Written by Ana P., Yoni E.
Field-to-the-Table. How traceability in the food supply chain may change our daily life.
From the first crop in the field to the food on our plate, we – customers – demand transparency, security, and an ethical food supply chain overall. Not only do we demand it for the sake of our own health but also for the environment. Customers want to make an informed and responsible purchase, and know-how and where their food was produced, in what conditions was it stored and delivered, and what is the quality of the food they are consuming.
Considering that most of our food is not produced locally, there are many things that can happen during transit in the supply chain. For example inappropriate storage conditions. Do we really know if the salad or pre-packaged fresh food we just bought is still in a good eatable condition? Or worse, are they safe to eat? The WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that 600 million people annually fall ill due to contaminated food. This is a challenge that presents a global concern for authorities and companies alike and has already led to tighter regulations.
Luckily advances in paper electronics and smart packaging technology are used to develop cost-effective solutions that could already be implemented in the near future on every product and help consumers be better informed, and companies to be compliant with regulations as well as to maintain an excellent product level. Such smart tags will not only carry information on the source of the raw materials and how the product was made, but could also be used to know exactly where each package is located in the supply chain, so fast and easy recalls could be executed if a problem occurs, or even detect changes in the product freshness or condition and alert the supermarket that the expiry date is close, so the price could be dropped, preventing food waste and economic losses.
In this regard, efficient tracing and monitoring of products in the food supply chain also carries significant social and economic benefits as it allows prevention of food fraud (with associated costs of about €30 billion each year) and reduction of food waste, which amounts to 143 billion Euro/year in Europe-only.
It could be expected that smart product tags will be produced in large amounts and will therefore be required to be not only extremely cost-effective but also to have a sustainable end of life. This means that silicon chips are out of the question due to their inherent limitations in availability, and non-sustainability and that these devices will have to be based on “paper electronics” – using mass printing of minimal amounts of conductive materials on paper.
AlmaScience and its industrial partners including the navigator company and the Portuguese mint (INCM) have identified the potential in such technologies and are diligently working on developing such devices, in partnerships and pilot testing with multiple end-users.
To learn more and for partnerships contact
Dr. Yoni Engel
Business Development Manager