A brave new world: exploring how the Internet of Things (IoT) can help the food industry

A brave new world: exploring how the Internet of Things (IoT) can help the food industry

By
Louise Burfitt
June 22, 2021

📡 What is it?

  • The Internet of Things, also known as the IoT for short, is something you may have heard of, but not fully explored.
  • Thing is, it’s already all around you! The IoT refers to the many billions of physical devices that are now connected to the internet, gathering and broadcasting data in the process. 
  • As wireless networks have spread across the world and computer chips have decreased dramatically in price, it’s become possible to connect almost anything to the Internet of Things.
  • Have a smart toaster, fridge or coffee machine? These are all examples of devices that form part of the Internet of Things.

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Beyond the kind of appliances you’d find in a modern kitchen, the food industry is getting on board with the IoT in almost every area of the industry - from farming to restaurant management to food waste prevention. 
  • That’s pretty good news for both manufacturers and retailers, as well as consumers: used well, the IoT can help the F&B industry run smoothly in a myriad of ways, improving the quality of products, the consumer experience and the efficiency of manufacturing all at once.

🤷 Why?

  • Above all, the F&B industry’s goal is to provide high-quality food and drink products to the end consumer - and the IoT is only helping make this aim easier. Innovations that allow precise monitoring - across all areas of the food supply chain and restaurant industry - help to ensure that this ambition is reached, easily, efficiently and cost-effectively.
  • Consumers are also becoming more informed - interested in where their food has come from, how it’s been grown and more aware of foodborne hazards. Digital solutions via the IoT enable F&B companies to ensure product quality, and provide detailed information to consumers, guaranteeing sales and peace of mind. 
  • And there’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has played a role - with new restrictions on trading and movement of goods, utilising the IoT has helped companies to streamline, cut costs and work more efficiently. While increasing use of the IoT was a trend already in motion, the pandemic has significantly sped up the shift to digital and smart innovations.

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • For restaurants and the foodservice industry, the IoT is a boon - helping operators to streamline their operations, allow customers to order from the table (particularly important now thanks to COVID-19) and automate tasks, to name just a few of the myriad benefits. Various innovations help automate the food-making process, from Mellow’s smart sous-vide machine that can take orders via smartphone and chill food until the exact cooking start time to Rotimatic’s flatbread-making robot. 
  • Food safety measures are also getting an update thanks to the IoT. Cold chain logistics from field to fork is one area particularly benefiting: smart sensors like those made by Aeris and Telit allow companies to monitor food safety data in real time to make sure no corners are cut in cold chain management. 
  • IoT-enabled solutions to food waste management are also helping restaurants to cut waste and save money in the process. Switzerland’s KITRO is a fully-automated food waste management system aimed at restaurants, hotels and the like. In a similar vein, Shelf Engine utilises machine learning to help grocery stores minimise waste and out-of-stocks. 
  • The IoT is enabling the next generation of smart supermarkets more generally, too - smart shopping carts were recently trialled in Canadian grocery retailers, and a contactless shopping experience using e.g. Amazon Go is becoming more widespread, especially post-COVID. 
  • The IoT is also transforming work for those who grow and manufacture our food: the smart agriculture market size is expected to triple worldwide by 2025, to a value of $15.3 billion. Smart greenhouse tools like Growlink and Farmapp allow farmers to monitor crops with precision and adjust conditions remotely, while crop management tools like Sensegrass Inc, Arable and Semios are enabling IoT-connected precision farming.
View the database of 15+ Companies here

👀 Who? (18 companies in this space)

