Traceability – Transforming the Food and Agriculture industry

Provenance for the food you grow, distribute and sell will be a critical factor for companies in the global food scenario. An end-to-end digitized supply chain with traceability solutions should drive companies to achieve the sustainable goals and build consumer trust.
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Food Traceability- The Buzz 

How would it be to know that the crispy lettuce in your hot burger came all the way from the farms at Nilgiris hills 

Would it not be glad to know that the beans of your morning cup of coffee have been ethically sourced from the plantations at Chikamagalur 

How happy a farmer would be to prove that the seeds he has used for his crops are not fake. 

Yes, all this is possible due to Food Traceability! 

Traceability is the ability to identify the origin of food and the feed ingredients in a supply chain. Traceability system allows a user to locate a product through the different stages of manufacturing, processing, distribution and handling of food from production to consumption.

Read more about Traceability in Food supply chains 

According to ISO, traceability is defined as “Ability to trace the history, application or location of that which is under consideration, and when it refers to product, it relates to the origin of material, the processing history and distribution and location of product.” 

Tracking refers to the location of the product at a given time in the supply chain whereas Tracing refers to how the product has travelled down the supply chain. Food traceability systems help to record, track and verify a product’s history and identify its location in the supply chain. There can be visibility and control of the product in its farm to fork journey. 

Why all this fuss about Food traceability? 

Globalization of supply chains, outbreaks of foodborne illness and the ever-increasing demand of food safety from the consumers and the regulators has spurned the advent of Food Traceability systems. The need to be able to withdraw or recall products which are unsafe is very essential to protect public health. Food traceability solutions helps to address this particular need.  

It is estimated that almost 1 in 10 fall ill globally due to food contamination. Food companies incur costs of $10 million due to food recall. The fines incurred due to noncompliance of food standards are huge.  

The global reach of agri-supply chains has resulted in fragmentation of these chains, causing a lot of uncertainty in this food and agri industry. The large number of stakeholders involved and the vulnerability of food safety in fresh food sector together with food fraud has increased the demand for transparency and safety in these supply chains. 

Traceability in agriculture will help to give better visibility among the stakeholders and manage risks. The capturing of data in real-time helps to react instantly to product recalls and withdrawals, thereby reducing the response time. The reduction in recalls due to traceability avoids food wastage down the supply chain. The visibility of information helps businesses to take informed decisions about the market reach and cost effectiveness. More importantly organizations can build trustworthy consumer brands. The authenticity of the product can be easily proved and the consumer can experience the product’s transparent journey. The sustainability claims can also be verified to ensure a future proof product. 

What is in it for me? 

The farmer 

  • Tracking of produce from the farm to the end consumer 
  • Crop input advisory for usage of fertilizers, pesticides and feeds 
  • Geo mapping of farms along with details of crops grown.  
  • Tracking harvest details, manage inventory and reduce post-harvest losses 
  • Greater visibility in market, assuring the producer a fair share 
  • Identify points of product contamination for effective and targeted product recalls. 

The Consumer 

  • Knowing the farm to fork story builds confidence about the brand to make informed decisions about purchase. 
  • Addresses uncertainty on food safety and food contamination issues. 
  • Questions asked by consumers on sustainable practices related to environmental impact can be answered. 
  • Traceability gives a digital identity to the product and provides a connect to the consumer with a wonderful experience of the product’s journey in the lifecycle. 

Business 

  • Traceability helps to build trustworthy Consumer brands 
  • The economic losses due to product recalls are reduced. 
  • Credibility of products helps to prove regulatory compliance.  
  • Streamlining of processes increases efficiency
  • Inventory management and timely recalls helps in reducing food wastage 
  • Sustainability claims can be proved.

Traceability in agriculture- Bridging gaps 

The new agricultural economy is riding on the rise of contract farmers and evolution of a supply chain link between the producer and consumer. In such a situation, there are challenges of adopting sustainable practices and promoting food quality and safety. There is an increasing demand of safe and nutritious food from the consumer. These conditions are demanding the need for  agri- traceability in supply chains. Traceability in agriculture is emerging as a risk mitigation tool in agri-food quality and safety systems. 

Technology innovations will reduce transaction costs and ensure a traceable food supply chain. Emerging blockchain technology and the advancements in information and communication technology for data capture, storage and retrieval and the geo-spatial technology together with IoT sensors, RFID, Bar codes, QR codes are contributing in a big way to the farm to fork traceability.  

Each step from the raw materials in the farm to the delivery of the end product to the consumer is an important link in the food supply chain. Traceability in agriculture is getting increasingly important. Niche technological interventions will provide solutions to climatic effects on the various stages in the supply chain. Linking technology and agriculture research should create a sustainable ecosystem, transforming the food sector. The collection of information, its documentation and application to all processes in the supply chain, the origin, location and the farm to fork journey will guarantee both the consumer and other stakeholders food safety and quality. 

