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Can the Internet of Things help reduce food wastage?

Posted by Thierry Vasseur

March 1, 2016 at 2:00 PM

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The ‘Internet of things’ (IoT) will soon change our everyday lives, whether personally or professionally. From now until 2020, 50 billion connected devices will improve production processes and efficiently combat general wastage, including food wastage.

 

With 50 billion connected devices on the horizon, from now until 2020, the IoT is seen to be the new ‘Eldorado’ of innovation. The demand for these connected devices will soon affect almost every sector and revolutionise not only our private but also our professional lives. Whether it is, for example, about health, textiles or transport, these smart and capable communicating devices will be able to generate roughly 7000 billion dollars of sales revenue in 2020.

 

Beyond sales revenue, IoT acts as a real catalyst for worldwide growth; connected devices will generate large sums of money and will optimise the management of resources across the world. Thanks to the optimisation of the supply chain and to shorter distribution lines, it will soon be possible to resolve issues such as food wastage but also improve the traceability and the quality of the food which we consume.

 

Reduce food wastage

Food wastage has never been as important as it has been in these last few years: according to a 2011 study by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations), almost a third of worldwide food production is lost, which represents 1.3 billion tons of food thrown away, or an area bigger than Canada, which has been cultivated to feed no one. The losses linked to inefficient supply chains represent more than 25% of total food wastage, and those linked to ‘use by dates’ exceed almost 20% in France alone.

 

Today, reading barcode labels fixed to products, or RFID labels fixed to pallets enables location of food products at each stage of their journey along the supply chain, from the farm to the distribution sites, to production sites and into the wholesale and retail stores. Thanks to the barcode labels and portals which are able to read them, it will be possible to reduce the storage and transit time of products in the supply chain, and therefore lengthen the expiry date by several days. As a result, there will be less food which will have to be taken off the shelves or thrown away due to being out of date.

 

As well as the positive effect it will have on food wastage, the IoT still contributes (several years after the horse meat scandal), to reassure consumers. As a matter of fact, the information which is contained by 2D bar codes can provide more information to the consumer such as the origin of the product, its production date or even the way in which it was produced.

 

Finally, IoT will allow us to respond to food issues linked to the increase in the population of the world which will, according to the UN, rise from 7.3 billion people in 2015 to close to 10 billion individuals in 2050. Thanks to the network of smart sensors, it will be possible, for example, to determine with precision which plots of land or fields need watering and which need fertilisation – which can contribute to the conservation of water resources. The benefits of the Internet of Things to preserve the earth’s natural resources are just starting to be realised and measured.

Topics: Supply Chain, RFID, Barcodes, Manufacturing, Internet of Things, EMEA