IoT & Food Blockchain for Food Supply Chain

The IoT Applications and advanced technology interventions in the Food and Agri Sector in India maturing at a quick pace, the sustainable technology implementations are becoming widespread to address the complex issues like in the case of ‘Food Grain Distribution Value Chain’. Right from the Source@Farm to retail ‘Point of Sale & Consumption’. Especially for the organization of size and scale of operations like FCI (Food Corporation of India), McCain, Cargill  etc… it’s imperative to look at the end to end food-chain operations in this perspective.

What really IoT can do, is to address the respective challenges through-out the value chain of ‘Post-Harvest’. And what ‘Block-Chain’ can do, is to build on the top required ‘Transparency’ while the ‘Ownership of Goods’ exchange the hands. Thus accurately pinning the responsibility to the holder of food grain at a specified time within the chain before it moves to the next hand, including Transportation, Logistics & Storage.

This holistic approach, if adopted in spirit, will greatly help in conserving the food, by minimizing losses at every stage, and build overall food security. The impact can be humongous!

The reasoning and approach for building a cohesive system is the main proposition of this article.

Top 3 reasons of food grain losses today are –  

I) Loading & Unloading, II) Spoilage during Storage, III) Theft & Adulteration

Each of them can be dealt with by combining the technologies available in IoT & Blockchain in a way that is simpler & easy to adopt. However, that requires a due consideration to the activities and QA Process and the basic enablement through mechanization, physical equipment’s & tools.

Mechanization has been long existing. It’s the first basic building block before we truly embark on this New-Age-Technology-Journey. But, the benefits offered by basic mechanization itself has been largely missing in the Food-Agri-Sector in India, pushing it back as many years on the Technology Adoption Curve. As a society, today, we have a challenge here to stretch on both side, building the maturity as well as making technology adoption easy for the users. Else, it’s difficult to unleash the benefits offered by IoT & Blockchain.

Here is an approach, with an attempt to lift the End-to-end Value chain of ‘Post Harvest Food Distribution’, which may help to solve myriads of challenges. 

Stage-1: Mechanized Bin as Single Unit of Value for On-Farm Harvest, handling and storage.

One of the Bangalore based design startup has already addressed this – was featured in PM’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ and received an award for their invention, but virtually lost in the next step for commercial adoption. Such full-functional-mechanized Bin solves many problems together at one go: (1) Easy handling, Loading / Unloading by women workforce (majority in farm operation). (2) No Spillage / Wastage due to the very design of such BINs. (3) Bin act as a Single Unit of Value for Goods contained inside. (4) Stacking for Easy Transportation – on Tractor or Bullock-Kart. (5) Facilitated storage /retrieval Using Simple Rack & Chain-Pulley System at local godowns. – 1000’s of Such Bins can be easily stacked on above another and without risk of “spoilage due to pressure and heat”. Easy retrieval of individual Bins. (6) Ideal Denomination of Grain for distribution across the chain @ 200kg / 500kg / 1000Kg. (7) Enhanced Security Theft Identification and reducing the risk of losses / adulteration. (8) Lastly – Enabling the next level of IoT and Blockchain as required to trigger the Right Size Unit of Grain with its value stored.

Stage-2: IOT Enablement for On Farm QA and Market Price Linkage

–         On Farm Extended Storage. Such IOT-GRAIN-BIN inbuilt with Insect Trap helps in extending on-farm storage life-span. In case of any pest attack is contained within the single BIN without spreading to whole stock along with an alert.

–         Kicking off the Block-chain @Unit Value of the BIN – IoT Enabled Camera Capture Grain Image for respective BIN and connected with Cloud-AI to provide the Grade, Variety and other measures for pricing.

–         Connected with Commodity Exchange / Stock Prices – helps accurately encrypting the Value of Goods Stored in the BIN on the day of Harvest or As Shipped by Farmer from the Farm.

–         Precise Geo-Based Location identification – both – while in transit and inside the warehouse for tracking & identification of individual BIN.

–         Early alert of Spoilage & Pest Attack. IoT Sensors capturing the parameters on hourly / daily basis like CO2, Moisture, Temperature, Variety & Type of Grain, Pest Density Captured by Camera at the end of Insect Trap.

Stage-3: Block-Chain Enabled Process from Farm to Warehouse to Retail Stores

–         Resulting in much higher income for Farmers, compared to today’s practices. Balanced Negotiated Pricing based on Commodity Index and the Value of Goods on the date of Sale. Available – through stage-2 connected IoT above.

–         Online Connected Banking – is already in place – for the LR Receipt based transfer to Farmer’s bank account, which can be linked online with such system.

–         Encryption of Grain Quality parameters (as well as pricing parameters) at respective invoicing and change of ownership. Embedded in the IoT Based Device attached inside the BIN.

Stage-4: Connected AI (Artificial Intelligence) for Demand –Supply Based Logistics across State & Country.

The ultimate aim for food security point of view, is to achieve a National Intelligent Grain Supply System by FCI as envisioned above, with the precise knowledge of Individual BINs (location, variety, time of Harvest and Quality Condition, Health, Value etc…) can help in many ways : (a) Demand Based planning and Supply – reduced transportation and lead time as the nearest supply can be identified easily by the software. (b) Reduced Requirement of Storage at Central Warehouses. (c) Reduced Storage in the Heavy Bulky Systems, which requires costly maintenance and results in higher spoilage.

If in India, we want to truly achieve this, FCI like Organizations need to take a lead. Starting small through R&D or CSR budget – practically this is main reason for non-starter for the program of this nature to prove sustainable commercial operations; rest is available within the system. Local Godowns needs to be strengthened with “IoT-Block-Chain- Grain-Bins” to enable farmer’s adoption by issuing them such re-usable IoT Enabled BINs on Loan at Zero or minimal cost.  

A Proof of concept and MVP can be worked out for implementation – if anyone sees a commercial point in this story – WELCOME!

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