Food sustainability and waste are global issues, and some of the most technologically advanced countries are wasting the most food. According to a study conducted by FeedingAmerica.org, $72 billion worth of food, or 218 billion pounds in total, is wasted in America every year. TheGuardian.com reports that £13 billion worth of food was wasted in the UK in 2015. Luckily, food industries from farms to grocery stores are implementing IoT technology to monitor and reduce food waste and increase sustainability in inventive new ways. Vertical farming, cold chain advancements, and fruit and vegetable sensors promise a future with less waste and fresher food.
How IoT Benefits Farming
We have written in the past about how IoT improves traditional agriculture, but there is a new, more sustainable farming method that relies on IoT sensors, data aggregation, and analytics: vertical farming.
Vertical farming occurs indoors where light, water, and nutrient levels can be monitored carefully and regulated via IoT sensors. With IoT sensors connected to every plant, growers can aggregate data to pinpoint the ideal growing conditions for each crop. They can use sensor data to determine the best time to harvest produce for a longer shelf life at the grocery store. And grocery stores could even share stock information and databases with growers to determine demand and plant growing schedules.
In a vertical farm, fruits and vegetables grow on trays that can be stacked on top of each other to reduce the geographical footprint traditional farming creates. Vertical farming is an ideal solution for lowering CO2 emissions and food waste in packed urban corridors because it requires less transportation than traditional farming.
IoT's Impact on Food Transportation and Storage
Another IoT concept we’ve covered before, the cold chain, is essential for transporting temperature sensitive food items, such as frozen food and fragile produce. Even if food is created and grown in the best possible conditions, food degradation can occur from temperature fluctuations during transport and storage.
According to CIO.com, Kroger is combatting food waste in the cold chain by implementing frozen and refrigerated food monitoring across its entire chain of stores. Kroger monitors its cold food storage units with sensors that check temperatures every 30 minutes to keep food fresh. These sensors also provide insight into malfunctioning refrigeration units so that even if a compressor goes out or a defrost cycle runs too long, they immediately can fix the issue before food is wasted. IoT refrigeration is a boon for all grocery store operators as it allows them to reduce food waste and the losses that come along with it.
Know Exactly How Fresh Your Food is with IoT
The future of IoT food technology will bring monitoring to the forefront of consumer consciousness. In 2012, MIT developed a sensor that detects ethylene, a gas that plants give off as they ripen. MIT’s sensor could be deployed in the produce sections of grocery stores to give customers more accurate information about the freshness of fruits and vegetables. For example, if a grocery store detects that its produce may spoil soon, the store could lower its prices on that particular produce and inform customers that the produce should be used as soon as possible. Direct information on the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables allows grocery stores to efficiently plan pricing and produce turnover practices while providing customers with the information needed to reduce food waste.
Once the customer takes the produce home, it’s possible that their refrigerator could include sensors as well. The future of smart technology will allow a fridge to tell its owner when it detects produce or meat is going bad, lowering the likelihood of food waste or illness.
Are you interested in finding the right network for your cold chain? Do you need a partner to develop an IoT food storage product? Contact Aeris today.