Can Technology Help Reduce Huge Food Waste in Supply Chain?

Can Technology Help Reduce Food Waste in Supply Chain?

May 28, 2020
Sensors can be placed directly on cargo and provide remote readings to ensure fewer spoils in transit given that one-third of food produced for human consumption is wasted.

A glaring spotlight has been focused on the global supply chain since the pandemic. First, it was medical equipment that was in short supply; now that has moved to food shortages.

Part of the food shortages, however, can be traced back to the fact that one-third of all food created for human consumption is wasted. This statistic is from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.

While a startling statistic, there are ways to mitigate it, explains Chris Wolfe, CEO of Powerfleet, which provides tracking and monitoring technology to industries including the food distribution supply chain. The company was recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as providing essential critical infrastructure during the COVID-19 response.

“Technology can help solve this problem,” explains Wolfe. “For example, sensors can be placed directly on cargo and provide remote readings of a specific cargo’s temperature, humidity, or movement to ensure fewer spoils in transit.”

Wolfe’s company has been providing such solutions for companies such as Walmart,  Nestlé,  General Mills. Dry van trailers, refrigerated trailers that haul perishable goods, as well as land and rail shipping containers, are equipped with technology to measure a number of variables to ensure high food quality.   However, when food is not temperature controlled correctly and not processed fast enough, which we are seeing in the meat sector, it becomes wasted. “Some of this wasted food, if caught early enough in the process, can be turned into other edible items,” says Wolfe.  

In addition to the condition of the food supply, there is the issue of distribution. There is a disconnect in distribution that has occurred from the reaction to the pandemic.

“We aren’t set up to switch from a bulk delivery system to a more tailored one, that quickly," says Wolfe.  For example, while a bulk retailer could cash in, grocery stores can hardly sell 50-gallon jugs of mayo.” But those vast quantities of food is how our food delivery system is set up. Moving to produce smaller amounts as demand decreases due to large institutions shutting during the pandemic is difficult given the current structure.   

But what if companies could use technology to enable a more agile system?  They can and they are. “Tracking goods in real-time allows you to have control over the goods and therefore manage the process better,” says Wolfe. “The data can help us better match the supply and demand.”

Using remote monitoring, a company can not only track what is happening in the truck but also adjust as needed. This efficiency is available and should be used industry-wide explains Wolfe. “If we could put this type of knowledge in a collective pool of technology that would enable an entire industry, like the food industry, to quickly alter certain parts of the supply chain, we would go a long way toward solving many issues in the industry..”

Latest from Technology & Automation