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From the field to the bakery: how 5G is revolutionising the food chain

23 Nov 2021
Lorenzo Forina

Lorenzo Forina

Business Director, Vodafone Italy

With global consumers demanding more transparency from food supply chains than ever before[1], brands are turning to tech as a way to connect up the journey from plant to plate.

Large, fragmented ecosystems, such as agriculture and food, have always faced challenges when it comes to tracking both sustainability and quality of a product.

However, thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G, we’re able to streamline the process by leveraging real-time data and predictive algorithms to both monitor the journey from farm to consumer, as well as optimise the conditions at all stages, including growing, transportation and baking.

Planting the seed

Known by locals as the ‘temple of bread-making’, with quality and integrity of ingredients at the heart of everything it does, we partnered with Davide Longoni bakery in Milan to test out the technology.

Developed as part of our 5G trial in the city, this Smart Agriculture solution uses a 5G sensor system in the field to provide the farmer with rich insights to optimise all stages of crop production, from sowing to harvest. We tested out the solution by installing it in a field cultivated with rye in the Parco della Vettabbia in Chiaravalle, over 400km from Milan.

Using predictive algorithms based on real-time monitoring of conditions in the field, the farmer can make proactive decisions to prevent crop diseases, intervene with targeted irrigation and avoid damage to the harvest, ultimately reducing wastage of precious food and resources.

Focus on food waste

The WWF estimates that 1.2 billion tonnes of food is lost on farms, during and after harvest each year. This is equivalent to 15.3% of food produced[2].

Crop damage due to natural causes such as soil conditions, weather, and infectious diseases puts farmers on the backfoot, but this technology enables them to monitor the state of the crops very closely, allowing them to prevent damage before it happens.

Through optimising crop production in this way, we can minimise wastage during the food production phase, saving valuable time and money for the farmer and drastically reducing subsequent greenhouse gases caused by food waste – of which there is 2.2 giga tonnes of CO2 emissions, equivalent to the emissions from 75% of all cars driven in the US and Europe over a year.[3]

Benefits in the bakery

Using multiple technologies in collaboration with IBM, the solution guarantees efficiencies extending further than the cultivation stage. Thanks to the ultra-wide bandwidth and very low latency of 5G, we can use data and images to monitor all stages of bread production.

Benefitting from multiple IBM hybrid cloud and AI technologies, as well as Blockchain, we can enhance and certify quality of the product throughout the entire supply chain, often a difficult feat with multi-layer geographically distributed supply chains such as food.

Once the flour reaches the bakery, the technology enables bread makers to evaluate the pH levels of their dough and remotely monitor the bread leavening process, optimising baking timing and conditions to produce the perfect loaf.

The conscious consumer

For customers, a high-quality end product is not the only benefit this technology can offer. It also fulfils the growing demand for supply chain transparency.

This increasing desire for transparency is borne out of the rise of the “conscious consumer” – those who strive to make purchases with a positive social, economic, or environmental impact[4]. Something that has excelled during the pandemic.

In order to make such decisions, consumers need to know where the product has come from and how it was grown.

Our solution enables the end customer to check the credentials of their purchase, from certifying organic growing conditions to verifying the location of the farm.

Looking beyond the food industry

The digitisation of agriculture and food supply chains represents a decisive step to promote greater efficiency, resilience and sustainability for the entire sector. What started in a local bakery in Milan has the potential to revolutionise not only the food industry but other similarly complex sectors as well, such as retail and the logistics industry.

Learn more about 5G’s potential to connect up the production process, transform customer experiences and make your business more sustainable.

[2]​​​​​​​​​​https://wwfint.awsassets.panda.org/downloads/driven_to_waste_summary.pdf

[3]​​​​​​​​​​https://wwfint.awsassets.panda.org/downloads/driven_to_waste_summary.pdf

[4]​​​​​​​​​​ https://bschool.pepperdine.edu/blog/posts/conscious-consumerism.htm

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