Investment in spice traceability is a customer need and essential for sustainability of the spice industry

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Today, customers and consumers are more informed and inquisitive to look backward in finding the origin and safety of the food they consume, look around for awareness and look forward to lead healthy lives.

In fact, the digital platform is one of the major decision-making platform of 21st century which has the power to collect, store, process, manage, disseminate all kind of data and empower consumer to make informed decisions.  Food labelling and bar coding, is just the beginning.

Traceability or ‘Going back to roots’ is the backward integration of information. It means the ability to track food that will be used for consumption through all stages of production, processing and distribution. Tracebility is way of responding to potential risk that can arise in food/Spice, to ensure that foods are safe for citizens to consume and reduces challenges incurred in oversea shipping, exports and certifications.

In agriculture business, traceability is a complex issue and when it comes to spices it becomes more complex.In the spice context, such as dried seeds, fruits, berries, leaves, roots or bark of plants grown as herbs, shrubs, climbers, cumin, chilli, black pepper, oregano, ginger, and cinnamon and trees which are used to enhance food flavors across the world and agricultural product such as culinary herbs may be contaminated by pathogens, naturally occurring toxins such as mycotoxins, agrochemicals such as pesticides, and accidental contaminants.

Due to such importance in our daily food and eating habits, spices have become essential for culinary and medicinal purposes in several regions around the world, the trading of these spices has been an important commercial activity since ancient times and a mean of economic development.

Unfortunately, many agriculture related business still keeping manual records that are not always an easy or efficient way to locate a problem. Often these actions are not traced and sometimes it is costly and time-consuming process to retrace the producer. This leads to huge business loss due to rejection at the customer end as well as well as inability of businesses to increase the export horizon and be global exporters in true sense.

So, what need to be done?

Technology solutions has been an enabler to ensure quality management and traceability by integrating all data from producer to consumer through out the value chain. Business who have adopted technology have efficiently managed their farmers, take care of the IPM and chemical application schedules, PHI , Chemical residue helping them in building efficiency in their entire production , processing and exports operations.  Technology can help maintain the integrity of the traceability chain so that it will be possible to identify the materials and other ingredient used in the process.

Benefits

  • Traceability can be added to the value chain of farming via farm analytics and OQ coding of the agriculture produce, thus aids in following various certificate compliances globally.
  • A system not only determines traceability of farm produce but even helps in early decision making due to harvest prediction and follow ups on the package of practices defined for agriculture and monitored through the web and mobile applications.
  • Helps enable management cost, operational efficiency and market expansion for companies due to processes followed which are transparent and defined.
  • Traceability solutions helps remove out of date product losses, lower inventory levels, and raise the effectiveness of logistics and distribution operations.
  • Improved customer confidence also helps with branding and improved brand equity through word of mouth within the industry.

Methodology

  1. Need Assessment :  The sector, the supplier profile, customer requirements (contractual requirements) and regulatory requirements. Identify and evaluate the internal and external data that needs to be traced and define the parameters of traceability.
  2. Assess internal capacities : Review the data that is recorded for production management, customer relations, marketing, and accounting. Compare with the specifications of the external requirements.
  3. Prepare : Prepare  a traceability action plan. Articulate the benefits to the company and customer
  4. Set in place a project: Put together a team, working methodology, schedule, budget and reporting. Using agile methodology and continuous testing to provide timely and quality outcome . Assess the robustness of the system and periodically review the system with changes in context, clientele, suppliers, processes, products, and/or regulations. 

Tools and Technologies

Traceability initiatives rely on technologies to provide efficient and accurate ways to track and trace products and their movement across the supply chain. This includes technology for product identification, information capture, analysis, storage and transmission of data as well as overall systems integration. Such systems include hardware such as measuring/sensing equipment, identification tags and labels, with remote sensing capabilities. All these are then stored over cloud server and further data algorithms are carried out for valuable farm insights.

Implementation Challenges

  • Cost :  Traceability-related costs include services, technology and software costs, changes in processes, training and ongoing operating costs
  • Skill and implementation : Need to rely on many smallholder farmers. Related support associations may not have the capacity to provide the necessary orientation and training the producers would need to create traceability documentation and set in place the requisite systems and processes
  • Multiple requirements : Each buyer may also have their own requirements from suppliers, including slightly different documentation that results in duplicated or time-consuming effort

Overcoming challenges

Applying  ( Web-Mobile-Cloud-Analytic platform)  in traceability systems which includes information systems management; scanning and digital technology for product identification, image capture, storage and display; biosensors for quality; and geospatial tracking technology. Meeting the needs of medium-scale farms and larger agribusinesses. Making rural access inexpensive and robust combining emerging and traditional technologies to overcome constraints, organizational design that brings together partners with specific value proposition

Conclusion

As the use of spices continues to expand and develop it is now even more important to ensure that all stages of the supply chain play their role in ensuring safe spice products, which are free from potential hazards, are provided to the global consumer market.

Additional investment is necessary for productivity and growth, but probably not as expensive as the financial impacts which eat market share, reduce revenue and increase cost.

“ Decision is left to us whether we want to grow in the fast  changing market and provide reliable and relevant information to all the stakeholders of Agri value chain”

Kunal Prasad (Co-Founder & COO- CropIn Technology)

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