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Analytics and measurements: A recipe for sustainable food chains

James Kobielus | Jan. 12, 2015
Our food chain is full of waste, but widely distributed sensors and big data analytics together hold potential for dramatic conservation of resources.

Precision agriculture is all about helping cultivators to plan their next annual campaign all the way from sowing to reaping. Farmers can optimize their planting, irrigation, harvesting, and other operational decisions using data gathered from farm-strewn sensors. This data might be measurements of soil, weather, irrigation, fertilizer, and pesticides. In addition, it might include multispectral aerial images of farm fields gathered from satellites, airplanes, and drones.

If we consider the aggregate decisions of all farmers in any growing season, a lot of natural resources might be wasted if the right decisions aren't made at every stage in the process. Encouraging sustainable practices demands a constant public-education campaign targeted at the various roles that different parties play in the journey from farm to fork.

As this article states, more than 70 percent of the world's fresh water is used in trying to get food from farms to your table. You may shrug off that metric until you realize that a larger percentage of U.S. food crops are grown in regions - California and the Great Plains - still in the throes of a long-running drought. Conserving the limited water resources of these environments is critical to everyone's survival.

Other areas of food-chain waste can be reduced through analytics embedded in other end-to-end chains. Improved weather modeling can reduce weather-related crop damage. Geospatial analytics can reduce waste of water and fertilizers in the cultivation process. Supply-chain analytics can reduce spoilage in the distribution of food to factories and stores. Predictive demand planning can reduce the risk of food going unpurchased and being discarded before it goes bad.

Consider these analytics-driven practices as the proverbial "cookbook" for sustainable food chain management campaigns in the modern world.

Source: InfoWorld


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