Ending Food Waste in the Supply Chain with IoT

A third of produce in the global food supply chain never reaches the end consumer. Fruit gets bruised, crops spoil, waste happens. But this is far more waste than anyone involved in food supply is happy with. Can the Internet of Things (loT) bring about the change that the food supply chain sorely needs? 


The figure above, which comes courtesy of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, equates to 1.3 billion tons of food waste and almost US$ 1 trillion in losses. Sounds bad, right? But it’s even worse when you consider that our booming population means we need 50% more food by 2030. 

The vast majority of global food waste happens before it even reaches the consumer. There’s not just one cause, either. From field to transport and retailing, food is at risk at every stage. 


A supply chain powered by the IoT has the potential to minimize product waste and save organizations throughout the supply chain millions of dollars.

How? By providing real-time alerts and bidirectional communication between connected devices at every key point in the chain. IoT-connected devices can be placed throughout the supply chain (in containers, in storage warehouses, on ships, etc.), to enable companies to monitor and react to conditions that threaten the life of produce.

Ultimately, these devices can be particularly effective in the cold-chain, where food damage occurs most. India, for example, suffers up to $4.4 billion of losses every year when fruit and vegetables are not kept at the correct temperature.

With an IoT-powered supply chain, if the cold-chain does fail, organizations have the opportunity to fix it. Let’s say a food retailer is tracking a shipment of fruit from India. It is stored overnight in an air-conditioned warehouse, which should keep the fruit at the right temperature. This time, however, the air conditioning fails. Usually, no one would notice until the next day; by which time the fruit had spoiled. With an IoT connected supply chain, however, both the logistics company and the retailer can get a real-time alert as soon as the air conditioning fails. This is because connected devices can track an array of critical variables such as temperature, CO2 levels, light, and humidity. When the alert goes off, both companies have time to notify the right people and have the cargo moved to a new warehouse.

With an IoT-powered supply chain, companies can significantly reduce the level of food waste they experience by ensuring that produce is always kept at the right temperature. This won’t just dramatically decrease the amount of global food waste. It can also have a measurable impact on companies’ bottom lines. Less waste means more produce being sold. That means more revenue. It’s in companies’ interests to get on top of the global food waste crisis and IoT provides the perfect solution.