Agriculture and Food Supply Chain's Blockchain Transition
According to the new market Blockchain in Agriculture and Food Supply Chain Market by Application (Product Traceability, Payment and Settlement, Smart Contracts, and Governance, Risk and Compliance Management), Provider, Organisation Size, and Region - Global Forecast to 2025, published by MarketsandMarkets™, the market size is estimated to be US$133mn in 2020 and is projected to reach US$948mn by 2025, at a CAGR of 48.1 per cent during the forecast period.
One of the major factors driving the blockchain in the agriculture and food supply chain industry is the rise in concerns related to food safety worldwide. Many food manufacturers are now keen on detecting contamination in food products, rising global levels of food fraud, and the rising awareness amongst global producers, manufacturers, and retailers regarding the benefits of the use of blockchain in agriculture.
Looking to America
With strong support from the giant players and crucial investments in the technology sector, the region is estimated to account for the largest market share in blockchain in agriculture and food supply chains until 2025. The US organisations from logistics, retail and consumer goods, and food verticals widely adopt new technologies to serve customers better and continuously improve business efficiencies. Due to the robust supply chain infrastructure and technology companies, the US market for blockchain in agriculture and food is expected to dominate the overall North American market.
Due to the spread of COVID-19, consumers in the North American region began forgoing public venues and preferred eating at home. This resulted in stocking up on groceries and supplies, boosting sales for the month by 29 per cent over the prior year. However, the food stranded upstream is creating food-security risks for vulnerable populations. Thus, in these times, technology is playing a crucial in keeping the participants in the entire supply chain, including producers, manufacturers, and consumers, to stay updated on the condition of their products along the chain.
The Companies Providing the Backbone Infrastructure
The blockchain in agriculture and food supply chain market is dominated by few globally established players such as (US), TE-FOOD International GmbH (Europe), Microsoft (US), ACR-NET (Ireland), Ambrosus (Switzerland), (Germany), OriginTrail (Slovenia), and (UK). These players have adopted various growth strategies such as partnerships, agreements, collaborations, and new product launches to increase their global market presence.
Product Traceability, Tracking, and Visibility
A major benefit of using blockchain technology in retail and supply chain processes is its efficiency in facilitating the tracking and tracing of raw materials, finished goods, and merchandise to monitor it right from the provenance to the point it reaches the customer. Due to the changing or anticipated legislation changes in the Food and Drug Administration level, there is a possibility that more and more food and beverage organisations will be involved with track-and-trace initiatives due to online buying and selling. Consumers like the idea of a fully tracked food supply. They are increasingly attracted to technologies that instil trust in food data after years of food labels being manipulated by the industry.
With an innovation-based approach, these enterprises can offer their clients the flexibility to go for customisable solutions that fit every need of the supply chain. This enables companies to gain higher demands in the market. Large companies, being established players invest highly in innovation and research so as to enhance their market positioning. Platforms such as IBM Food Trust support large ecosystems consisting of producers, suppliers, manufacturers, and retailers all in one place. This enables data integration for global markets and supply chains.
Upgrading RFID and Automated Track and Trace Solutions
During the COVID-19 pandemic, global supply chains faced the challenge of rapidly adjusting their business priorities to new customer preferences. Local supplier backlogs, winter storms, and the Suez Canal backup in March underscored the need for efficiency and visibility across the supply chain.
According to Christof Backhaus, Digital Lead Product Supply and Smart Label Project Lead at Bayer, companies must now place critical importance on tracking and tracing their products. “All large enterprises in the world dealing with finished goods,” he said, “seek functional and technical solutions to real-time channel inventory.”
Indeed, RFID’s real-time tracking data allows executives to make quick, well-informed decisions in moments of supply chain crisis - and rather than unfolding across days or weeks, it only takes a matter of minutes.
Why does RFID remain relevant despite digital disruption?
Essentially, RFID uses radio frequency waves to transfer data wirelessly between a scanner and a tag. In contrast to barcode technology, which requires a stationary scanner, RFID tags can be pinged from anywhere in the world, allowing companies to track real-time movement through the supply chain. RFID tags can also scan unique SKU numbers and distinguish between varying product sizes, colours, and styles: a critical feature for increasingly personalised end-user products.
