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Five technology developments will be looked at that improve the bottom-line as well as upping efforts in quality control and traceability in the supply chain for manufacturers.

Technology is changing our lives. That is for sure. Is it for the better? Mostly. But like any technology, its benefits depend on where it is used. In food and beverage, for instance, companies such as Pepperl+Fuchs are providing sensors for factory automation and measurement applications. Other companies are developing robotic use cases, or blockchain technology solutions for traceability, etc.

We will look at five areas where technology is improving food and beverage manufacturers’ bottom-line as well as upping efforts in quality control and traceability in the supply chain.

 

1.Data Analytics

As manufacturing processes and supply chains are upgraded with technology, what is needed is a systematic way to store and analyse that data. To do so means that food and beverage manufacturers can charge over their quality outcomes and costs. The result is more predictability in the process and less uncertainty. Having precise data means manufacturing processes can be optimised.

Ultimately, big data analytics can be used by manufacturers to understand what elements have the biggest impact on the end product, and predict how changes to the process will impact not just quality, but taste.

Furthermore, data analysis can be leveraged to understand the impact elements such as storage and transportation have on the quality of packaged foods and beverages.

For instance, predicting a product’s shelf life and understanding the parameters that impact shelf life is valuable information to manufacturers in the food and beverage industry, saving a lot of money and time in the process, in addition to product waste.

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2. Robotics

According to a report from MarketsandMarkets, the value of the global food automation industry is expected to reach US$2.5 billion by 2022, with the Asia Pacific (APAC) region expected to see the highest growth rate driven largely by the growth of the packaged food market.

As populations across Asia continue to move from villages to larger cities, this upward trend in packaged food is expected to continue inline with urbanisation.

Robots can be used in a number of ways in food manufacturing, from packaging and palletising to preparing and sorting, and are used not just to cut costs, but to save time and space, as well as improve safety and cleanliness.

Packaging is a particularly suited application for robots, with significant savings in terms of efficiency. The robot makes use of machine vision and artificial intelligence to place packaged goods on a conveyor system. Developments in machine vision also greatly benefit applications involving pick and place and sorting by colour, shape and size.

 

3. Blockchain

Blockchain Technology is particularly useful when it comes to food traceability, enabling better food management, safety, and overall better quality.

For years food manufacturers as well as retailers have sought to simplify the supply chain. This is particularly important given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with supply chain diversification on the horizon.

Furthermore, according to Gartner, 20 percent of the top 10 global grocers will use blockchain technology by 2025.

And according to data from Juniper Research, blockchain is expected to enable significant cost savings predicting a US$31 billion savings in food fraud globally by 2024, with compliance costs reduced by 30 percent.

Furthermore, a new report, ‘Blockchain: Key Vertical Opportunities, Trends & Challenges 2019-2030, found that blockchain, used in combination with IoT sensors and trackers, will reduce retailers’ costs by streamlining supply chains; offering simpler regulatory compliance and efficient food recall process.

And in late 2019, Mastercard revealed a collaboration with Envisible, a company that enables supply-chain visibility in food systems, to bring more visibility to the supply chain.

Mastercard developed its own proprietary blockchain technology, the Mastercard Provenance Solution. This solution is considered industry-agnostic, helping brands to provide visibility into product journeys with a clear record of traceability designed to contribute to consumer confidence, trust and awareness. 

The Mastercard Provenance Solution also provides governance capabilities to complex supply chain networks, leveraging Mastercard’s proven track record of establishing trust and rules in highly-regulated markets.

 

4. 3D Printing

3D printing has seen significant advancements in recent years, from printing using plastic, to using metal, and influsing colour. There has also been work on printing organs for potential organ transplants.

Given these advancements, it is not surprising that the sector also lends itself towards food production.

A number of possible applications stand-out, including meeting personalised dietary recommendations, with 3D printed food providing the control necessary to put a custom amount of protein, sugar, vitamins, and minerals into the foods we consume.

Furthermore, another area is customised food for the elderly. The elderly sometimes cannot swallow foods, and as such require a softer pallet. 3D printed food can provide a soft and aesthetically pleasing food in which the elderly can consume their bodies’ recommended dietary requirements.

In October 2019, startup company Nourished 3D printed personalised nutritional gummies from 28 different vitamins. Individuals take a survey, then based on their answers, a personalized nutritional gummy is printed for that individual.

A significant benefit of 3D printing in food manufacturing is the reduction of food waste, with one third of the total food produced for consumption, around 1.6 billion tonnes per year, goes to waste, worldwide.

Food waste happens during processing, distribution and consumption. 3D food printing is a very promising way of reducing food waste during the phase of consumption, by utilising food products like meat off-cuts, distorted fruits and vegetables, seafood by-products and perishables. 

 

5. Drones

The use of drones in the overall food production pipeline has been on the increase, offering significant advantages and benefits, including inspection, quality control, and operational cost savings.

In agriculture, market forecasters are calling for a 30 percent increase in drone sales, reaching US$4.2 million by 2022. 

Drones have a particular use in regions such as Africa and Asia, and could present a valuable solution to the widespread use of burning to clear palm oil plantations in Indonesia.

 

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