Strategy before technology key to improving competitiveness with Industry 4.0 technology

Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things have been buzzwords in the food and beverage industry for the past few years. Yet, as highlighted in a recent survey, uptake is still stagnant, with only 20 per cent of companies having implemented solutions that could help them become more efficient, productive and competitive using the technology. Even more worrying is another 40 per cent know that they would benefit from such initiatives but have yet to do anything about it. That leaves a huge 40 per cent who aren’t even thinking about doing anything at the present time.
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Key impacts digitalisation is having on the food industry

Digitalisation is at the heart of the rapidly evolving agrifood ecosystem, according to a major new report released today by Lux Research, a leading provider of tech-enabled research and advisory services. The report outlines the challenges the agrifood industry has faced in recent years and the digital tools that offer potential solutions to those challenges across food processing and production, supply chain management, and personalized nutrition.

Through a series of data-backed use cases, Lux’s new report, The Digital Transformation of the Food Industry, identifies a framework that agrifood industry players should use to evaluate and implement digital tools for solving specific business issues. The analysis reveals that a key challenge for players attempting to interface with digital technologies in food production is the tendency to act tactically from a tech-first perspective rather than acting strategically from an issue-to-outcome perspective. Lux’s digital transformation framework offers a method that industry players can follow to achieve successful testing and adoption of digital tech in food production.

“The ability to address consumers’ future needs is the driving force behind the rapidly evolving agrifood sector,” said Harini Venkataraman, lead analyst of the report. “To adequately meet this changing landscape, major industry players must act now to build a robust digital strategy that identifies the right set of digital tools for the right products to maximize the value-add for their respective businesses.”

The report finds that, while other industrial sectors have been quicker to implement digital solutions like artificial intelligence, augmented reality, industrial IoT, and robotics, the agrifood industry is making great strides to catch up. The impact on the sector will be significant as a means to address consumer demands for personalized product offerings and to manage a more integrated, digital, and omnichannel global supply chain.

“As companies in the food industry are trying to embrace digital transformation, this report is a critical resource to uncover the true potential of digital technologies applied to the right use cases,” said Venkataraman. “More than in other industries, digitalization in food will be a common thread across the entire agrifood ecosystem to enable industry players to address consumers’ future needs. The fact is, food companies that resist the digital conversion will not be able to keep up with more digital-savvy innovators, and will face higher R&D costs, longer product development timelines, and shrinking market share.”

Digitisation makes for more productive and sustainable farming

Progressive digitisation is increasingly important in the farming industry: data-supported targeted application of fertiliser and crop protection products, soil analysis sensors and autonomous operation are just a few of the buzz words in the current discussion around Farming 4.0 and smart farming.

“Smart Farming can support more productive and sustainable farming via an accurate and resource-efficient approach,” said Dr Jan Regtmeier, director product management at Harting IT Software Development. Regtmeier demonstrates application of the Harting Mica and its benefits for agriculture. The Edge Computer controls processes and procedures seamlessly and records all of the relevant data. “This gives farmers security, also creating consumer trust,” Regtmeier said.

Two application scenarios show how Mica gathers data. In the first one, Harting Mica  records data from two sets of scales, which are used to weigh tractor and trailer, recording the weight of maize delivered. The tractor is also given a single ID to ensure that it is uniquely assigned to the crop area. The data recorded is processed and sent to the Cloud for further evaluation. In the second application scenario, Mica records data during the critical mashing process. The data is then used for process optimisation with data analytics.

“Data-supported farming allows for new approaches, ensuring sustainable food production now and in the future,” explains Dries Guth, principal innovation manager and Head of the IoT Innovation Lab at itelligence. Data collated via sensors, from the soil and farming machinery and satellite imagery and fed into intelligent systems supports not only yield optimisation, but also the resource-saving application of water and crop protection products. “It is also about exploring new forms of food production, as we are now seeing with the successes in Urban Farming and Vertical Farming for example,” said Dries Guth.

“The potential for smart farming is huge,” says Regtmeier with conviction. “The farming industry has only just begun to make use of digitalisation.”