  • Aeris (connected cold chain monitoring, USA)
  • AQUALAB 3 (cloud-based food moisture analytics tool, USA) 
  • Arable (smart precision agriculture, USA)
  • Bevi (bottleless water dispensers, USA)
  • Drop (smart kitchen platform, Ireland)
  • Farmapp (smart greenhouse automation, USA)
  • Growlink (smart greenhouse automation, USA)
  • Hazel Technologies, Inc (IoT solution for improved food waste management, USA)
  • Ida (AI-assisted dairy production, Netherlands)
  • KITRO (fully automated food waste management system, Switzerland)
  • Mellow (smart sous-vide machine, USA)
  • qZense Labs (IoT solution for fresh food quality assessment and management, India)
  • Rotimatic (kitchen robot to encourage healthier eating, Singapore)
  • Semios (precision agriculture-as-a-service, Canada)
  • Sensegrass Inc (soil intelligence system for fertiliser management, India)
  • Shelf Engine (machine learning to help grocery stores minimise waste, USA)
  • Telit (IoT solutions for the food & beverage industry, UK)
  • Tovala (smart ovens, USA)

📈 The figures

  • The global internet of things and traceability for the food & beverage manufacturing market was worth $6bn in 2019 and could grow to $14.4bn by 2029, at a CAGR of 9.2%. 
  • In 2020, 20.6 billion devices were already connected to the Internet of Things - and that’s a number that is only growing.

 🛒 Case study: Shelf Engine

  • Seattle-based company Shelf Engine provides intelligent forecasting, based on machine learning, to help grocery stores perfect their goods ordering systems and guarantee sales.
  • Motivated by minimising waste (the grocery industry in the US is responsible for 10% of all food waste), the company is transforming how grocery retailers buy and stock highly perishable goods. 
  • Working with supermarkets and food retailers, Shelf Engine intelligent forecasting uses POS data—along with real world considerations like school holidays, local events, and the weather—to create the perfect order for grocery stores. The company is so confident in their technology that they’ll even buy back goods if they don’t sell as predicted. 
  • According to the company, satisfied clients include big names like Kroger’s, Target, Walmart and Ralph’s. Its systems are already up and running in 2,000 stores across the US.
  • In March this year, the startup announced that it has raised $41m in Series B funding, which will allow it to expand its tools to thousands of new stores in the next year and a half.
Source: Semios

🚜 Case study: Semios

  • Canadian company Semios, meanwhile, is innovating at the very start of the food production line: on the farm. 
  • They have established themselves as the leading precision farming platform for permanent crops, offering farmers precision farming-as-a-service. 
  • The Semios IoT network uses big data, machine learning and AI to improve farmers’ experience, giving growers a precise picture of how environmental and soil-based factors are influencing the quality and quantity of their yields.  
  • As a result, Semios sensors can help farmers manage issues such as pests, disease, irrigation and inclement weather conditions swiftly and efficiently.
  • The company, founded in 2010, won ‘Overall Sensor Solution of the Year’ in the Internet-of-Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) awards category at the AgTech Breakthrough Awards last year. Meanwhile, its revenues have doubled year-on-year since 2015.
  • In 2020, the company announced $75m in new funding to expand its IoT network in agriculture. 

👍 The good

  • Increased automation may have downsides, but it also means a more uniform quality of service for foodservice operators and retailers as well as an ability to delegate mundane tasks that do not need human intervention. It’s also often more efficient, saving time and money. 
  • And cost savings are in and of themselves a major benefit of using IoT-enabled tech.
  • Many of the IoT-enabled innovations in the grocery and F&B industry are also good for the environment. Food waste management systems help stores and restaurants reduce waste while intelligent farming systems can reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilisers required. 
  • Instant access to data can also help those in the F&B industry to simplify the decision-making process, and quickly deal with any problems that arise.

👎 The bad

  • As with any connected technology, there are privacy and security concerns around the use of IoT tech generally. But users can (and arguably should) put in place robust data security measures to minimise the risk of hacks.
  • Because the IoT is a relatively new concept, there is a lack of compatibility between machines - devices from different developers are not necessarily designed to ‘speak’ to one another, which can make implementation trickier.
  • Relying on software and hardware to make your life easier and run your business more smoothly, whether you own a restaurant, a grocery store or factory, is a great idea in theory, but in practice, a technological glitch could have wide-reaching consequences if you’ve come to rely on it. 
  • And lastly, the IoT means more automation. There’s many good things about that, but it also means fewer jobs for lower-skilled employees in the F&B industry.

