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Technology: Greater Digital Connectivity to Prevent Food/Supply Challenges

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Technology: Greater Digital Connectivity to Prevent Food/Supply Challenges

The world is facing an environmental crisis and a global food shortage simultaneously. Food for a global population that is expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050 is threatened by climate change, water scarcity, and soil depletion. At the same time, we’re wasting more food than ever before. 

The food industry is responsible for over one-third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and 30% of its energy use. However, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 30%-40% of what we produce never reaches consumers’ plates. Cutting this statistic with better logistics planning and a more robust supply chain will increase the global food supply and benefit the environment simultaneously.

Technology makes farming more efficient and sustainable

We are at the beginning of a new era when it comes to food. Technology transforms every aspect of how we grow, process, and distribute our food by helping us produce more efficiently, reduce waste across the farm-to-fork supply chain, and connect farmers with buyers at scale. It is making us healthier and helping feed the world while reducing waste and carbon emissions in every stage of the supply chain.

On the first link of the chain, greater digital connectivity helps farmers increase the yield, efficiency, sustainability, and profitability of their farms. Today’s innovations allow them to produce the same amount of food while using less land, water, fuel, and chemicals. This is particularly important because agriculture is one of the most significant contributors to human-made environmental change. In fact, where the planet was once primarily forests and grasslands, half of all habitable land is now used for livestock and agriculture production.

Recent advances in data collection, analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) help farmers make better decisions about when to plant crops based on weather conditions or how much fertilizer to apply based on soil quality. For example, on modern farms, drones can fly overhead to assess the condition of crops. Through the use of infrared sensors, AI-powered drones detect diseases in plants before they become visible to the naked eye, allowing farmers to treat damaged crops before the disease has time to spread. The drones can also identify areas where insects have attacked plants and allow farmers to spot-target those areas with pesticides, rather than dusting entire fields, helping to increase crop yields and reduce the amount of harmful chemicals that enter our waterways.

New technology saves water by allowing farmers who use irrigation systems to gauge precisely how much water each plant needs. During seasons of surplus rainfall, farmers can now conserve their water supply, and during droughts, they know exactly how much water will be needed to keep their crops alive.

Technology transports food at optimal temperatures across the supply chain

The optimal temperature during transport keeps produce from spoiling prematurely and bacteria at bay. After harvest, cold chain logistics transport perishable food products thousands of miles while maintaining constant temperature control from origin to consumption. The integrity of this network demands access to reliable refrigeration equipment and staff with the skill to operate it properly.

Frederick Jones’s 1930 portable air-cooling unit for trucks has evolved into shipping containers with built-in cooling systems and temperature-controlled aircraft. However, the cold chain involves more than just refrigeration. It is an intricate logistics system incorporating food inspections at customs, anti-contamination measures, and proper documentation for safely transporting, storing, handling, and distributing food.

Until recently, suppliers compromised on quality to meet consumer demand. But today, manufacturers are exploring new technologies that ensure food safety better than ever before.

Technological breakthroughs in packaging protect food from moisture damage, condensation buildup, spoilage, and contamination during transport. New flexible packaging reduces our reliance on harmful plastic bottles, jars, and containers, and lighter containers reduce carbon emissions and fuel consumption during transport.

Insulated containers with cooling units reliably transport perishable goods safely for hours — even days — at a time. Monitoring systems track and report the internal temperatures of every refrigerated vehicle, warehouse, and storage unit along the supply chain. From farm to fork, advances in automation and blockchain technology make this data visible.

Technology makes the food supply chain more transparent

Technology is making the entire food supply chain more transparent. Now, we can track food at each step of the supply chain to ensure that every part of our meal is produced sustainably and responsibly.

Today, blockchain technology can track the movement of food through each stage of its journey — from farm to warehouse, to processing facility, to truck, to store or restaurant. Consumers and businesses can determine where food comes from and how long it takes to get there. Now, people at all stages of production and distribution who may have previously been unaware of each other’s existence can connect and coordinate seamless supply chains.

Technology reduces waste across the farm-to-fork supply chain

In 2023, the number of people with access to smartphones soared to 6.92 billion, representing 86.29% of the global population, a massive leap from 2016 when only 3.668 billion people and 49.40% of that year’s global population owned smartphones. This connectivity and widespread access to technology give innovators more tools than ever before that can help solve our global hunger problem.

In homes, this technology reduces food waste by providing recipes that use leftover ingredients. Rather than running to the store for new food, people can cook meals with what they have on hand. 

