Is your IoT strategy facing these 3 roadblocks?

Understand the benefits of harnessing new technologies in food production.

To keep pace with a rapidly increasing global population, farmers and food service businesses must understand the importance of harnessing new technologies to address the vital need for sustainable food production. But is Australia’s food industry ready to embrace the opportunities the Internet of Things (IoT) will bring?

Is the IoT the missing link to a future of sustainable food production?

The global production of food, feed and fibre will need to increase 70 percent by 2050 to meet the world’s growing demands, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Program.

“This means that to optimise crop yields and reduce waste, the agriculture and farming industries will need to rely heavily on IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies moving forward,” says Saverio Romeo, principal analyst at leading IoT analyst firm Beecham.

Our farms today are not without some form of digital adoption. The use of on-farm sensing technology, telemetry and M2M applications is well established in many highly integrated Australian farms, for example.

However, a recent survey of 400 global decision-makers in the food industry by Rentokil Initial and research firm Quocirca found these three challenges must be overcome in order to realise the benefits of the IoT.

1. Better understanding

One in four respondents reported a deep understanding of the IoT, while a third said they had "no real knowledge" or only "basic knowledge".

The results indicate that most organisations are already involved in the IoT world, but it appears to fall under the remit of IT and engineering departments rather than those who have a vested interest in increasing food security and supply chain efficiency (such as quality assurance managers or production managers).

So even though some IoT technologies may already be deployed in organisations:
- Collected data isn’t always being aggregated and exploited properly.
- The transformational benefits of the IoT on the food supply chain are not being realised.

2. Security concerns

As can be expected with any burgeoning technological trend, security is a major concern for businesses and consumers when it comes to IoT adoption. This was reflected in the survey, with 35 per cent of respondents citing security issues as their top concern.

The challenge here is getting organisations to treat IoT adoption the same as any cloud-based-system deployment, and not to use security challenges as a reason for abandonment. Implementing an IoT ecosystem means issues with security risks and user privacy must be addressed and mitigated – often a challenging process. However, it is vital to realising the benefits of digital transformation for corporations and the food industry as a whole.

3. Low ability and willingness to share data

One of the benefits of IoT adoption is the transparency it affords food safety managers through end-to-end tracking and traceability of goods (34% of respondents rank it as a priority for technological adoption). This, however, requires all members of the supply chain to be on board, sharing real-time data, being transparent and in the cloud. The survey found that few organisations have reached this capability, and respondents' answers also indicate there is little willingness to actually be transparent up and down the supply chain.

Couple this lack of transparency with the technical challenge of aggregating multiple sources of data, and this important barrier may be insurmountable. It is a challenge that must be met and addressed by the industry as a whole, with reform and change for the better as key goals.

While there is great benefit in the expansion of the IoT, there are also significant industry-wide barriers to be broken. Continued education, collaboration and cultural change will be critical for food businesses not just to survive, but to outperform competitors who are already ahead of the game.

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4th June 2020
Kathryn Birett
Big Ideas, IoT

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