It is no secret that our society is pretty wasteful. According to UN FAO data, an approximate $1 trillion in produced crops is annually lost at the post-harvest level. This includes the various stages from farm, to shelf, to fork. With the world's population expected to reach 10.5 billion by 2050, food supplies would need to increase by 60% in order to meet demand. This presents an enormous challenge.
The availability and accessibility of food and crops could greatly improve by increasing production yields. A range of emerging technologies under the "AgTech" moniker are aiming at exactly that. Smart irrigation systems, smart insecticide and herbicide control, and precision farming methods using real-time weather data are being proposed.
But drawing a parallel with the energy sector, besides producing more our world could benefit a lot from wasting less. For this to happen, all aspects of commodity storage, pest management, quality control and logistics stand to benefit from the advent of IoT and cognitive analytics.
Even in technologically advanced regions such as the EU, post-harvest losses for grains and cereals are often more than 10%, while higher percentages are seen in developing countries in Africa or in industrialized Asia. These losses are incurred during raw material storage, processing (milling is an example) and distribution in the logistics chain.
Interestingly, the application of fumigants (such as phosphine, or PH3) is done with decades old monitoring technology, and oftentimes without monitoring at all. Phosphine is a powerful fumigant which can completely eliminate stored product pests (the usual root cause for spoilage and quality degradation) but if underdosed, or applied in too short durations, it can stop being as effective. Even worse, misapplication can lead to hardened, resistant insects that will do more damage to products and the ecosystem -- this is equivalent to a human immune system weakening from improper use of antibiotics!
A good portion of post-harvest losses can be mitigated by leveraging the IoT and novel cognitive analytics methods. Centaur has developed proprietary wireless sensors which are designed to 'sniff' crop storage conditions inside shipping containers, grain bins and storage bunkers.
The key technical hurdle of wireless transmission from confined spaces has been solved to make this happen. One of the main applications is fumigation control. Centaur sensors are intelligently monitoring the application of fumigants and are safely transmitting the data in real-time to a cognitive analytics platform. Behind the scenes, entomological models are applied to the data stream and predictive analysis is passed to the end user. This removes the guesswork and effectively de-risks pest management, thus eliminating a key root cause for wasted crops and inferior quality end products. Think of flour bugs, or weevils crawling in a bag of rice: thanks to Centaurís IoT solution, all these can now be a thing of the past.
These sensing and cognitive analytics tools can be applied in multiple places of the farm-to-shelf continuum: silos and warehouses where crops are stored can be fitted for quality monitoring and product safety purposes. Fumigation can take place in shipping containers or even in the holds of bulk ship carriers where crops and finished goods spend weeks and months in transit; there the need for constant monitoring and traceability of storage conditions is even more pronounced.
— Sotiris Bantas, President & CEO, Centaur Analytics
This is a sponsored article from Centaur Analytics, the first full-stack IoT provider of solutions that enhance the quality and safety of stored agricultural products.
Centaur will be exhibiting and presenting at the upcoming Internet of Things World event in Dublin (21-22 November 2016).
Dr. Sotiris Bantas, President & CEO, will be delivering a talk at the Ecosystem Center Stage, titled "IoT in the Farm-to-Shelf: the $1 trillion post-harvest challenge".