Reducing Waste & Increasing Profitability with Crop Data

Tuesday, October 24th, 2023

Reducing Waste & Increasing Profitability with Crop Data | Food producers need to ensure sustainability, traceability, and quality of their raw materials. Ron Baruchi, CEO of Agmatix, gives an overview of how Big Data and AI can collect useful crop data that will give companies a competitive edge in the food industry.


Crop data is essential for farmers and policymakers to make informed decisions about crop production, land use, and resource management. It can also be used by agribusinesses and food companies to track the supply chain of agricultural products and ensure their quality and sustainability.


With digitalisation gaining ground across all industries, the terms ‘Big Data’ and ‘AI’ have been cropping up frequently. Big Data is generated from various sources, such as internet activity, sensors, and other digital devices. The data is then analysed to gain information and knowledge of developments, which will lead to identification of trends and patterns. This in turn helps with making informed decisions.


AI, or artificial intelligence, is essentially machines that simulate human intelligence. There are various techniques involved in AI, which include machine learning, robotics, problem solving, as well as image and video analysis. 


When used together, Big Data and AI can help companies gain valuable knowledge and generate well-thought out policies.


Why are food producers investing in agriculture?

Over the past few decades, the food industry has boomed. Supermarkets have gotten progressively larger, and the advent of online shopping meant that consumers can have virtually any food item delivered to their door. This has resulted in an ever-expanding range of product choice. With so many options available, food producers need to provide products at competitive prices without foregoing quality and variety. To top this off, food producers are now competing at an international scale, rather than nationally. To stay competitive, food producers must analyse and optimise each stage of their production process. This starts with how cost-effectively raw food materials are grown.


Food producers have a great opportunity to significantly improve the sustainability, traceability, and quality of their raw materials by investing in the relevant agricultural technologies. Perhaps the most important of these is data. Data can inform companies on the best practices for fertilisation, irrigation, and crop disease management to ensure they are maximising yields and reducing expensive chemical applications wherever possible. This not only keeps quality high and improves sustainability, but also helps to cut the cost of growing these ingredients. 


Agmatix_Asia Pacific Food Industry

Data can inform companies on the best practices for fertilisation, irrigation, and crop disease management to ensure they are maximising yields and reducing expensive chemical applications wherever possible. This not only keeps quality high and improves sustainability, but also helps to cut the cost of growing these ingredients.


What is the role of Big Data and AI in helping food producers source more reliable, better-quality ingredients?

For food producers to avoid discarding produce which doesn’t meet their quality criteria, sourcing high quality, reliable ingredients is important. Not only does discarding produce create large amounts of waste, it also means an unpredictable output. This adds additional costs into the planning and sourcing of raw materials, as securing additional ingredients at short notice is always more expensive.


Improving the quality of the input materials allows food producers to minimise waste and keep costs low. Big data on each specific crop variant can be analysed using AI to create crop ‘care’ protocols. Data such as rainfall, temperature, and soil type are added to fertilisation and yield data for each specific crop variant to create a holistic view of the nutritional and management needs of individual crops.


Not only can this ensure high quality raw materials, it can also help food producers to predict the supply ahead of time. This frees up invaluable time for sourcing further materials or ramping up production to account for additional supply as needed.


Why is sustainability a growing concern for food producers and how can they address this?

Globally, we’re seeing a push towards sustainability as we each strive to be better stewards of our planet. Driven by consumer demands, new legislation, and each company’s ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) goals, the food industry is part of the push towards more environmentally friendly food production. To do this successfully, it requires a shakeup of processes.


Food producers can start addressing this in the growing of their raw materials. By leveraging Big Data and AI, crop nutrient requirements can now be accurately calculated and recommended to growers at the local field-level as digital prescriptions. Apart from reducing food waste, this allows growers to reduce their use of chemicals harmful to the environment without reducing crop yields. Growers can even calculate the precise impact of their crop nutrition plans on the environment, allowing food producers to more easily calculate the carbon footprint of their product. With carbon labelling on the rise, this is set to be an attractive prospect.


How can digital solutions for the Food & Beverage industry improve further?

Food quality starts at the point the seed goes into the ground, and is highly dependent on the provision of the right nutrients at each stage of the plant’s development, which is known as the phenological stage. Research has shown that different ratios of nutrients are required for each stage of development, and this data is used in the digital solutions available today. 


In order for digital solutions to improve further, it’s vital that high-quality data is collected, beginning with field trials on specific crops and varieties. These results can then be used to design digital nutrient prescription plans, advising agronomists, agriculture professionals and growers on the exact nutritional needs of each crop. Advanced digital tools can advise growers with real-time recommendations based on factors such as their specific region, climate, and crop variety, ensuring nutrients are used at the right time and right rate for each specific geolocation. 


Additionally, these digital tools could help with supply chain transparency. The ability to accurately track how a crop was grown and harvested could help food and beverage companies to accurately report on their sustainability metrics. These digital tools can also be used as a mechanism for change to encourage growers to use more sustainable farming practices. These can then be tracked and fed back down the line to food and beverage companies, who can benefit from providing consumers with more sustainable products.



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