💡 The bottom line

  • There’s little doubt that adopting IoT technologies can help companies and actors in the F&B and agricultural industries reach their potential. The benefits, when deployed correctly, are huge - from improved food safety to reduced waste, to better farming and better traceability.

How did you like today's Trends?

Love it 😁 Meh 😐 Hate it 🙁

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📡 What is it?

  • The Internet of Things, also known as the IoT for short, is something you may have heard of, but not fully explored.
  • Thing is, it’s already all around you! The IoT refers to the many billions of physical devices that are now connected to the internet, gathering and broadcasting data in the process. 
  • As wireless networks have spread across the world and computer chips have decreased dramatically in price, it’s become possible to connect almost anything to the Internet of Things.
  • Have a smart toaster, fridge or coffee machine? These are all examples of devices that form part of the Internet of Things.

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Beyond the kind of appliances you’d find in a modern kitchen, the food industry is getting on board with the IoT in almost every area of the industry - from farming to restaurant management to food waste prevention. 
  • That’s pretty good news for both manufacturers and retailers, as well as consumers: used well, the IoT can help the F&B industry run smoothly in a myriad of ways, improving the quality of products, the consumer experience and the efficiency of manufacturing all at once.

🤷 Why?

  • Above all, the F&B industry’s goal is to provide high-quality food and drink products to the end consumer - and the IoT is only helping make this aim easier. Innovations that allow precise monitoring - across all areas of the food supply chain and restaurant industry - help to ensure that this ambition is reached, easily, efficiently and cost-effectively.
  • Consumers are also becoming more informed - interested in where their food has come from, how it’s been grown and more aware of foodborne hazards. Digital solutions via the IoT enable F&B companies to ensure product quality, and provide detailed information to consumers, guaranteeing sales and peace of mind. 
  • And there’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has played a role - with new restrictions on trading and movement of goods, utilising the IoT has helped companies to streamline, cut costs and work more efficiently. While increasing use of the IoT was a trend already in motion, the pandemic has significantly sped up the shift to digital and smart innovations.

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • For restaurants and the foodservice industry, the IoT is a boon - helping operators to streamline their operations, allow customers to order from the table (particularly important now thanks to COVID-19) and automate tasks, to name just a few of the myriad benefits. Various innovations help automate the food-making process, from Mellow’s smart sous-vide machine that can take orders via smartphone and chill food until the exact cooking start time to Rotimatic’s flatbread-making robot. 
  • Food safety measures are also getting an update thanks to the IoT. Cold chain logistics from field to fork is one area particularly benefiting: smart sensors like those made by Aeris and Telit allow companies to monitor food safety data in real time to make sure no corners are cut in cold chain management. 
  • IoT-enabled solutions to food waste management are also helping restaurants to cut waste and save money in the process. Switzerland’s KITRO is a fully-automated food waste management system aimed at restaurants, hotels and the like. In a similar vein, Shelf Engine utilises machine learning to help grocery stores minimise waste and out-of-stocks. 
  • The IoT is enabling the next generation of smart supermarkets more generally, too - smart shopping carts were recently trialled in Canadian grocery retailers, and a contactless shopping experience using e.g. Amazon Go is becoming more widespread, especially post-COVID. 
  • The IoT is also transforming work for those who grow and manufacture our food: the smart agriculture market size is expected to triple worldwide by 2025, to a value of $15.3 billion. Smart greenhouse tools like Growlink and Farmapp allow farmers to monitor crops with precision and adjust conditions remotely, while crop management tools like Sensegrass Inc, Arable and Semios are enabling IoT-connected precision farming.
View the database of 15+ Companies here

👀 Who? (18 companies in this space)

