Category Archives: AgriFood

The State of Food Safety in Covid-19

Food Safety is More Important Than Ever

The issue of food safety is, now more than ever, at the public’s top of mind.

China recently discovered heavy traces of the coronavirus in the meat and seafood trading sections of wholesale markets in Beijing and China’s supermarket shelves cleared of imported fish and meat amidst concern about the virus being imported from Europe.

This has led to government agencies like Singapore’s SFA to issue a statement to clarify that there is currently no evidence showing the coronavirus can be spread through salmon or food packaging.

Incidents like the above can lead to a lot of disruption for the growers and suppliers of our global food ecosystem. Even with clarification statements from authorities in Norway, consumer perceptions will undoubtedly be shaken by such uncertainties and consumer speculation may still exist.

A Need to Foster Consumer Confidence in Our Food Supply Chain

This then highlights the need to bolster consumer confidence in our food supply chain. But food producers around the world may find it challenging to show, for certainty, that the food they provide to consumers is safe due to a lack of visibility of the current food supply chain.

This is despite the fact that there exists many global food safety guidelines and standards such as the Global G.A.P, the worldwide standard for good agricultural practices, as well as country-specific and trade-specific associations and agencies governing food safety and hygiene.

On top of this, in many food production sites, food safety, and personal guidelines such as adequate personnel training, effective supervision, good hand washing practices, wearing gloves and masks etc are actively enforced and has been the norm for quite some time.

It is perhaps telling that Produce Marketing Association, global fresh produce and floral trade association with over 53,000 industry professionals from over 2,900 companies, launched the Joy of Fresh campaign during the pandemic to reassure consumers about the availability and safety of fresh produce.

A 2018 study done by the International Food Information Council Foundation found that consumers get their food safety information through third party channels such as news article, friends/family members, or government agencies.

Given the current state of food safety, the question that agrifood players need to ask will be how can they directly communicate to consumers regarding food safety information in a timely, accurate, and verified manner?

Communicating Food Safety to Consumers Begins with Digitalization 

The answer to this perennial struggle may lie in digitalization.

When every single carton of food products and every single product is digitized,  agrifood players such as farmers, growers, packers, importers, distributors, retailers are then able to track and trace every carton and every product, even up till when consumers purchase the food. With digitization, not only do we have the digital footprint of the food product, but we can marry it with the physical characteristics of the product – namely the condition of the product, the temperature, the location and so on.

When we connect the dots of the food supply chain by having both the data from digital documentation associated with supply chain movements and the data of the physical condition of the food product, food system stakeholders will enjoy supply chain visibility that gives them the ammunition to confidently communicate to consumers the good work that they have done.

So how can we digitize the food supply chain to reap such benefits?

DiMuto 4T Suite Solutions

With DiMuto 4T Suite Solutions, agrifood players are able to track fresh produce and food products as they move through the supply chain to ensure compliance with hygiene and safety regulations.

DiMuto 4T Suite enables producers to digitize their products for seamless food traceability and supply chain visibility. Powered by blockchain, AI, and IoT, blockchain’s incorruptible traceability features allow agricultural products like fresh produce, livestock and seafood, as well as food ingredients to be actively tracked throughout the supply chain.

DiMuto 4T Suite Solution

At the upstream of the food supply chain, unique DiMuto QR Codes and our proprietary Digital Asset Creation devices, DACky, are able to help create a digital identity for every single carton of food product and every product. We also use a combination of AI & IoT in our DACky devices to capture data about produce conditions that can help with quality assurance regarding food safety.

DiMuto QR Codes allows traceability of every single fruit throughout the supply chain

On our blockchain-powered DiMuto Platform, companies can record any and all certifications required by the industry of the particular product offered and associate it with the particular product. The immutability of our records deters fraud and helps attest that the company is carrying out good health and hygiene practices.

At the same time, we are also able to capture poor quality fruit that is not safe to consume on our system. Buyers and importers receive goods that do not fulfill orders specifications or products that have some form of quality issues. Our Dimuto Receiver App allows buyers to record issues immediately upon arrival and capture a photo of any food quality issues on one single platform. Thus, this helps to strengthen the visibility of the supply chain and safeguard food safety.