Technology reduces waste in restaurants by helping managers anticipate how much to order and providing chefs with information about when to use foods before they go bad. In stores, digital signage, and sensors on shelves alert customers to available products at any given time

There is no quick fix for the global food crisis, but thousands of breakthroughs like the ones mentioned above can make farming more efficient and sustainable, reduce food waste during transport, and make the supply chain more transparent. It’s clear that technology has a big role to play in solving the global food shortage. We need more innovative solutions in AI, robotics, and blockchain technologies if we want our world to remain sustainable for generations to come.


dry bean

Global Dry Bean Market 2020 – Key Insights

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘World – Dry Bean – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

The global dry bean market revenue amounted to $30.1B in 2018, reducing by -2.4% against the previous year. This figure reflects the total revenues of producers and importers (excluding logistics costs, retail marketing costs, and retailers’ margins, which will be included in the final consumer price). In general, dry bean consumption continues to indicate a relatively flat trend pattern.

The pace of growth appeared the most rapid in 2016 with an increase of 7.7% year-to-year. In that year, the global dry bean market attained its peak level of $31B. From 2017 to 2018, the growth of the global dry bean market remained at a lower figure.

Consumption by Country

The countries with the highest volumes of dry bean consumption in 2018 were India (6.9M tonnes), Myanmar (3.9M tonnes) and Brazil (2.8M tonnes), together accounting for 36% of global consumption. These countries were followed by Nigeria, Niger, the U.S., Tanzania, Mexico, Kenya, Uganda, China and Burkina Faso, which together accounted for a further 34%.

From 2014 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of dry bean consumption, amongst the main consuming countries, was attained by China, while dry bean consumption for the other global leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, India ($6.9B) led the market, alone. The second position in the ranking was occupied by Myanmar ($2.7B). It was followed by Nigeria.

The countries with the highest levels of dry bean per capita consumption in 2018 were Niger (111 kg per person), Myanmar (72 kg per person) and Burkina Faso (35 kg per person).

Market Forecast to 2030

Driven by increasing demand for dry bean worldwide, the market is expected to continue an upward consumption trend over the next decade. Market performance is forecast to decelerate, expanding with an anticipated CAGR of +2.1% for the period from 2018 to 2030, which is projected to bring the market volume to 48M tonnes by the end of 2030.

Production by Country

The countries with the highest volumes of dry bean production in 2018 were India (6.2M tonnes), Myanmar (4.9M tonnes) and Brazil (2.9M tonnes), with a combined 37% share of global production. Nigeria, Niger, the U.S., Tanzania, China, Mexico, Uganda, Kenya and Burkina Faso lagged somewhat behind, together comprising a further 36%.

From 2014 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of dry bean production, amongst the main producing countries, was attained by Niger, while dry bean production for the other global leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

Harvested Area 2014-2018

In 2018, approx. 48M ha of beans (dry) were harvested worldwide; going down by -3.2% against the previous year. The harvested area increased at an average annual rate of +2.2% from 2014 to 2018; the trend pattern remained consistent, with somewhat noticeable fluctuations throughout the analyzed period. The growth pace was the most rapid in 2016 when harvested area increased by 8.8% year-to-year. Over the period under review, the harvested area dedicated to dry bean production reached its maximum at 49M ha in 2017, and then declined slightly in the following year.

Yield 2014-2018

In 2018, the global average dry bean yield amounted to 788 kg per ha, jumping by 3.9% against the previous year. The yield figure increased at an average annual rate of +1.2% from 2014 to 2018. In 2018, the average dry bean yield reached its peak level and is likely to continue its growth in the immediate term.

Exports 2014-2018

Global exports amounted to 3.9M tonnes in 2018, therefore, remained relatively stable against the previous year.

In value terms, dry bean exports amounted to $3.3B (IndexBox estimates) in 2018.

Exports by Country

Myanmar was the key exporter of beans (dry) exported in the world, with the volume of exports amounting to 1M tonnes, which was approx. 27% of total exports in 2018. The U.S. (439K tonnes) held an 11% share (based on tonnes) of total exports, which put it in second place, followed by China (10%), Argentina (8.9%) and Canada (8.8%). Brazil (162K tonnes), Ethiopia (136K tonnes), Egypt (102K tonnes), Nicaragua (83K tonnes), Australia (75K tonnes) and Kyrgyzstan (75K tonnes) followed a long way behind the leaders.