  • Aeris (connected cold chain monitoring, USA)
  • AQUALAB 3 (cloud-based food moisture analytics tool, USA) 
  • Arable (smart precision agriculture, USA)
  • Bevi (bottleless water dispensers, USA)
  • Drop (smart kitchen platform, Ireland)
  • Farmapp (smart greenhouse automation, USA)
  • Growlink (smart greenhouse automation, USA)
  • Hazel Technologies, Inc (IoT solution for improved food waste management, USA)
  • Ida (AI-assisted dairy production, Netherlands)
  • KITRO (fully automated food waste management system, Switzerland)
  • Mellow (smart sous-vide machine, USA)
  • qZense Labs (IoT solution for fresh food quality assessment and management, India)
  • Rotimatic (kitchen robot to encourage healthier eating, Singapore)
  • Semios (precision agriculture-as-a-service, Canada)
  • Sensegrass Inc (soil intelligence system for fertiliser management, India)
  • Shelf Engine (machine learning to help grocery stores minimise waste, USA)
  • Telit (IoT solutions for the food & beverage industry, UK)
  • Tovala (smart ovens, USA)

📈 The figures

  • The global internet of things and traceability for the food & beverage manufacturing market was worth $6bn in 2019 and could grow to $14.4bn by 2029, at a CAGR of 9.2%. 
  • In 2020, 20.6 billion devices were already connected to the Internet of Things - and that’s a number that is only growing.

 🛒 Case study: Shelf Engine

  • Seattle-based company Shelf Engine provides intelligent forecasting, based on machine learning, to help grocery stores perfect their goods ordering systems and guarantee sales.
  • Motivated by minimising waste (the grocery industry in the US is responsible for 10% of all food waste), the company is transforming how grocery retailers buy and stock highly perishable goods. 
  • Working with supermarkets and food retailers, Shelf Engine intelligent forecasting uses POS data—along with real world considerations like school holidays, local events, and the weather—to create the perfect order for grocery stores. The company is so confident in their technology that they’ll even buy back goods if they don’t sell as predicted. 
  • According to the company, satisfied clients include big names like Kroger’s, Target, Walmart and Ralph’s. Its systems are already up and running in 2,000 stores across the US.
  • In March this year, the startup announced that it has raised $41m in Series B funding, which will allow it to expand its tools to thousands of new stores in the next year and a half.
Source: Semios

🚜 Case study: Semios

  • Canadian company Semios, meanwhile, is innovating at the very start of the food production line: on the farm. 
  • They have established themselves as the leading precision farming platform for permanent crops, offering farmers precision farming-as-a-service. 
  • The Semios IoT network uses big data, machine learning and AI to improve farmers’ experience, giving growers a precise picture of how environmental and soil-based factors are influencing the quality and quantity of their yields.  
  • As a result, Semios sensors can help farmers manage issues such as pests, disease, irrigation and inclement weather conditions swiftly and efficiently.
  • The company, founded in 2010, won ‘Overall Sensor Solution of the Year’ in the Internet-of-Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) awards category at the AgTech Breakthrough Awards last year. Meanwhile, its revenues have doubled year-on-year since 2015.
  • In 2020, the company announced $75m in new funding to expand its IoT network in agriculture. 

👍 The good

  • Increased automation may have downsides, but it also means a more uniform quality of service for foodservice operators and retailers as well as an ability to delegate mundane tasks that do not need human intervention. It’s also often more efficient, saving time and money. 
  • And cost savings are in and of themselves a major benefit of using IoT-enabled tech.
  • Many of the IoT-enabled innovations in the grocery and F&B industry are also good for the environment. Food waste management systems help stores and restaurants reduce waste while intelligent farming systems can reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilisers required. 
  • Instant access to data can also help those in the F&B industry to simplify the decision-making process, and quickly deal with any problems that arise.

👎 The bad

  • As with any connected technology, there are privacy and security concerns around the use of IoT tech generally. But users can (and arguably should) put in place robust data security measures to minimise the risk of hacks.
  • Because the IoT is a relatively new concept, there is a lack of compatibility between machines - devices from different developers are not necessarily designed to ‘speak’ to one another, which can make implementation trickier.
  • Relying on software and hardware to make your life easier and run your business more smoothly, whether you own a restaurant, a grocery store or factory, is a great idea in theory, but in practice, a technological glitch could have wide-reaching consequences if you’ve come to rely on it. 
  • And lastly, the IoT means more automation. There’s many good things about that, but it also means fewer jobs for lower-skilled employees in the F&B industry.