Find out how we were able to track every single carton with quality issues and visual evidence showing the poor physical condition of the fruit for a Thai importer for a shipment of US Citrus here.

DiMuto SMART Marketing

DiMuto Consumer Solution Marketing

With food traceability, companies and producers can then communicate to consumers and show that the proper handling processes have been done, product certifications have been verified. Our marketing module, DiMuto SMART Marketing, allows companies to easily communicate this traceability story to consumers with DiMuto SMART Marketing.

Now consumers can scan the Dimuto QR code tagged on each product, and access product information and verified certificates that have been captured on our blockchain and learn about produce origins and get to know their food producers.

The added level of visibility on their food source will alleviate concerns about food safety and help with building confidence in a brand that is traceable and transparent with their food handling and food safety information.

Thus, in addition to current communication channels, companies are now able to directly communicate to end consumers and build trust with consumers.

Read more about how we have helped Morning Glory Farms to tell their traceability story to consumers and build their brand in new export markets.

Food Recall & Food Safety Outbreaks Continues to Plague the Industry

Food safety recalls due to either contaimination of foregin material or foodborne illnesses are common – just take a look at the top 50 recalls of 2019 in the US.

The 2018 outbreak of E. coli infections related to romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region took about three months to resolve, resulting in 210 sick people, 96 hospitalizations, and five deaths. Most recently, the FDA is working with retailers to ensure the potentially adulterated Freshworld bagged salad products are effectively removed from the market place in the June 2020 Cyclospora outbreak.

The lack of visibility of the supply chain makes investigation time consuming. Companies can get in front of this and conduct efficient recalls and directly communicate to consumers.

With DiMuto Solutions, products can also be easily recalled, aiding in limiting the spread of the disease (regardless of whether the disease is due to a pandemic virus or a food pathogen) due to additional traceability down to individual product levels. If an affected product needs to be recalled, consumers can just simply scan the QR and will be notified by a pop-up if there is a problem with their product.

Therefore, in addition to transmitting security and confidence to consumers, our solution can also help retailers to quickly and efficiently find a contaminated product. Traceability could reduce exposure to the risks of food outbreaks by making it faster, more efficient, and feasible to contain the impact of food contamination.

This helps create a food system that can better meet food safety standards for end consumers in a timely and precise manner.

The Future of Food Safety

So what does the future of food safety look like?

With the increased consumer focus on food safety and the urgency to foster consumer confidence in the food system, it is imperative that we look at digitalization and traceability as a solution to be more efficient and coordinated when issues concerning food safety occur.

Be on the forefront of food safety with DiMuto.

In light of the current coronavirus crisis, we remain committed to helping agrifood players trade better and build a more transparent food supply chain. If you are interested to find out how DiMuto can help your business, please reach us here or drop us an email at sales@dimuto.io.

How COVID-19 Highlights The Need for Truly Digital Agrifood Supply Chains

COVID-19 is now a global pandemic, as declared by the WHO last week. The widespread infectious virus has set in motion several national lockdowns across the globe lasting from two weeks to indefinitely. New Zealand and India are now in the midst of lockdown as we speak.

Social distancing is now encouraged by governments worldwide, and employees are working from home whenever possible. Many businesses have halted operations, including food services and restaurants that have temporarily closed their doors – leaving suppliers and distributors struggling to redirect their supply, while supermarkets and online groceries struggle to fulfill the spike in demand for fresh produce caused by hoarding behaviour and public panic.

Empty supermarket shelves

In Australia, produce prices have drastically increased in Woolworths amid the higher demand caused by panic buying. As more people stay at home in light of the pandemic, demand for fresh fruits and vegetables would likely hike, as they now have more time to consume fresh food. The emphasis on keeping one’s immune system healthy, coupled with experts recommending to keep fresh fruit and vegetables in diets, has led to stronger demand for fresh produce in many countries, including Australia.