From 2014 to 2018, average annual rates of growth with regard to dry bean exports from Myanmar stood at +11.1%. At the same time, Brazil (+25.7%), Australia (+24.2%), Kyrgyzstan (+19.2%), Argentina (+8.3%), Egypt (+4.8%), Nicaragua (+4.2%) and Canada (+3.9%) displayed positive paces of growth. Moreover, Brazil emerged as the fastest-growing exporter exported in the world, with a CAGR of +25.7% from 2014-2018. By contrast, the U.S. (-2.5%), China (-5.7%) and Ethiopia (-12.1%) illustrated a downward trend over the same period. Myanmar (+9.1 p.p.), Brazil (+2.5 p.p.) and Argentina (+2.4 p.p.) significantly strengthened its position in terms of the global exports, while Ethiopia and China saw its share reduced by -2.3% and -2.7% from 2014 to 2018, respectively. The shares of the other countries remained relatively stable throughout the analyzed period.

In value terms, the largest dry bean supplying countries worldwide were China ($573M), Myanmar ($570M) and the U.S. ($390M), with a combined 47% share of global exports. Canada, Argentina, Egypt, Brazil, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Australia and Kyrgyzstan lagged somewhat behind, together comprising a further 34%.

In terms of the main exporting countries, Australia recorded the highest growth rate of the value of exports, over the period under review, while exports for the other global leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

Export Prices by Country

The average dry bean export price stood at $831 per tonne in 2018, shrinking by -6% against the previous year. Over the period under review, the dry bean export price continues to indicate a deep decrease. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2016 an increase of 0.3% against the previous year. Over the period under review, the average export prices for beans (dry) attained their maximum at $1,083 per tonne in 2014; however, from 2015 to 2018, export prices remained at a lower figure.

There were significant differences in the average prices amongst the major exporting countries. In 2018, the country with the highest price was China ($1,422 per tonne), while Myanmar ($548 per tonne) was amongst the lowest.

From 2014 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of prices was attained by the U.S., while the other global leaders experienced a decline in the export price figures.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform

food supply chain

Reusable Plastics: The Unsung Heroes Of The Food Supply Chain

When you think of plastic, you probably think of piles of landfill products that don’t decompose organically, and as a result, end up languishing in the ground leaching toxic chemicals into the soil.

Modern technology has meant that plastics are more than just the straws you put in your milkshake or the wrapper on your lunchtime snack. Today’s plastics come in all shapes and sizes, including reusable, durable products used across the food supply chain market.

These products make food supply chain management more cost and time-efficient, allowing consumers to enjoy fresh, delicious produce and products quickly, and at a price they can afford.

Growing And Harvesting

In the early stages of food production, agricultural reusable plastic containers are used to grow fruits and vegetables in a safe and sanitary environment. Plastic trays are used to grow seedlings, and these are often watered using reusable plastic irrigation systems. Greenhouse covers, also made from reusable plastic, make growing plants that need climate-controlled housing, such as tomatoes or citrus fruits, safe and hygienic.

When it comes to harvesting product, plastic containers make it easier for farmers to store and transport their crops safely. Cardboard or wooden pallets can be hard to sanitize and are prone to absorbing moisture, while plastic is non-porous and can easily be cleaned after each use.

Processing and Distributing

Processing fresh produce, including fruits, vegetables and other crops, involves sorting them ready to be shipped off for use in various products such as ready meals, sauces and canned goods. Some will be sold whole, but the majority will meet customers in various different forms, so they are sorted and stored in a selection of reusable plastic food handling containers, such as IBCs, prior to being distributed to factories and stores.

Distribution is the part of the supply chain where single-use plastics get involved. The products can be transported on plastic pallets and crates, which are reusable, but they are delivered to customers in single-use packaging. As DeMaso of Lipman Family Farms explains:

“Single-use plastic is hard to get rid of when sending to consumers in the produce industry. We need to make sure food safety and sanitation are on-point, so we’re not trading contaminants. Disposable plastic is a problem, [so] it’s a matter of making sure we are using as little as possible.”

Making the Food Supply Chain More Sustainable

As this article highlights, the main issue the food supply chain faces when it comes to sustainability is its reliance at the end of the process on single-use plastic packaging. Justin Bean, the Business Development and Sales Manager at Reusable Transport Packaging, believes that reusable food packaging is the future, and that food producers should embrace it throughout their supply chain. This approach will help to reduce the food supply chain’s reliance on single-use plastics.

“Farmers still spend a lot of money on single-use corrugated and or single-use plastics for distribution to retailers. Our pay per use or milkman model allows users to cut out single-use packaging waste, save money, and use a better RTP (Reusable Transport Package).”

A move towards reusable plastic packaging throughout the food supply chain will allow the market to reduce its impact on the environment and still keep food fresh and affordable. It’s safe to say that these revolutionary products are the future of the food supply chain.


Reusable Transport Packaging is a re-seller, master distributor, and custom manufacturer of the broadest range of returnable and reusable plastic packaging available today. We carry thousands of products and boast an inventory that is readily available, with national and international coverage.