💡 The bottom line

  • There’s little doubt that adopting IoT technologies can help companies and actors in the F&B and agricultural industries reach their potential. The benefits, when deployed correctly, are huge - from improved food safety to reduced waste, to better farming and better traceability.

How did you like today's Trends?

Love it 😁 Meh 😐 Hate it 🙁

📡 What is it?

  • The Internet of Things, also known as the IoT for short, is something you may have heard of, but not fully explored.
  • Thing is, it’s already all around you! The IoT refers to the many billions of physical devices that are now connected to the internet, gathering and broadcasting data in the process. 
  • As wireless networks have spread across the world and computer chips have decreased dramatically in price, it’s become possible to connect almost anything to the Internet of Things.
  • Have a smart toaster, fridge or coffee machine? These are all examples of devices that form part of the Internet of Things.

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Beyond the kind of appliances you’d find in a modern kitchen, the food industry is getting on board with the IoT in almost every area of the industry - from farming to restaurant management to food waste prevention. 
  • That’s pretty good news for both manufacturers and retailers, as well as consumers: used well, the IoT can help the F&B industry run smoothly in a myriad of ways, improving the quality of products, the consumer experience and the efficiency of manufacturing all at once.

🤷 Why?

  • Above all, the F&B industry’s goal is to provide high-quality food and drink products to the end consumer - and the IoT is only helping make this aim easier. Innovations that allow precise monitoring - across all areas of the food supply chain and restaurant industry - help to ensure that this ambition is reached, easily, efficiently and cost-effectively.
  • Consumers are also becoming more informed - interested in where their food has come from, how it’s been grown and more aware of foodborne hazards. Digital solutions via the IoT enable F&B companies to ensure product quality, and provide detailed information to consumers, guaranteeing sales and peace of mind. 
  • And there’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has played a role - with new restrictions on trading and movement of goods, utilising the IoT has helped companies to streamline, cut costs and work more efficiently. While increasing use of the IoT was a trend already in motion, the pandemic has significantly sped up the shift to digital and smart innovations.

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • For restaurants and the foodservice industry, the IoT is a boon - helping operators to streamline their operations, allow customers to order from the table (particularly important now thanks to COVID-19) and automate tasks, to name just a few of the myriad benefits. Various innovations help automate the food-making process, from Mellow’s smart sous-vide machine that can take orders via smartphone and chill food until the exact cooking start time to Rotimatic’s flatbread-making robot. 
  • Food safety measures are also getting an update thanks to the IoT. Cold chain logistics from field to fork is one area particularly benefiting: smart sensors like those made by Aeris and Telit allow companies to monitor food safety data in real time to make sure no corners are cut in cold chain management. 
  • IoT-enabled solutions to food waste management are also helping restaurants to cut waste and save money in the process. Switzerland’s KITRO is a fully-automated food waste management system aimed at restaurants, hotels and the like. In a similar vein, Shelf Engine utilises machine learning to help grocery stores minimise waste and out-of-stocks. 
  • The IoT is enabling the next generation of smart supermarkets more generally, too - smart shopping carts were recently trialled in Canadian grocery retailers, and a contactless shopping experience using e.g. Amazon Go is becoming more widespread, especially post-COVID. 
  • The IoT is also transforming work for those who grow and manufacture our food: the smart agriculture market size is expected to triple worldwide by 2025, to a value of $15.3 billion. Smart greenhouse tools like Growlink and Farmapp allow farmers to monitor crops with precision and adjust conditions remotely, while crop management tools like Sensegrass Inc, Arable and Semios are enabling IoT-connected precision farming.
View the database of 15+ Companies here

👀 Who? (18 companies in this space)

