the food and supply chain industries, especially regarding the storage and transportation of foods in temporary containers and bags.
Transportation, Distribution and Handling Transparency
When fresh foods like fruits, vegetables and meats are transported along the supply chain, there is a great deal of involvement from numerous parties. It changes hands often, moving from the farm to trucks to processing and onto store shelves. Along the way, any number of factors can lead to its contamination. The improper storage of cold foods, for instance, can result in serious contamination and thus the spread of foodborne illness.
Sometimes it’s a matter of properly maintaining the materials and containers used during transport. FIBC bulk bags must be stored and handled appropriately, for instance, if companies wish to reuse them at a later time, especially for food and supply transport. Prolonged exposure to sunlight and UV rays can actually weaken the fabric bags over time.
To this end, transparency is incredibly important because it allows administrators to keep an eye on handling processes. It also provides faster identification and management opportunities for when food is contaminated.
Modern blockchain technologies could be the saving grace as far as transparency is concerned, completely disrupting the way food is transported, stored and analyzed. Imagine knowing where a particular shipment of food has been, and exactly what has been done to it.
Working Toward a Brighter Future With Modern Technology
It’s amazing to read about many of these technologies and systems, whether they’re currently in development or are already used in the real world. As humans, we have a lot of work to do when it comes to the improvements and optimizations of food storage and distribution. Many of the technologies you see discussed here are helping us achieve such a thing, allowing us to strive and work toward a better, brighter future.