In the current era of COVID-19 pandemic, the world economy is rapidly transforming towards digitalization and automation and this includes the food industry as well, especially the food supply chain. IoT gadgets connect things in real world through a set of internet-enabled technologies, such as sensors, simulations, artificial intelligence based autonomous systems, additive manufacturing, cloud systems, block chain, etc. to the virtual world. According to the United Nation reports, around one third of the world’s food is wasted annually which costs around US$ 750 billion.

Read: September Issue of Food Infotech Magazine.

From a business point of view food supply management is challenging, owing to the need for advanced control systems for managing the perishables and unstable supply demand. This will narrow down the food safety and sustainability goals. Integrating IoT network in food supply system starts from the stage of production, storage, transport, retail shops to the point of consumption. This network includes number of field devices (wireless sensor network nodes, RFID readers/tags, user interface terminals, etc.) which are connected to computer networks and different types of wired and wireless communication gadgets. The data collected is utilized for decision making.

IoT Enabled Food Supply Chain

In IoT, there are different layers such as perception layer, data layer, service layer, application layer and user’s layer through which the food supply chain is executed. Perception layer connects the physical assets to the smart devices. In case of prepackaged food supply chain, both QR code and RFID tag is combined for reducing the cost. Data produced from the physical assets in perception layer are stored in data layer. Data generation takes place in the upper layers. It consists of object data which is also called as static data, like company information, nutrition information, etc.

Object data can also be called as the static data, which includes the manufacturer information, prepackaged food information, etc. whereas event data is a kind of data which is used for transaction during supply chain. XML schema in this layer is used to promote exchange of data within the heterogeneous system. Service layer is the one which manages services for stakeholders in food supply chain. Smart gateway is a critical part which connects the information collected from physical assets nearby, processes caches and exchanges real-time data and events locally and sends it for service layer. Application layer is the one which is constructed based on the services done by the service layer. The application layer mainly includes three important phases of prepackaged food supply chain beginning from production, logistics till consumption. Other than that, an integrated explorer is enabled in top layer to all the users in order to access the application.

On the Farm

On the farm front, Internet of Things (IoT) network in food supply chain management system focuses mainly to cut down waste, costs and risks. By enabling IoT network in supply chain management, it provides a direct link to the geospatial coordination of various locations in the field and to fit the fertilizer mix accordingly to the individual prescription of plant and thus plays a role in precision agriculture.

Smart agriculture is the application developed technologies in farming. Usage of sensors and low altitude air-borne hyper spectral imaging techniques in farming practices makes the vision of real smart farming. Evaluating the variability in the soil type and accordingly enhancing the agricultural production without affecting the environment of a particular locality gives rise to the management concept called Precision agriculture (PA). PA is the application of right material in necessary amount at the appropriate time.

The application of digital sensors which costs only a few dollars in agricultural field in order to get the precise temperature data are utilized and they are regularly powered. It is also possible to communicate using the data obtained from the sensors to a set of remote computers which can be anywhere in the world. This is made possible through machine to machine communication protocol via electronic gadgets supported by the internet application. For example, Bosch’s deep field connect is an IoT application device that is used to monitor the agriculture fields for sensing various parameters. Each solution providing gadget consists of a number of sensors connected straight to the internet and subsequently is sent to data cloud. In future, all these smart technologies would enable the farmers directly to inspect and evaluate their fields using gadgets like aerial vehicle equipped with cameras, which can fulfill the necessity of precision farming.

Food on Movement

When the food truck departs from the farm, it enters into the chain of logistics which includes warehousing, distribution and retail delivery. This is a critical time where there is a greater chance of food wastage. This can be overcome by IoT network. For example, the conditions prevailing in a truck that carries perishables can be monitored through IoT sensors and the truck can be tracked by GPS technology, thereby providing a remote sensing about the product quality through its respiration, temperature of product storage. It is an advantage for the consumers and retailers. It is possible to track the location of the food truck at any point of time through virtualization of food supply chain system. When unlikely circumstances of food shortage occur in a different location, this technology will help to call back the truck and re-route to the demanded direction.

During the movement of perishable products, in case any temperature fluctuation is monitored which may affect the shelf life of the produce, the truck can be redirected instantaneously to the closest market for selling the produce at a discounted price. Internet of Things (IoT) is a reliable technology for farmers to get the price that they deserve for their product, which can also reduce the food wastage to a great extent. End to end automation of food supply chain is possible through implementation of Machine Vision and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Food supply chain vehicles highly rely on automated guided vehicles which use SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) based on AI, machine vision and navigation technology. Recently, there is an increasing demand in the usage of RFID and sensor technology among grocers’ for inventory stocking and data collection based on its demand. This enables easy tracking of food products from entry to transit from the supply chain.

On the fork

When the food truck arrives at the distribution point Bar coding, RFID tags on the product give the consumer and retailer an idea of the product. It provides a prediction about the condition of the food that is contained in the package and ingredients inside, which can help in improving the quality and safety of the food that is being served.

When connected to Internet of Things (IoT), the user can know the nutritional information of his diet through ontologies of food databases from USDA. It enables the user to know about the nutritional values of the meal he is going to have. For instance, if a person is diabetic, such person would be able to know about the glycaemic index of his/her diet. All this is possible through end to end communication of IoT devices connected in the food supply chain. It can also provide information on the availability of restaurants in a particular geographical location and the details of the food provided over there.

Conclusion

Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to be used as a major technology in the future by many industries for their operations. By adopting IoT in farming, farming, farmers can be more confident about their crops, as they are connected with smart IoT gadgets. There is a rise in the application of sensors in the recent times, which can provide information connected to crop yield, crop health, soil mapping and usage of fertilizer in farms, weather update data, farming equipment, etc. Internet of Things also provides a detailed idea of point of hazard occurrence and helps in tracking of a product, thereby improving food safety.

Salient features of introducing IoT in supply chain are as follows:

• Implementing block chain reduce fraud in supply chain: Block chain is a network of people maintaining electronic ledger for tracking the movement of assets from one person or place to another improving supply chain transparency;
• Fictitious pickups of goods by freight theft are made obsolete by block chain enabling the identification of false documents;
• Reducing buyers from stolen freight by giving them the opportunity to analyse transparent database of the product through RFID or barcodes.

IoT provides an assurance for transparency in food supply system, thereby creating a promising future for the food industry.

The Food Industry is also pursuing the application of block chain mechanism and future generation genome sequencing to monitor and trace food borne pathogen outbreaks and to guarantee food safety. Large amount of data generated from social media can be utilized to study the consumer behaviour and this data can be applied along with idea of new product development. Developments in the field of IoT, AI and big data are impressive, which can make more possible developments compared to that of yesteryears. Adoption of technological advancements and inventions are very necessary for the modernization of food and agricultural allied industries.

About the Authors:
1. Sruthi P.S.
Research Scholar,
NIFTEM, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India.
2. S. Shanmugasundaram
Professor and Head,
NIFTEM, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India.
Email ID: sasu@iifpt.edu.in

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Author

An editor by day & dreamer at night; passionately involved with both print and digital media; Pet lover; Solo traveller.

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