Today, the food industry is undergoing a transformative phase of widespread automation. Developers are combining new-age technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence to develop solutions that hammer out human dependency across every functional segment of the sector. Remote monitoring and sensing are gaining steam, delivering improvements in food availability, traceability, safety, and waste management.
In today’s article, we look into how the Internet of Things enhances farming, food manufacturing, and distribution, bringing the world closer to achieving global food security.
IoT in Farming
The Internet of Things presents intriguing opportunities for farmers to streamline operations. IoT-driven innovations like on-field monitoring, robotics, and autonomous navigation can make it easier for farm managers to plan growing schedules, irrigate efficiently, manage livestock, and control diseases.
IoT’s primary selling point is that it makes real-time monitoring possible. By deploying sensors across the farm, farmers can keep tabs on various conditions, including growing progress, animal movement, water distribution, weather conditions, soil PH, and more.
These sensors can connect wirelessly to data centers and end-user devices like smartphones and computers, delivering status reports to the palm of a farm manager’s hands. They can also relay signals that turn actuators like sprinklers and air conditioners on and off to maintain desired conditions.
Real-time monitoring helps farms respond to changes quicker and more efficiently, translating to less risk of losses. Moreover, the data sensors collect can fuel predictive analysis and enhance proactive problem-solving.
Robots have advanced significantly since the third industrial revolution, primarily abetted by the Internet. In farms, agricultural robots show significant potential as suitable alternatives to humans in labor-intensive activities like collecting hay and relatively unsafe processes like deploying fertilizer. Farms dealing with labor constraints can also install robots controlled by one person through an IoT network.
When deployed effectively, connected robots can save farmers time and human resources. Furthermore, because machines do not suffer fatigue or boredom the way humans do, they can help farmers achieve consistent, error-free results.
The Internet of Things, machine learning, and GPS solutions are helping to replace manned on-farm navigation with self-driving tractors, rotavators, and other agricultural machinery. These machines can memorize rough patches as they move around and achieve smooth navigation without drivers.
IoT is also taking farm navigation to the sky, thanks to connected drones that use GPS, infrared cameras, image processing, and ground control systems to automate processes like pest management and herding. New-generation farmers are leveraging DaaS (Drones-as-a-Service) to monitor infestation, deploy precise fertigation, and predict crop yield.
IoT in Food Manufacturing
Industrial IoT is one of the most promising use cases today. Manufacturing companies are looking into IoT technologies to drive productivity, eliminate losses, and reduce costs. For food processing, the Internet of Things can provide multifold benefits in production and warehousing.
Connecting devices with IoT can unlock several critical opportunities for food manufacturing. For starters, intelligent machines can connect to end-user devices and communicate their status more effectively, resulting in reduced downtime, more agile operations, and faster time-to-market.
IoT can also improve quality control and waste management. For instance, installing sensors to monitor the humidity and color of flour throughout production stages can help factories catch quality variances and deploy real-time corrective measures before the product is packed. Sensors can also detect leaks and spillages along the production line and trigger automated optimizations on the spot.
Additionally, deploying IoT in factories can help managers keep track of energy consumption and reduce associated costs. According to studies, 30% of the world’s available energy
goes into food production. With intelligent energy management solutions, factories can collect and analyze power consumption data and derive insights for driving impactful energy-saving initiatives.
The use of IoT in warehouse management is a top IoT trend. Inventory tracking, especially with manual methods, is time-consuming and error-prone. Connected sensors can give managers a real-time account of goods moving in and out of the warehouse, reducing the need for manual stock-taking and optimizing loading times. Sensors can also help regulate natural elements in warehouses and keep food in the best condition.
IoT can also power collaborative robots and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) for warehouse operations. These machines can calculate the shortest route to an aisle and retrieve or restock inventory autonomously. They can also be used to move heavy or dangerous products safely and more efficiently. As they move about, AGVs can collect meaningful data about occurrences like condition variations and spillages and relay it to the human staff working alongside them, making their work easier.
IoT in Food Distribution
The applications of the Internet of Things do not stop at the factories. IoT solutions can be deployed to streamline how food moves from warehouses to the market, ensuring quality and reducing waste along the way.
IoT solutions can help teams track inventory and automate shipments based on real-time customer requests and accurate demand forecasts. For instance, radio frequency identification (RFID) transmitters and GPS systems can be implemented to give food companies visibility as products move from warehouses to customer tables.
By monitoring real-time product movements, food suppliers can identify supply inefficiencies and handle them before they become significant bottlenecks. They can also know which products are selling the most, get a better picture of customer preferences, and develop reliable performance estimates.
In uncertain times like the current COVID-19 pandemic, customers ordering online need the guarantee that they are buying legitimate, approved products. Food-producing companies can embed internet-enabled microchips within the packaging to assure quality and originality.
Customers can then use their smartphones to scan items and get details like production location, production date, and expiry date. Microchips can also carry information regarding the source of ingredients and production methods, empowering customers to make informed decisions on what they consume.
Food waste is one of the most pervasive issues in the food industry. According to studies, one-third of all the food produced globally
goes to waste every year. With IoT solutions, retailers can improve how they track product movement and refine first-in-first-out (FIFO) operations.
Using sensors to monitor storage parameters like temperature and humidity can also help sellers implement measures that increase shelf life and minimize daily waste.
The Future of IoT in the Food Industry
IoT presents the food sector with technological solutions for complex problems across food production and distribution. Companies embracing IoT innovations are helping to ensure that food is produced, stored, and distributed with the highest standards of health and safety, all while minimizing costs and wastage.
According to ReportLinker, the food and beverage IoT market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.5% until 2025
. This increasing demand means IoT suppliers have a lot to gain by developing products for the food sector. As a result, IoT solutions will only get better and more abundant down the road, much to the benefit of pro-tech farmers, food companies, and consumers.