Though the first patent for RFID tags appeared in 1973, higher accuracy rates, lower costs, and advances in sensor and data technology have made it newly accessible to a wide range of companies. Today, the technology is used in logistics networks, manufacturing and delivery networks in the pharmaceutical industry, and any business where efficiently tracking and monitoring product location is critical: raw materials, consumer products, cars, electronics, retail, and agriculture.
What are the key benefits?
Overall, automated track and trace solutions keep labour costs low, optimise operating costs, mitigate security risks, use capital effectively, and assist companies in adhering to regulatory requirements.
Below are three in-depth dives into how RFID benefits major industries:
- Pharmaceuticals: RFID tags help manufacturers safeguard sensitive products such as vaccines, tracking where they are and when they will arrive in real-time. Sensors closely monitor temperatures to ensure regulatory compliance. If anyone tampers with a shipment, the sensors alert the company.
- Logistics: RFID identifies process gaps and frequent anomalies by monitoring a product’s lifecycle from shipment to delivery. This data helps decision-makers predict the most efficient routes and therefore optimise their distribution schedules.
- Retail: Sensors help guard shipments against theft and provide critical intelligence when shipments go missing. Before adopting RFID technology in 2203, UK retailer Marks and Spencer relied on barcodes to scan inventory. When they made the switch, their productivity increased from a maximum of 400-600 items scanned per hour to up to 15,000 items scanned per hour. Building on their initial success, the retailer expanded the use of the technology and is still using it today.
Regardless of the industry, RFID promotes accuracy, immediacy, and efficiency. Companies reduce human error by automatically scanning products, keep track of inventory even in geographic locations with poor connectivity, and help streamline warehouse operations by identifying exact product locations.
Which recent innovations have changed the game?
With recent developments in cloud technology and IoT, a multitude of cloud-based alternatives have emerged to challenge traditional RFID technology. One of these cutting-edge solutions is Sony’s Smart Label - an intelligent shipping label that runs on AT&T’s global cellular network.
As with any good innovation, Sony’s proprietary technology started with a customer need ready to be solved: the Bayer Crop Science Division lacked an international IoT solution that could track seed products from start to finish throughout its distribution channel. Millions of dollars of revenue stood at stake, so Bayer turned to Sony to develop a smart label that would set the organisation up to manage its supply chain with end-to-end visibility.
Sony’s printable and disposable adhesive label allows companies to track the condition and location of their products worldwide and act upon the vast amounts of data it collects. The process is simple: the label activates when attached to the package, connects to AT&T’s secure LTE-M network, and sends data to the Smart Label Cloud in real time.
In sharp contrast to other smart label solutions that place trust in a patchwork combination of Wi-Fi, radio-frequency identification, and other limited coverage connections, the Sony Smart Label connects solely through a secure and universally-available cellular network. “Working with Sony,” says Robert Boyanovsky, the vice president of Mobility, IoT and 5G at AT&T, “we provide full visibility of every item shipped.”
Most importantly for companies on the edge, the Smart Label integrates with existing enterprise systems to achieve full visibility, thus adding value without disrupting supply chain process flow.
Why is this important now?
Companies that previously delayed introducing RFID and other automated track-and-trace technologies can capitalise on recent developments that lower costs, improve accuracy, and supercharge traceability.
Clearly the technology has value in today’s uncertain global marketplace, and can help decrease the costs of tracking goods. To quote Christof Backhaus, the Project Lead at Bayer, “the Smart Label indicates how much product is in the market, from the packaging line to the end customer.” Companies no longer have to spend a small fortune to take advantage of recent IoT developments. “Due to the technical composition [of the label],” Backhaus explains, “we don’t require additional infrastructure, manual scanning, or other expensive tools.”
Over the decades since RFID was first introduced, support for introducing it to company supply chains has also improved. AT&T’s IoT Professional Services Organisation, for example, supports companies through the end-to-end design and integration process--from installation to deployment and project management.
Companies that invest in traceable and visible supply chain solutions stand the best chance of survival, adjusting in real-time to natural disasters, shipping backups, and slowed-down supplier turnarounds as a result of the global pandemic. “Smart Label promises to help businesses like Bayer realise the full potential of the IoT,” says AT&T’s Boyanovsky. “[We can] deliver improvements in revenue and cost savings and make supply chains more efficient.”
Certainly, company executives will be hard-pressed to ignore recent innovations. In an age of uncertainty, RFID and its challengers herald a welcome sense of supply chain security. The next step? “Our sales team,” Boyanovsky adds, “is prepared to engage with prospective customers now.”