  • Aeris (connected cold chain monitoring, USA)
  • AQUALAB 3 (cloud-based food moisture analytics tool, USA) 
  • Arable (smart precision agriculture, USA)
  • Bevi (bottleless water dispensers, USA)
  • Drop (smart kitchen platform, Ireland)
  • Farmapp (smart greenhouse automation, USA)
  • Growlink (smart greenhouse automation, USA)
  • Hazel Technologies, Inc (IoT solution for improved food waste management, USA)
  • Ida (AI-assisted dairy production, Netherlands)
  • KITRO (fully automated food waste management system, Switzerland)
  • Mellow (smart sous-vide machine, USA)
  • qZense Labs (IoT solution for fresh food quality assessment and management, India)
  • Rotimatic (kitchen robot to encourage healthier eating, Singapore)
  • Semios (precision agriculture-as-a-service, Canada)
  • Sensegrass Inc (soil intelligence system for fertiliser management, India)
  • Shelf Engine (machine learning to help grocery stores minimise waste, USA)
  • Telit (IoT solutions for the food & beverage industry, UK)
  • Tovala (smart ovens, USA)

📈 The figures

  • The global internet of things and traceability for the food & beverage manufacturing market was worth $6bn in 2019 and could grow to $14.4bn by 2029, at a CAGR of 9.2%. 
  • In 2020, 20.6 billion devices were already connected to the Internet of Things - and that’s a number that is only growing.

 🛒 Case study: Shelf Engine

  • Seattle-based company Shelf Engine provides intelligent forecasting, based on machine learning, to help grocery stores perfect their goods ordering systems and guarantee sales.
  • Motivated by minimising waste (the grocery industry in the US is responsible for 10% of all food waste), the company is transforming how grocery retailers buy and stock highly perishable goods. 
  • Working with supermarkets and food retailers, Shelf Engine intelligent forecasting uses POS data—along with real world considerations like school holidays, local events, and the weather—to create the perfect order for grocery stores. The company is so confident in their technology that they’ll even buy back goods if they don’t sell as predicted. 
  • According to the company, satisfied clients include big names like Kroger’s, Target, Walmart and Ralph’s. Its systems are already up and running in 2,000 stores across the US.
  • In March this year, the startup announced that it has raised $41m in Series B funding, which will allow it to expand its tools to thousands of new stores in the next year and a half.
Source: Semios

🚜 Case study: Semios

  • Canadian company Semios, meanwhile, is innovating at the very start of the food production line: on the farm. 
  • They have established themselves as the leading precision farming platform for permanent crops, offering farmers precision farming-as-a-service. 
  • The Semios IoT network uses big data, machine learning and AI to improve farmers’ experience, giving growers a precise picture of how environmental and soil-based factors are influencing the quality and quantity of their yields.  
  • As a result, Semios sensors can help farmers manage issues such as pests, disease, irrigation and inclement weather conditions swiftly and efficiently.
  • The company, founded in 2010, won ‘Overall Sensor Solution of the Year’ in the Internet-of-Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) awards category at the AgTech Breakthrough Awards last year. Meanwhile, its revenues have doubled year-on-year since 2015.
  • In 2020, the company announced $75m in new funding to expand its IoT network in agriculture. 

👍 The good

  • Increased automation may have downsides, but it also means a more uniform quality of service for foodservice operators and retailers as well as an ability to delegate mundane tasks that do not need human intervention. It’s also often more efficient, saving time and money. 
  • And cost savings are in and of themselves a major benefit of using IoT-enabled tech.
  • Many of the IoT-enabled innovations in the grocery and F&B industry are also good for the environment. Food waste management systems help stores and restaurants reduce waste while intelligent farming systems can reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilisers required. 
  • Instant access to data can also help those in the F&B industry to simplify the decision-making process, and quickly deal with any problems that arise.