Despite the sudden boost in demand at retailers worldwide for fresh produce, there are also farmers and growers that are struggling to redirect their supply. The coronavirus has disrupted trade between China and ASEAN countries such as Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, where China is a significant market for Southeast Asian agricultural exports. With contains now rotting at the Chinese borders due to the lockdown, and fruits waiting to be harvested with nowhere to go, the food waste generated would also be considerable.

This “messy middle” of our food supply chain becomes even more of a nightmare to navigate when you consider the logistical nightmare of transporting the food to reach consumers. Container capacity cuts, slowing of international freights, and an overall slowdown in the turnaround speed of containers will definitely affect our global food supply chain, given its interconnectedness.

The difficulty of navigating this messy middle can be felt in places like Queensland, Australia, where the ship lock-out policy has led to criticism that the 14-day COVID-19 bans on cargo vessels entering Australian ports will result in “severe” disruptions to food supplies and other everyday household goods. In the UK, where 40% of food eaten comes from imports, the limitation of border traffic could result in delayed fresh food transit and increased food wastage.

With a huge amount of international trade serving as the backbone of the world’s food supply chain, it is essential to continue operations. However, agrifood players throughout the supply chain are finding it difficult to get a clear view on the entire situation in order to better redirect supply to match demand in the global food supply chain.

This is not a new problem – the agrifood industry has long been plagued by disconnected visibility of the supply chain. This disconnected visibility stems from the reality, or flow of physical agrifood products, being different from the flow of digital information. The inability to concisely trace and track agrifood trade has resulted in many challenges such as food waste, food safety crises and trade disputes that result in whopping annual losses. Think a global 1.6 billion tonnes of fresh food being wasted every year.

Trade disputes are the bane of fresh produce trade. Buyers often end up receiving produce that do not match the order specifications and suppliers face heavy burden of proof when it comes to showing that they packed the produce to order specifications. This has led to a 5- 10% loss of each container or order of fresh produce being rampant in the industry, and a resultant lack of trust between buyers and suppliers, particularly for new trades.

Given the atmosphere of distrust, buyers and suppliers typically do businesses with companies that they know. This becomes a problem when agrifood traders are looking to expand into new markets, or in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, redirect supply to demand. At the same time, given the pressure put on distributors and retailers to supply food to consumers, it is critical that they receive exactly what they order. The current situation can afford no mistakes, meaning there has to be a way to see mistakes and rectify them at the soonest.

This is why, now more than ever, digitalizing produce and the supply chain is critical and essential to solving this disconnected visibility and build trust.

Digitalizing produce simply means creating a digital identity for every single physical agrifood product, thereby allowing agrifood players to obtain data from physical produce itself. At the moment, trade players are only able to share trade documents and one of two photos of the products over channels like emails or social messaging apps, leading to messy communications that are hard to verify and keep track of.

Our DiMuto 4T Suite Solutions helps companies to easily digitalize produce and aggregate their supply chain information all on one single digital platform. Using a combination of blockchain, AI and IoT to run our 4T Suite Solution, we are able to track and trace every single physical product and carton for every single trade order, along with imaging showing visible quality markers as well as relevant trade documentation.

Efficiently sharing immutable trade order information for both documents and products with relevant trade partners brings higher levels of transparency to the supply chain. This creates trust with full traceability and visibility provided by DiMuto.

DiMuto 4T Suite Solution

DiMuto 4T Suite Solutions

As part of the 4T Suite Solutions, our DiMuto DACky devices are able to capture an image of the produce as the items are packed before being shipped out, and buyers are able to see the produce before it’s moved on the DiMuto Platform.

This reduces the risk of receiving produce that does match their purchase order specification after either a month’s wait via sea freight or costly air freight. Buyers would then, conceivably, be more inclined to make the purchase knowing beforehand that they would be able to see the produce before it leaves the packinghouse.

By reducing the uncertainty in such uncertain times through data, we can then carry on with the trade between produce suppliers and buyers and better hedge against any disruption caused by uncertain and unexpected situations.