What is a Food Traceability system? 

It is essentially a Track and Trace system, that enables transfer of product data. It is built around data generation and data management along with encoding and tracing. It is divided into External traceability and Internal traceability. 

External traceability is movement of products in multiple processes while Internal traceability is movement of products in a single process. The processors can monitor where their products have been delivered in other words trace forward. The consumers can monitor where the products came from, trace back. Tracing forward helps to identify the product defect points. This is effective for recalls and food contamination. Tracing back tracks records to identify causes of problems and mitigate them. 

This implementation of forward track and backward trace is possible only if data is recorded properly and saved. In the food supply chain, the producer, product batch or lot number, place of production, processing details, packaging and labelling details, shipping details, expiry dates are all important. Collecting and managing serial numbers and have a representation format for it ensures traceability. All these records get stored in digital ledgers in a blockchain traceability system. 

Serialization of food products assigns unique codes to them to make it easier to identify and track original products. Aggregation makes it possible to have one single source of truth as the same information is available at all stages in the supply chain on account of the distributive and decentralized feature of the blockchain. 

Read more on 5 step approach to food traceability 

Use cases of Traceability in Agriculture 

  • Consumer Trust.  

The increasing demand of consumers on transparency in the food they eat is a responsibility for the producers to generate records on the entire history of the product and send it forward. Product labeling is important as it carries all the information. QR code technology helps to provide a transparent farm to fork journey. 

  • Food Wastage and Loss 

The complex and fragmented food supply chain needs a well-maintained inventory. Tracing products at all stages in processing helps to identify problem points and allow timely recalls and prevent wastage thereby reducing economic losses. 

  • Food Safety  

Track and Trace systems helps to target timely product recalls by identifying sources of food contamination due to disease outbreaks or adulteration. This ensures safety of public health. 

  • Food Fraud 

Tracking of products to eliminate errors during packaging is crucial. Mislabeling of products are causes of health hazards arising due to food allergens and frauds. 

  • Farmer productivity 

Farmers are the lifelines of a country. Accurate farm recording systems help them to take data driven decisions and improve their crop yield. This gives them better visibility in markets, increase profits and improve their standard of living. 

  • Compliance to quality 

Compiling all data into organized reports proves authenticity of the product. A single source of truth helps in audit trails and achieve quality certifications. This puts organizations on the global map to compete with the stringent export regulations. 

  • Sustainability Claims 

Traceability helps to verify ethical sourcing of raw materials and adopt sustainable farm practices to ensure sustainability in the food supply chains.  

FDA Regulations- Past and Future 

The existing FDA regulations demands the food industry to establish and maintain records of forward movement of food and backward movement of its source. These records are supposed to serve as baseline requirements of traceability. In the present scenario, this is not effective as a large part of the supply chain is excluded from maintaining these records. This makes it difficult to rapidly track and trace products in an event of emergency like disease outbreak due to insufficient data. A harmonized system of traceability across the entire supply chain would reduce foodborne illness and build trust among consumers. 

1Today FDA proposes to bring in additional requirements on the record keeping aspect of traceability. These additional requirements are being proposed in FDA’s new era of Smarter Food safety Blueprint and would implement section 204(d) of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The requirement is to establish and maintain records that contain Key Data Elements (KDEs) associated with Critical Tracking Events (CTEs). This would prevent foodborne illness and suitably address public health safety.  

Food Traceability solutions- The way forward 

Food is required for the well-being of people and the planet we live in. The need for a healthy, nutritious and sustainable food ecosystem needs a transformative approach to address the various challenges in the system. The role of technology is crucial to accelerate this transformation. Blockchain powered food traceability solutions provides a foundation to address these challenges and disrupt the agri-food sector. 

Read more on how blockchain is revolutionizing the food supply chains

Traceability facilitates tracking of environmental, social and economical processes in agriculture value chains and measures the food safety to meet the consumers demand on transparent food. The benefits can be summed up as: 

  • Consumer’s demand on Food Transparency 
  • Identify and respond to food safety issues 
  • Supply chain optimization and reducing losses 
  • Verifying claims on Sustainable practices 

Technology driven traceability solutions will transform the food supply chains with 

  • Consistent data collection along the supply chain 
  • Secure distributed ledger that allows sharing and analyzing of data 
  • Collaboration among stakeholders 
  • Robust and cost-effective traceability platform 

Traceability in agriculture chains will be the future of global agri-food business. Demand for sustainable practices and food transparency will be the drivers for Food Traceability in the future.  

Learn more about our Food Traceability solutions

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