More than a dozen colleges and companies have joined a consortium under the guidance of the University of Wolverhampton, to pilot RFID technology as it tracks the movements of fish, wine, pork and cheese through production and on to retailers.
A European project overseen by the University of Wolverhampton and a consortium of universities, technical institutes and commercial entities is determining how radio frequency identification technology can benefit the perishable-goods supply chain. The project, known as Farm to Fork (F2F), was launched last year, with half of its funding provided by the European Commission’s ICT Policy Support Program—aimed at stimulating innovation and competitiveness—which includes a half-dozen pilots throughout Europe to track pork, fish, wine and cheese through the production process and on to stores.
The project’s objective is to determine how well RFID can be used to improve supply chain visibility, provide authentication of food’s origin, reduce the amount of waste due to spoilage or other supply chain problems (by tracking environmental conditions), and increase the efficiency of the supply chain itself. The pilots, which all employ EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) passive RFID tags (including Confidex’s Halo tag; UPM RFID’s ShortDipole, DogBone, Web and Hammer models; and Alien Technology’s Squiggle tag) and readers, are designed to determine whether the benefits gained from the RFID data will provide a return on investment for users. In August of this year, the project’s participants began deploying the RFID technology, which will remain operational until August 2012. At that time, the participants and the university will review the results, calculate the ways in which RFID technology may have improved the supply chain, and publish their findings on the Farm to Fork Web site.
By tracking every step of the food production process, the next time people start getting sick from cantaloupes, it will be much easier to find which farms are clean, and which are responsible.
Food contamination has been in the news recently, and for good reason; at this moment, people in the U.S. are still getting sick from cantaloupe tainted with listeria. Every year, there are over 76 million food-related illnesses. And at least some of them could be prevented if suppliers used more comprehensive tracking systems.
Case in point: Using technology from IBM and food safety-technology company N2N Global, fruit and vegetable co-op Cherry Central can look at a bottle of its juice and tell you what oranges went into it, when the oranges were harvested, where they were harvested, who harvested them, where they were located through the entire process, when they were transported, what transport vehicle was used, and who the oranges were sent to. All of the data can be viewed and analyzed in real-time, courtesy of IBM’s analytics capabilities.
Every time a food product is moved or touched by someone new, supply chain data can be updated via mobile phone with information about date, time, location, temperature, and food safety compliance.
Mobile technology is changing the lives of farmers everywhere, which will play a fundamental role in the 70% increase of food production that is needed to support the projected 9 billion people by 2050.
Deanna Krinn via Seedstock
‘Connected Agriculture,’ the title of a recent report by Vodafone and Accenture seeks to highlight the growing importance of farmers’ access to mobile communication in isolated areas of some of the world’s poorest countries.
The report found that making mobile data services such as weather forecasts, commodity market information and mobile banking available to farmers in the developing world could potentially increase world farmers’ wages by an additional $138 billion by 2020. Such technology is especially important to farmers in these areas as they often lack the tools necessary to obtain accurate weather information for planting and harvesting, do not have access to information that would enable them to keep up-to-date with the most recent farming techniques, and are often confronted with the challenge of having to traveling to and from larger urban areas in order to complete simple banking transactions like obtaining micro-loans.
A sensible trend: farm-to-restaurant-table, where the farm is owned by the restaurant:
Liza de Guia via HuffPo
At Egg, the word “comfort” isn’t taken lightly, and diners who want a taste of the South done authentically and simply know to come, and keep coming back here. They’ve got homemade buttermilk biscuits & gravy, heaping servings of the tastiest grits, juicy fried chicken, Carolina kale, pulled pork, hot ham, pimento cheese and, of course, eggs, lots of eggs. Up until three years ago, the restaurant worked closely with local farmers to provide the fresh produce featured on their seasonal menus. Now, they are able to provide almost all the vegetables they need for their dishes from their own 6-acre farm, Goatfell Farm, located 2.5 hours from the restaurant in upstate New York - a personal, passion project that George [Weld, owner/chef] had been thinking about for many years.
I bet we will see hundreds of farm-to-table restaurants in NYC alone, in the next few years.
Not only is the new Riverpark farm one of the largest urban farms in New York, it is the city’s most urban farm, which is to say, it is the only one which functions (and thrives) in the throes of a truly urban environment. Developed through a partnership between the Riverpark restaurant and the Alexandria Center for Life Science, the farm covers 15,000 square feet of a suspended construction site at 430 East 29th Street near the East River.
Riverpark employs two full-time farmers to tend the farm’s 6,000 plants, which include 85 varieties of fruits, vegetables, and herbs, growing in movable planters (milk crates). The modular system of planting in milk crates allows the farmers, as well as assistants from the kitchen, to easily move and arrange the produce according to favorable conditions, such as sunlight and wind, and even aesthetic considerations, given that dining tables will soon sit in the midst of the farm to take advantage of the site’s views to the river and the city. The system also makes the entire farm easily portable, which it will have to be when construction work on the Alexandria Center’s west tower resumes. When that happens, the farm will relocate to another part of the center’s grounds.
I am most fascinated with the the modular planters made from repurposed milk crates, which is a great example of low foodtech: small innovations taking advantage of materials or techniques that are new to the world of food production. Here, a specially formulated growing medium, composed of top soil, peat moss, and perlite, is placed in 1 feet square milk crates, and lined with a landscaper’s fabric to keep dirt in and let water drain. This means the farm is portable, since the many crates can be tracked to a new site if needed, or moved around on site to take advantage of conditions.
Every city and town has lots available for this sort of farming, and it need not involve ‘improving’ the land, or tearing up parking lots. All that is needed is a water source, which could be arranged in a variety of ways.
You’ve heard of paint by numbers? Get ready for feed-the-world by numbers. Dutch agricultural company PlantLab wants to change almost everything you know about growing plants. Instead of outdoors, they want farms to be in skyscrapers, warehouses, or underground using hydroponics or other forms of controlled environments. Instead of sunlight they use red and blue LEDs. Water? They need just 10% of the traditional requirements. At every stage of their high tech process, PlantLab monitors thousands of details (163,830 reports per second!) with advanced sensors to create the perfect environment for each individual type of crop. In short, they create a high tech ‘plant paradise’. See it in action in the videos below, followed by plenty of pics of their tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, etc. PlantLab’s revolutionary approach to agriculture may be able to leverage math and science to create a better food supply for the world’s escalating population. Fresher, local, more efficient…and they supposedly taste better too!
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