In light of the current coronavirus crisis, we remain committed to helping agrifood players trade better and build a more transparent food supply chain. Contact us at sales@dimuto.io.

Disrupting Agriculture 2020 – How Can We Solve Challenges of Produce Trade?

Disrupting Agriculture Start Up Day Fruit Logistica 2020

“Disrupting Agriculture” is the theme for Start-up Day 2020, an event organized by Fruit Logistica, the largest global exposition for the fresh produce industry. With the boom in agtech innovation in the last few years, the produce industry is indeed ripe for disruption.

The wave of new technology trends such as vertical farming, agriculture robotics, smart farming is spurred by problems affecting the supply side of our food supply. Vertical farming has been seen as the next big solution to mitigating climate change and climate-related natural disasters threatening food security, while labour shortages have long plagued farmers prompting the adoption of mechanization and robotics technology – As many as 40% of farmers in California have regularly been unable to fulfill labour required for crop production for the past five years.

Export Fruit Trade as Key Driving Force of Agriculture Industry

While there have been many companies coming up with solutions to solve the problems mentioned above, it is also worth looking at the key driving force behind the global fresh produce and agriculture industry. According to a 2018 FreshPlaza report, the total export trade in fresh fruit and vegetables has developed more rapidly than the total global trade in goods in the past ten years. The international trade in fresh fruit increased by an average of 2 million tonnes per year to about 80 million tonnes in the past 10 years, and the five key trade flows pegs Southeast Asia as the growth market. Mutual trade flows in Southeast Asia performed best with the largest absolute growth in global trade flows of fresh fruit to almost 8 million tonnes worth of fruit a year, as well as rapid growth of exports from North America, Latin America and the rest of the world into Southeast Asia.

fresh apples packed

Apples, Citrus, Bananas, Grapes are amongst the top exported fruits. 

Trade Dispute: Huge Problem of Companies Doing Export Trade

The high growth of cross border trade in the produce industry has also magnified the problems of conducting produce trade. Problems like trade disputes over food quality can cause up to 5-10% loss per container of fruit exports. Food safety issues, a rampant problem of the industry, often result in entire batches of produce being rejected or destroyed, creating millions of losses. It is no wonder that the need for supply chain and trade transparency was one of the key highlights during Produce Marketing Association (PMA)’s 2019 Tech Knowledge event to solve the “Messy Middle” of global produce supply chains.

Supply Chain Transparency Solves The “Messy Middle”

Supply chain transparency has been little more than a buzzword due to the overwhelming complexity of food systems. While industry giants such as Walmart, Carrefour and Nestle have started implementing traceability solutions in a bid for more transparency, it has been difficult for supply chain transparency to gain more traction throughout the industry. There are limited players that have adopted traceability solutions. This is mainly because the produce supply chain simply involves too many moving parts and stakeholders, and no one traceability solution has been able to work for all the players.

Getting Supply Chain Transparency to Work

For supply chain transparency to work, it is important to target the meat of the problem – getting the data from physical produce.

What does this mean? Millions of physical cartons of fresh produce products are being moved every day,  yet there has not been a way to effectively and efficiently track them, as well as easily access information related to each carton, nor prove the quality of the produce. A key obstacle would be digitalizing the produce and the carton it is packed in. Without a digital identity, it would be extremely difficult to track. (We previously talked about digitalized produce here)

Operational aspects also need to be considered for digitalizing produce to be applicable.  They include being able to efficiently capture all the digital identities of the produce and cartons as they move through packing lines on the ground so that there are minimal disruptions to existing workflows. Not all packing houses are created equal – some are highly automated, while others are still largely manual. Thus for traceability solutions to work down to the product level, it is important to cater to the needs of different produce companies.

At the same time, digital identities need to be easily readable by all supply chain stakeholders. A good solution would be to adopt GS1 Standards for labels, a common foundation for business by uniquely identifying, accurately capturing and automatically sharing vital information about products.

