The global food industry was tested to its limits by the coronavirus pandemic. We saw national lockdowns and stockpiling by panicked consumers in countries around the world. From producers to manufacturers, there were serious concerns about how supply chains would cope.
Even before the pandemic changed our daily life, the food industry faced serious challenges, many of which are ongoing and still require creative solutions. Now, as the world looks to return to some kind of normality, we’ll look at some of the most important challenges the industry faces and how new technology might be used to help.
The Challenges We’re Facing
- Working in a Sustainable Way
- Meeting Demand
- Supply Chain Inequalities
- Costly Delays
1. Working in a Sustainable Way
No matter the size or scale of your business, climate change presents the same level of risk. Even the smallest producers have to deal with droughts, floods and changing temperatures.
Consumers are more environmentally aware than ever and this is something all parts of the supply chain need to take into account. The average consumer now understands where their food has come from, the energy it’s taken and how much food is eventually wasted.
Growing crops takes up 70% of total water use and agriculture is thought to contribute to around 11% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Consumers understand this impact and expect their food to have been grown and produced in a way that minimises damage.
The B2B and B2C food industry must find a way to respond to sustainability concerns that their customers have in this new climate, and communicate their sustainable practices in a clear and transparent way.
2. Meeting Demand
By 2050, it’s estimated there’ll be just under 10 billion people who need feeding. To ensure there’s enough food to go around, farmers must look to maximisze their yield and use as much of their land as possible to grow crops. Only by working as efficiently as possible will they keep up with growing demand.
Population increase will coincide with a growing diversification of demand. The rise of veganism and plant-based diets are just two examples of shifting consumer demand. Is your business ready for a change of this kind?
In the past, organisations that have failed to notice market changes have fallen behind the competition. Just because something has worked in the past, it doesn’t mean the same will be true in the future. It’s always important to innovate where possible and look for opportunities to grow.
3. Supply Chain Inequalities
The agri food industry today isn’t fair. The largest organisations have too much power, allowing them to exploit the smallest producers. These producers feel as though they have no choice but to agree to deals that don’t reflect the true value of the food they grow.
The more the supply chain has globalised, the faster it has accelerated these inequalities. Movements like Fair Trade are working to balance out the system but there’s more work to ensure everyone gets the fairest deal.
Is your business doing enough to eradicate inequalities and ensure that all members of the supply chain are getting a fair deal?
4. Costly Delays
Buying and selling commodities is time-consuming. It can take weeks to build up the trust needed to trade with confidence. This usually involves endless email chains, long phone calls and costly site visits.
All of this takes up a lot of time and there’s no guarantee it’ll actually lead to an agreement. Not to mention these site visits have been made impossible by the coronavirus pandemic.
By modernising the trading process, everyone involved can complete more deals and at a much faster rate. To improve efficiency and speed, it’s essential for the food sellers and buyers involved to use the best possible tools.
Solving These Challenges With Technology
The use of technology in agriculture to increase efficiency, grow more and boost profits is called agritech. Agritech can refer to robots, sensors, software – anything specifically designed to make the lives of farmers, distributors and manufacturers easier.
It’s difficult to predict exactly how technology will be utilised in agriculture in the future. We already see the benefits of things like sensors but this is just the start. It’s no longer science fiction to expect to see sophisticated technologies like robots and GPS trackers become key parts of the production process.
By moving to a more precise way of working, farms can operate in a more profitable, efficient and environmentally friendly way. Farmers will use only the minimum quantities required and target specific areas, saving resources, money and time.
The demand for food is increasing as the world’s population keeps on growing. When meeting this goal, we need to ensure we follow sustainable practices that protect the environment, reduce waste and protect farmers.
Agritech can be the driving force needed to produce more food and hit rising targets. This can be achieved while ensuring there’s less waste and more trust in the supply chain for all stakeholders.
Food waste doesn’t just refer to the final consumer throwing away perfectly good food. It’s a problem that takes place before products even arrive at the supermarket.
When there are inventory problems or confusion caused by poor communication in the supply chain, food is wasted. But by harnessing agritech and the latest tools, we can cut down on these mistakes and optimise inventory to reduce food waste.
Agritech encompasses a broad range of technologies that can help us solve some of the problems along the chain of the food system while also helping to halt one of the major global threats – climate change.
For example, by utilising cutting-edge systems, farmers can save energy and resources while working faster than before. With the right tools, they can actually increase yield without having to invest in more time, water or energy.
As with any technology, it’s up to the user to determine what happens next. It’s yet to be seen whether agritech will build a greener food system or whether the system will continue to work against the grain of sustainability.
Why the Agricultural Sector Needs to Modernise
If you’re interested in the issues currently facing the agricultural industry and how cutting-edge technology is being used to solve these challenges, make sure to view our free resources. They’re packed with insights, useful information and a look at what the future of the food industry holds.