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  July 18th, 2023 | Written by

From Farm to Container: Optimizing the Agricultural Supply Chain

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The technology revolution has been behind advancements in many industries, and optimization of the supply chain is no exception. Logistics has gone from a pen-to-paper logbook scenario to one that is fully digital and influenced by the latest in integrated technology. 

For an industry as age-old as agriculture, it is a revolution that has changed the way people receive their food farm-fresh and ready to enjoy. The global supply chain management market is slated to reach $75.6 billion by 2032, showing that many supply chain innovators are looking for an efficient path from farm to container.

An industry ready for change 

The agricultural sector is ready for the technological revolution, and will likely rely on any innovations coming down the pipe to feed the world’s population, which is growing exponentially. By 2050, the population will reach 9.8 billion people, and without a streamlined, tech-informed process, there could exist gaping holes in the supply chain — leading to catastrophe. 

In the past few years, smart farming methods and the use of data and emerging supply chain tech have been essential to getting food on tables. The need for this new technology to integrate into existing, time-tested processes is also vital if we are to keep farmers farming and the food supply sustainable worldwide.

The value of high-tech 3PL

The supply chain has many cogs in its wheel — farmers, warehouses, truckers, retailers, and suppliers, all the way to restaurants and shoppers. To make that chain a well-oiled machine, every cog must be optimized for superior performance. 

An immense amount of value can occur with automated supply chain processes, high-powered analytics, and IoT (Internet of Things) from third-party logistics (3PL). 3PL professionals can help increase the speed of shipping, reliability of deliveries, data collection, and cost savings — all under one umbrella of logistics provider services.

With agricultural supply chain needs, there is an innovation that can enhance the process every step of the way. Advanced technology in 3PL processes can increase the speed and efficiency of shipments from the farm to the manufacturing or processing plant and beyond. The transmission of data and necessary communications between supply chain parties can help companies and farmers avoid misunderstandings and confusion, and can rapidly transfer information along the supply chain. Data can also give real-time updates on inventory levels, the location of shipments, and delivery times.

There is a high level of value to technology in 3PL processes, and the more innovations that are brought to fruition, the smoother the entire supply chain process. In addition, technology can help every stop on the supply chain avoid interruptions, like those we experienced during the pandemic.

Managing the complex supply chain system

The agriculture supply chain will always be a complex mingling of interwoven parts. The more parts in a supply chain, the more complicated it becomes. 

A simple agricultural supply chain — from farm to plants for transformation, or packaging to store — is made more complicated with a larger client base and with larger farm sources. The data, decision-making, communication, and organization necessary for everything to run smoothly are all improved with the introduction of digital optimization: 

  • Machine learning and AI have enabled farmers to better decide the best route to filling and emptying silos, based on sales and demand.
  • Many farms have integrated robotics into their harvest or procurement process, which speeds up many processes and allows farmers to produce larger quantities and send out larger shipments that have been harvested efficiently and in a standardized manner.
  • Proprietary technology stacks have allowed 3PL companies to optimize multi-route deliveries. 
  • Centralized management systems help everyone at every stop on the supply chain manage shipments and clients. 
  • With everyone moving to online sales, many 3PL companies have found ways to integrate eCommerce capabilities into their supply chain services.
  • Digital twins or virtual simulations can run supply chain scenarios that pinpoint possible issues, holes in the process, or best-case scenarios. 

As the supply chain becomes more fragmented with additional stops and steps, the need for technology innovation becomes more evident. There can be thousands of possible options in supply chain processes and data sets as farms grow in size and output expands. 

Within the agricultural sector, there is also a lot of uncertainty, which can upend the supply chain and make things difficult on all fronts — from farm to container — regardless of how high-tech or streamlined the supply chain process is. Yields from farms can be as unpredictable as the weather, and as any farmer or manufacturer could tell you, no one saw something as catastrophic as the pandemic coming. 

The effect of unpredictable occurrences on the supply chain was evident in 2021 and 2022, as the perfect storm of issues upended nearly every industry supply chain, including agriculture. Issues such as rising energy costs, staffing, inflation, and illness put a stranglehold on even the most digitally-optimized processes.

As we begin to recover from the issues wrought largely by the global pandemic and ensuing economic slump, technology innovations to help with labor shortages, price hikes, and sustainability will be even more necessary to keep the global food market afloat. 

As the agricultural industry continues to grapple with the significant challenge of feeding the world, innovators will continue to bring solutions to the table that make the route from the field to the dining room table more efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable. It’s expected that there will sometimes be supply-chain interruptions for one reason or another, but working to solve those pain points through the most tech-informed, innovative means possible will work to secure a smoother agricultural supply chain in the future. 

Author Bio

Anar Mammadov, owner and CEO of Senpex Technology, is a software development professional with more than 18 years of experience in enterprise solutions and mobile app development. He has applied his practical and results-oriented approach to business to create Senpex Technology. Senpex Technology is a personalized logistics and delivery service that utilizes groundbreaking artificial intelligence to optimize routes and to provide the fastest, most efficient, last-mile delivery resource for businesses. Senpex can be utilized 24/7, with no interruptions to your delivery needs.