Thus, a deep level of understanding about the workings of the produce industry is key in coming up with a solution that is truly applicable and scalable. That is why at DiMuto, we have developed different machines to capture product information at the packhouse that we call Digital Asset Creation machines (DACky). Our DACky machines are designed to capture a photo of each carton and each individual produce, associate it to the relevant trade that it is packed for so as to relieve the heavy burden of proof on suppliers when it comes to trade disputes.

Not only so, DiMuto is a GS1 Solutions Partner, and we use QR Labels following GS1 Standards for all our customers, as consumers are able to easily scan the QR code for traceability information related to the product.

DiMuto Digitialized Durian QR Code

DiMuto QR Labels

Maximizing the Data from Digital Supply Chains for Added Benefits

At the same time, the benefits of adopting traceability technology have yet to be communicated well to fresh produce companies. Traceability alone is not enough to motivate industry players to adopt potential solutions. The ability to do branding with QR Marketing, as well as direct consumer engagement, is also highly attractive to brand owners looking to build their brands in new overseas markets. The potential to capture more personalized consumer data can let producers and retailers understand more about their consumers and facilitate the matching of supply and demand on the consumer level.

Another advantage of digitalizing supply chains would be trade financing – Produce companies, traditionally, never had trade financing opportunities as many financial institutions often consider the perishable industry too complex, and too high a risk. With digitalization and easily accessible supply chain information, financial institutions may be more keen to provide trade financing opportunities to fresh produce companies.

That is why DiMuto offers a 360 trade solutions platform that solves the challenges of suppliers, traders, buyers and brand owners operating in the produce trade. The ability to reduce trade disputes, access to trade financing and the opportunity to do marketing are key motivators for companies looking to adopt traceability and digitalization. Learn how we have helped provide trade financing to Thailand’s largest durian exporter here.

It is well-known that Data is king in the era of digitalization. Armed with having trusted, quality data about the agrifood supply chain, then can we truly disrupt one of the biggest driving force behind the produce industry.

DiMuto is one of the twenty startups to be selected to participate in Fruit Logistica’s Start-up Day 2020. If you are interested to learn more about how DiMuto helps create traceability for fresh produce, please reach us here or drop us an email at sales@dimuto.io.

The Digital Supply Chain: How can Digitalizing Produce Helps Solve Trade Disputes

This is the second article in the series “The Digital Supply Chain”. This series explores what is digitalization, reasons for digitalization and best methods for digitalization of agri-food supply chains.

Managing agri-food supply chains is notoriously fraught with challenges. Today, global agrifood supply chains are extremely complex,  as agricultural products such as fresh produce often pass through many different stakeholders and cross international borders before finally reaching the end consumer.

The current modus operandi of modern agrifood supply chains often means that information stored at one layer of the supply chain remains accessible only at said layer. For instance, information regarding the sorting and packing process of fresh fruits into different cartons often stays at the packers – meaning only the packer knows how were the fruits sorted and what was packed and shipped for each carton.

This often results in a disconnected visibility of the supply chain where companies are unable to track products as they move across borders – creating what we in the industry call the “Messy Middle” where miscommunications, misinformation and trade disputes thrive due to the lack of data and information flows. Due to this lack of transparency, packers and suppliers find themselves facing heavy burden of proof when it comes to proving that they have packed produce of order-specified quality to buyers and retailers.

The Messy Middle of agri-food supply chains


The Unspoken Challenges of The “Messy Middle”

Operating in the “Messy Middle” is a giant nightmare for both buyers and suppliers alike. Currently, the information flow for each trade is all over the place, made more complicated with the onslaught of country-preferred instant messaging applications. Sales teams often communicate through both messaging applications and email threads, making transactions prone to miscommunications and misinformation.

Without a single trusted platform acting as a unifying depository of sales and product information categorized according to each trade conducted, internal company resources like manpower and time are predominantly allocated towards coordinating, tracking and tracing sales orders, shipping documentation, and financial payments.

With the different communication channels, there is no way to verify, find and share information in a timely and efficient manner.

This becomes a huge problem when quality disputes over goods received are raised. A Chinese apple supplier receives a quality complaint for a container order of Fuji apples from its buyer in Indonesia – “there’s a problem with the apples for order number 123, they are of poor quality”.

