From Inside the Cow: How IoT Helps Food Traceability

Robert Brice
Fri, Oct 2, 2015
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Modern farmers use IoT devices to ensure meat quality.

When consumers discover a potentially dangerous problem with a food product, manufacturers, retailers, federal regulators and health officials want to examine the entire distribution cycle for the item. The problem is certain steps in the supply chain are more difficult to track than others. The National Law Review said this is especially true for products with organic origins.

Recent litigation has sought to find food manufacturers and retailers responsible for problems that occurred in their supply chain's origins. The lawsuits claim companies did not perform oversight of activities taking place on fishing boats or on small farms. Initial food production operations may taint materials. Legislators can trace almost any food product back to very organic levels, and consumers want businesses to take every possible step to assure quality.

Many legal and industrial experts believe technology may help fill information holes in supply chain logistics. Manufacturers, retailers, distributors and farmers use the Internet of Things to collect data and put it to use.

IoT and Food Manufacturing
Food supply chains need complete visibility of product movements. Problems may occur due to improper storage, lack of sanitation, human error or outside contamination. If companies practice acceptable procedures in conjunction with constant reporting, supervisors can watch for possible risks and managers can trace the entire process.

Many companies already use mobile data collection devices to report manufacturing and delivery operations. Handheld solutions give employees the opportunity to communicate issues and concerns as soon as they occur. Advanced monitors can provide similar supervision for problems workers can't see, according to Food Online. 

Outfitting manufacturing equipment with sensors and other network capabilities allows companies to supervise complex production processes. Automated data collection enabled equipment issues warnings when metrics like temperature or humidity rises to unsafe levels. Sensitive detection solutions can help find conditions which could raise the threat of microorganisms or mycotoxins to consumable products.  

Many businesses wish to implement IoT capabilities in numerous pieces of production and distribution equipment. In the future, supply chain traceability could work with automated data collection solutions carried out by employees, manufacturing machines, delivery trucks and the products themselves.

The Connected Farm
IoT advancements are not limited to machinery; new solutions provide automated data collection devices to orchards, fisheries and farms. Engadget shared the story of cows connected to the Internet.

Agriculture tech companies produce sensors farmers can apply internally or externally to livestock. A cattle rancher could clip a sensor on a cow's ear or get the animal to swallow a smart pill to consistently monitor health. The automated data collection devices measure respiration, temperature, heart rate and other biological functions. Software users receive statistics which indicate when cows are losing weight or sick. This kind of technology can help farmers determine livestock performance and keep an eye out for diseases that may affect meat products.

Livestock monitors are just one way the IoT provides visibility of organic operations. Many agricultural industries employ mobile devices to create consistent automated data collection from harvesting, milking or butchering. The convenience and speed of modern technology facilitates reporting at every step of the supply chain.

An Integrated System
Every device used in manufacturing and distribution needs to report to a single source. Complete supply chain visibility is not as productive if different sections of the business can't share and compare data. Companies need a unified solution for all computer, mobile and sensor information.

The RFgen white paper "The Food Traceability Survival Guide" discussed how consistent data information is crucial for government compliance. All automated data collection solutions should display in a single system, so managers don't miss a thing. Working with a mobile integration partner supplies a company with insight into how to overcome the obstacles in the supply chain and how take advantage of new technology.

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