Pandemic boosts need for tracking technology in supply chain

By Danielle Masterson

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / Chainarong Prasertthai
Getty Images / Chainarong Prasertthai

Related tags COVID blockchain Supply chain

The demand for nutraceuticals and functional foods is expected to witness an upward surge driven by immunity-boosting supplements during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the current times exposing need for technology to address immediate global needs with an accelerated response.

In Australia, blockchain platform Trust Provenance (T-Prov) recently wrapped up its supply chain pilot project that harnessed real-time data to track the movement of mangos from the tree to the supermarket.

The digital platform was developed and tested as part of a 2.5-year Smart Supply Chain pilot project co-funded by the Cooperative Research Center for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) in partnership with T-Prov, mango producer Manbulloo and industry group Growcom.

Growcom Manager Policy and Advocacy Richard Shannon said reducing complexities and improving efficiencies was critical to the future economic performance and sustainability of the horticulture sector.

"The supply chain project provides a crucial tool enabling local farmers to share the benefits of their produce directly with consumers. We believe better traceability systems will reward farmers with higher returns in the market, that reflect the investments they're making in more sustainable, safe and ethical production practices,”​ said Shannon. 

An instant snapshot

During the trial, T-Prov and Manbulloo worked together to build a platform that integrated all the systems and information Manbulloo identified as critical touchpoints along their supply chain.  

Real-time data, such as time, temperature and location were tracked, transmitted and uploaded to the blockchain where Manbulloo and other supply chain partners could then access the information through a dashboard interface and track every stepof the supply chain. 

This integration of data and quality assessments along the chain allowed for a more streamlined approach that relied on one secure and centralized system which provided instant traceability.

Sensors are placed in mango crates in packing sheds and travel with the fruit to the retailer - transmitting real-time data to the blockchain platform along the way.

"In the past, each chain partner used their own system to identify and trace product, which resulted in duplication and extra costs. We are implementing the GS1 Australia standard for product ID and traceability so the members of our supply chain can use the same product ID system. This will not only save time and costs, but also reduce human errors and wastage,"​ said Manbulloo's quality manager Scott Ledger. 

T-Prov's Andrew Grant said working with Manbulloo and their supply chain, logistics and retail partners to identify, map and manage information along the system opened up new doors in transparency.  

"The blockchain technology means the creator of the data retains ownership of the data and once it's captured it's locked down and can't be altered or interfered with. This provides greater transparency and provides horticultural and agricultural producers with a great platform to showcase a product's provenance and quality assurance,”​ explained Grant. 

The COVID factor 

Supply chain transparency has never been more crucial, as the food and nutraceutical supply chain is being pushed to its limit to provide an unprecedented amount of immune-boosting ingredients to the world. 

“Post COVID-19, being able to provide real-time data on where a product has come from and how it has being managed along the supply chain will become increasingly more important to producers, retailers and consumers, especially in export markets,"​ said Grant.

Ledger agrees. 

"The drive for food security and safety, coupled with the COVID-19 restrictions, has made information integrity and real-time availability of information, more important now than ever, and I would encourage anyone in our industry to move along this path. Without a doubt, this project has been transformational for us—with identified cost savings, ROI and less wastage—we will continue developing more insights and data integrations and look to implement the systems across our export supply chains,"​ he said.

"As far as an industry-led collaboration, this has been the gold standard. T-Prov, Manbulloo and Growcom have taken a concept and tested it in a real commercial environment with all the challenges that come with that and have delivered a model which can be expanded across to other horticulture and agriculture sectors,"​ said CRCNA CEO Jed Matz.

Matz added that the project was so successful that the team plans to hold a series of webinars with industry to discuss this new found tool. 

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