Now the apple packer faces an overwhelming burden of proof in trying to show that they have indeed packed their apples to the specifications of said order, as all the information regarding the trade is all over the place, and this trade dispute resolution process is only beginning to happen after the packing, transporting and receiving has been done.

Because suppliers often find it difficult to prove what happened at the point of packing, professional quality control groups are often hired in order to provide a “fair” evaluation of the quality of the products, adding yet another cost of doing the trade.

Disputes often translate to a drastic loss of margins of up to 5 – 10% per container, amounting to as much as $2,500 to $5,000, which is why such a problem is often swept under the rug. Nobody wants their competitors to know they are not doing well or there was a supposed problem with their product. Hence, a key unspoken challenge remains for players navigating this “Messy Middle” nightmare

Hear our founder explain the problems of the produce business here

Blockchain Touted As Revolutionary Supply Chain Technology

That’s why blockchain technology has come under the spotlight recently for its application to the supply chain industry.

Blockchain can publicly validate, record, as well as distribute transactions in immutable, encrypted ledgers.

With its ability to upload immutable trade documents, blockchain has the potential to share verified documents relating to each trade in a secure and efficient manner.

This means that that custody of truth is no longer with one single party within each trade, but instead, trade partners now look towards the blockchain as a source of truth and verified information.

This is also especially valuable when it comes to entering new markets and working with new buyers and suppliers. Having a single, shared platform where information on it is trusted by both parties significantly reduces the friction of conducting business.

With blockchain, buyers and suppliers can now see and agree upon the order specifications that was finalized between both parties, as well as access to relevant product information such as health certificates necessary for exports.

DiMuto goes a step further beyond blockchained trade documentation by providing physical asset digitalization – meaning we assign a digital identity to every single physical produce, and are able to capture a photo of each carton and product before each carton is sealed, upload this photo and associate it to the specific sales order it was packed for. (We previously explained what constitutes a digitalized produce here)

Our proprietary Digital Asset Creation machine, affectionately named DACky

The moment a physical asset like fresh produce can be digitalized, businesses can easily track not only the movement of the product but also critical product information such as quality, health certificates, certificate of origins, product photos tagged to the specific individual product, as well as relevant trade documents surrounding each supply chain transaction.

Such data is first captured in secure, sequenced blocks of information under the productʼs digital identity and automatically uploaded onto our blockchain-powered Track & Trace Trade Platform.

Photo of DiMutoed apples for a specific carton that had a quality dispute (Read more here)

This means packers and suppliers are now able to see the quality of the product before the products are shipped off, and access the information easily according to each sales and purchase order – greatly relieving the previous burden of proof and reducing trade disputes.

Proving The Error and Not Error-Proofing

However, it is important to note that blockchain platforms built for trade transparency shouldn’t aim to completely eradicate errors.

An error-proof system would mean greater rigidity and potentially be more costly to upkeep, and less scalable due to the operational differences between individual packers and suppliers.

As Nick Szabo, an eminent computer scientist and cryptocurrency expert, once said, “Blockchains don’t guarantee truth; they preserve truth and lies from later alteration”.

That’s why at DiMuto, we have designed our platform in a way that’s easy and intuitive for industry players to use while achieving the primary purpose of blockchain for supply chain transparency.

If you are interested to learn more about how DiMuto helps create traceability for fresh produce, please reach us here or drop us an email at sales@dimuto.io.

Food Sustainability in Asia 2020

2019 was the year the world saw more public awareness on climate change.

Locally, 90% of Singaporeans surveyed are aware of climate change and 79% are prepared to do more to combat it. It is clear that the public’s sentiments on climate crisis are also echoed worldwide, with an eight-country poll conducted by showing global citizens prioritizing climate change as an emergency over migration and terrorism.

Problems of Climate Change – Food Security and Sustainability

A big part of the problem with climate change is that warming temperatures threaten food security. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), food security will be increasingly affected by future climate change through yield declines -especially in the tropics – increased prices, reduced nutrient quality, and supply chain disruptions.

