Digital Technologies Can Protect Input Companies
Traceability throughout the agri-food value chain has typically been consumer led. Up-chain partners in the supply chain are motivated to increase traceability and ensure the data flows both down-chain and up-chain. Over the past five years, major agri-food companies have spent billions on lawsuits that question the use of agricultural inputs and crop protection products. Inconsistency, confusion, and difficulty with product label compliance has increased public distrust of agrochemical usage leading to lawsuits against the manufacturers. However, because of the advancements of on farm data collection, ag input manufacturers may be the next to benefit by mitigating the potential negative impacts product and application lawsuits can have on bottom lines.
There currently no consistent and immediate way to authenticate whether a product, or its user is at fault for environmental or physical harm caused by a pesticide or fertilizer application. Technologies like on-farm weather stations, Internet of Things sensors (IoT), and environmental monitoring algorithms can all be utilized to collect information about application timing and overlay it with recorded conditions. This data can be used to validate compliance with use requirements, label guidelines, and crop insurance planting dates.
Traceability on the Farm
Farmers generally receive increased on-farm data collection with skepticism. However, traceability technologies may offer farmers many potential benefits. In-field IoT technologies can offer farmers unprecedented real-time understanding of crop conditions and field specific weather information. This can be harnessed to ensure that input applications were performed at a time with minimal environmental loss. Combined with low carbon products, these practices can push the industry towards carbon neutrality, a selling point to consumers.
Traceability efforts can also allow farmers growing premium products a channel to track and confirm their production practices, cutting back on food fraud. According to a USDA summary, 147 organic operations have been exposed as fraudulent since 2011. These operations took advantage of the inability to constantly validate and trace all the goods which pass through the certification program. Stricter guidelines and protocol validation would reduce the supply of fraudulent goods in the premium sectors, increasing the margins for good-faith actors.