IoT Will Transform The Agriculture Supply Chain – Get On Board!

Mobile Phone in field
Connecting various aspects of the supply chain using IoT-based solutions can have a big impact on how things are done in agriculture.

Supply chain visibility and efficiency is a big part of running a profitable agricultural business. There are a variety of solutions out there for tracking and managing the supply chain that range from manual checks to full sensor-based tracking, but despite advances, about 40% of food is still wasted in the U.S. and half of this waste happens during distribution. Introducing a more flexible and complete Internet of Things (IoT) based approach can help to optimize the highly complex supply chain for agriculture.

Taking a deeper look reveals an extremely intricate network for transporting huge volumes and many different types of perishable goods over long distances with frequent deliveries. Agricultural products like fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy are highly impacted by delays, temperature variations and other environmental factors as they travel from farms through processing and distribution centers to customers. Every stage of the supply chain introduces potential security vulnerabilities, integration issues and other hurdles, which makes optimizing the supply chain with technology quite a challenge.

Agricultural Supply Chain Graphic
Figure 1: Six steps in the agricultural supply chain.

Farms, food companies, logistics operators, and others involved in the supply chain can gain a significant advantage with a more connected operation. Gartner predicts a thirty-fold increase in Internet-connected physical devices by 2020 that will “significantly alter how the supply chain operates.” As technology changes the agriculture industry, it will be important to gain competitive advantage as an early adopter.

Connecting various aspects of the supply chain using IoT-based solutions can have a big impact on how things are done in agriculture. Here are some of the ways the ag supply chain will change:

  • Incident Management: Unpredictable supply variations like delays or accidents will be quickly identified with real-time sensors or avoided altogether based on predictive models.
  • Regulation: Strict food quality, safety and sustainability requirements will be more easily met and documented with granular, end-to-end data.
  • Transportation: Optimal routes can be calculated using traffic, weather and other environmental condition data to save fuel and reduce redundancies (Deadhead miles that don’t generate revenue account for up to 10 percent of truck miles, according to the EPA).
  • Consumer Transparency: End consumers will know where their food came from with extreme detail if desired via a more transparent supply chain.
  • Packaging: Dynamic best-before dates and early warning of food incidents based on present and historical conditions
  • Inventory: Fewer out of stock occurrences in warehouses with dynamic inventory monitoring.
  • Process: Ultimately most aspects of the supply chain will be automated so goods can be delivered in real-time based on supply and demand.

While one company generally doesn’t control the entire supply chain, each player can implement a connected supply chain solution that is flexible enough to work easily with other systems. The infiswift swiftAg solution is one example of a customizable platform that enables enterprises to build solutions to connect their operation to the full supply chain and even expand to other areas of agriculture like asset management, field monitoring, food processing, and more. When evaluating a solution, it is important to identify technology that can interoperate with legacy and third party systems, scale to needs, offer several grades of cybersecurity, perform in a real-time manner, and operate even if connectivity fails.

The supply chain is an area of agriculture ripe for improvement and will therefore undoubtedly be an early adopter of new IoT technologies to help drive the big changes coming. These improvements will enable us to grow and deliver 70% more food that is needed according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to feed the additional 2.3 billion people expected by 2050. IoT technologies will change the agricultural supply chain and give early adopters a significant advantage so make sure to explore what’s out there soon!

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