Source: AFP

The ongoing Australian bushfire crisis has resulted in closed roads that meant food supply running low all over Australia, threatening food security. In Perth, Coles and Woolsworth have warned consumers to expect food shortages.

Experts believe that while bushfires in Australia are an expected natural occurrence, the intensity of the latest fires were aggravated by hotter and drier conditions associated with rising temperatures, exacerbating the crisis.

In lieu of changing weather conditions associated with climate change, we can expect that global food supply chains to be greatly affected.

Thus, there is a need to improve food security and consequently the sustainability of our food systems.

Food Security and Sustainability Challenges in Asia

Asia is often heralded as the fulcrum of our global food system, being both as a producer and a consumer of critical commodities including but not limited to rice, wheat, oil crops, cereals, livestock, root vegetables, and aquaculture.

Despite this, food security is a mounting concern as farmers in Asia actually produce less food per hectare than other regions –  with the exception of Korea, no country in Asia exceeds the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) average for staple crops such as rice, soy, and corn.

Increased frequencies and intensity of climate-related disasters in Asia have been reported by the FAO to cost a staggering loss of US$48 billion. In Southeast Asia, the agriculture sector is exceptionally vulnerable to the impact of climate change due to its location in the tropics.

Source

Natural disasters worsen food security through reduced food production, which can then cascade down to the entire food value chain, affecting livelihoods and causing economic and agricultural loss. Disasters can impact the agriculture sector through a loss of assets and rural infrastructure, and through increased disease outbreaks.

This is compounded by the fact that Asia will grow exponentially in the next ten years, adding further demand pressures on the food supply chain in the region. By 2030, Asia will have an additional 250 million population, representing a whopping 65% of the global middle class population. In ten years time, Asia will also have doubled its spending on food, amounting to over US$8 trillion.

 

AgriFood Tech Opportunities in Asia

One of the ways to tackle the challenges of the Asian agricultural sector would be through investing in innovative technologies that help transform the food supply chain.

The recent Asia Food Challenge report jointly produced by Temasek, PwC and Rabobank estimates that a cumulative investment of US$800 billion above existing levels over the next 10 years will be needed to grow Asia’s food and agriculture industry to a sustainable size, in order for Asia to feed itself. The majority of these investments – around US$550 billion – will enable key requirements around sustainability, safety, health, and convenience.

Efficient Marketplaces, Digital Adoption and Greater Traceability” is cited in the report as one of the five key areas of new technologies that can solve Asia’s food challenge.

Food supply chains in Asia are complex and opaque, with disconnected visibility of data. With digitalization and a marketplace platform, various agrifood industry players including smallholder farmers are able to connect the dots and have access to more information that can better match supply and demand to reduce food waste and improve efficiencies of the supply chain.

For buyers and relevant food authorities, visibility of the supply chain allows for the identification of issues in a way that was never possible before, allowing for targeted intervention in areas such as food waste. At the same time, suppliers can also get access to trade financing due to this new data.

Consumer involvement through scanning of QR codes to access food provenance and safety information allows data to be obtained, supporting growing consumer demand for greater sustainability.

2020 & Beyond

Agri-food technologies are on the rise, and more collaboration from all stakeholders ranging from corporate investors, government agencies and private businesses can be seen.

In Asia, more government policies have also focused on food sustainability.

The Malaysian government has also announced in 2019 the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Ministry 2019-2020 Roadmap in a move to look at revitalizing the agricultural industry and strengthen food security. Five key action plans have been raised, including increasing agricultural trade export and spurring agriculture modernization.

In Singapore, the government has set out a 30 by 30 mandate, where 30% of Singapore’s food supply has to be homegrown to bolster its food security – a new statutory board, Singapore Food Agency, has also been created to focus on food safety and food security.

Given the pressing need to revolutionize Asia’s current food systems and regional governments’ push for better food security, food sustainability innovation in Asia is definitely an exciting space to watch this year.

The Digital Supply Chain: How does Digitalizing Produce Help Solve Food Safety and Food Waste?

This is the first article in the series “The Digital Supply Chain”. This series explores what is digitalisation, reasons for digitalisation and best methods for digitalisation of agri-food supply chains.

What is a Digitalised Produce?

A digitalised produce is simply a physical produce that has a digital identity. At DiMuto, we help to digitalise produce by tagging each fruit or vegetable with a QR Label. The QR Label acts as a digital identifier for each fruit and contains data pertaining to the fruit.


DiMuto QR on Western Australia apples

It is this data that now has the potential to transform the entire food supply chain and help solve major problems faced by the industry, such as food safety and food waste.

The Global Food Safety and Food Waste Crisis

The Produce Marketing Association (PMA), a 22000 member trade organization representing companies from every segment of the global fresh produce and floral supply chain, announced the switch from generic produce Universal Product Codes (UPCs) to company and brand specific produce IDs last month, a symptom of the industry-wide need for a higher level of traceability in the produce supply chain.


Romaine Lettuce (Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels)

The news comes hot on the heels of the fourth E.Coli outbreak linked to U.S. Romaine Lettuce in just a short span of two years. The struggle to identify specific farms that cause the disease outbreak continue to plague U.S. regulators, despite improved ability to track ingredients and pathogens in different locales. Due to this lack of traceability down to product and farm level, the FDA recalled all romaine lettuce originating from Salinas, effectively shutting down the Salinas lettuce industry. Despite having scientific validation that their products are clean and there is no cross contamination, growers are required to stop shipments.

Food safety outbreaks typically have devastating impact on farmers and suppliers who have to destroy entire crops, amounting to enormous burden on economies from disruptions or restrictions in global and regional agri-food trade, loss of food and associated income and wasted natural resources.

Strawberries being mass-dumped in Western Australia. (Photo by Jamie Michael via ABC)

The consequences of food safety outbreaks and food waste are thus felt by all stakeholders in the supply chain. According to Food Safety Magazine, a total of 382 food recalls occurred in 2018 alone. The WHO estimates that as many as 600 million people around the world fall victim to foodborne illnesses every year. The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of United Nations says that a third of food produced for human consumption worldwide is annually lost or wasted along the chain that stretches from farms to processing plants, marketplaces, retailers, food-service operations, and our collective kitchens, costing industrialised and developing countries a staggering $US990billion each year.

Heavy costs of global food safety issues and food waste each year

Digitalization of Produce Allows Greater Traceability

With digitalization of fresh produce, industry players and regulators are now able to track the fruits down to the product and carton level as they move through the food supply chain. Beyond scientific documentation certifying good practices that by itself deemed insufficient by regulators, supply chain stakeholders can now “see” the product and carton itself, giving them a clearer picture of produce origin.

This can be done effectively with DiMuto solutions. Our proprietary Digital Asset Creation (DAC) system, otherwise known as DACkys, are able to capture not only a photo of each product and carton, but all the information associated with said product and carton, which is accessible on our DiMuto Platform. This ability to easily see all the relevant data on a single platform brings a new level of visibility and traceability to supply chain stakeholders including growers, packers, traders, retailers, wholesalers, and regulators.

With digitalisation of produce, food authorities are now able to better identify and isolate the source of the food safety outbreak – allowing produce from other farms to continue operations and shipments, preventing economic loss and food wastage mass dumping of crops from safe farms, and tackling food wastage at the source, which may be more effective compared to existing efforts such as the “ugly produce” movement that work on solutions applicable only much further downstream of the supply chain.

Not only does this mean that there would be better food safety across the supply chain, the new level of visibility would also mean that consumers can be notified about food safety issues much earlier. Consumers were only made aware of the U.S. E. Coli outbreak 6 weeks after the authorities established Romaine Lettuce as the cause of the outbreak.

Food traceability is more meaningful when it is beyond just documentation level and benefit stakeholders throughout the global food supply chain.

If you are interested to learn more about how DiMuto helps create traceability for fresh produce, please reach us here or drop us an email at sales@dimuto.io.