👎 The bad

  • As with any connected technology, there are privacy and security concerns around the use of IoT tech generally. But users can (and arguably should) put in place robust data security measures to minimise the risk of hacks.
  • Because the IoT is a relatively new concept, there is a lack of compatibility between machines - devices from different developers are not necessarily designed to ‘speak’ to one another, which can make implementation trickier.
  • Relying on software and hardware to make your life easier and run your business more smoothly, whether you own a restaurant, a grocery store or factory, is a great idea in theory, but in practice, a technological glitch could have wide-reaching consequences if you’ve come to rely on it. 
  • And lastly, the IoT means more automation. There’s many good things about that, but it also means fewer jobs for lower-skilled employees in the F&B industry.

💡 The bottom line

  • There’s little doubt that adopting IoT technologies can help companies and actors in the F&B and agricultural industries reach their potential. The benefits, when deployed correctly, are huge - from improved food safety to reduced waste, to better farming and better traceability.

How did you like today's Trends?

Love it 😁 Meh 😐 Hate it 🙁

📡 What is it?

  • The Internet of Things, also known as the IoT for short, is something you may have heard of, but not fully explored.
  • Thing is, it’s already all around you! The IoT refers to the many billions of physical devices that are now connected to the internet, gathering and broadcasting data in the process. 
  • As wireless networks have spread across the world and computer chips have decreased dramatically in price, it’s become possible to connect almost anything to the Internet of Things.
  • Have a smart toaster, fridge or coffee machine? These are all examples of devices that form part of the Internet of Things.

🤔 Tell me more…

  • Beyond the kind of appliances you’d find in a modern kitchen, the food industry is getting on board with the IoT in almost every area of the industry - from farming to restaurant management to food waste prevention. 
  • That’s pretty good news for both manufacturers and retailers, as well as consumers: used well, the IoT can help the F&B industry run smoothly in a myriad of ways, improving the quality of products, the consumer experience and the efficiency of manufacturing all at once.

🤷 Why?

  • Above all, the F&B industry’s goal is to provide high-quality food and drink products to the end consumer - and the IoT is only helping make this aim easier. Innovations that allow precise monitoring - across all areas of the food supply chain and restaurant industry - help to ensure that this ambition is reached, easily, efficiently and cost-effectively.
  • Consumers are also becoming more informed - interested in where their food has come from, how it’s been grown and more aware of foodborne hazards. Digital solutions via the IoT enable F&B companies to ensure product quality, and provide detailed information to consumers, guaranteeing sales and peace of mind. 
  • And there’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has played a role - with new restrictions on trading and movement of goods, utilising the IoT has helped companies to streamline, cut costs and work more efficiently. While increasing use of the IoT was a trend already in motion, the pandemic has significantly sped up the shift to digital and smart innovations.

🔍 How is it shaping up?

  • For restaurants and the foodservice industry, the IoT is a boon - helping operators to streamline their operations, allow customers to order from the table (particularly important now thanks to COVID-19) and automate tasks, to name just a few of the myriad benefits. Various innovations help automate the food-making process, from Mellow’s smart sous-vide machine that can take orders via smartphone and chill food until the exact cooking start time to Rotimatic’s flatbread-making robot. 
  • Food safety measures are also getting an update thanks to the IoT. Cold chain logistics from field to fork is one area particularly benefiting: smart sensors like those made by Aeris and Telit allow companies to monitor food safety data in real time to make sure no corners are cut in cold chain management. 
  • IoT-enabled solutions to food waste management are also helping restaurants to cut waste and save money in the process. Switzerland’s KITRO is a fully-automated food waste management system aimed at restaurants, hotels and the like. In a similar vein, Shelf Engine utilises machine learning to help grocery stores minimise waste and out-of-stocks. 
  • The IoT is enabling the next generation of smart supermarkets more generally, too - smart shopping carts were recently trialled in Canadian grocery retailers, and a contactless shopping experience using e.g. Amazon Go is becoming more widespread, especially post-COVID. 
  • The IoT is also transforming work for those who grow and manufacture our food: the smart agriculture market size is expected to triple worldwide by 2025, to a value of $15.3 billion. Smart greenhouse tools like Growlink and Farmapp allow farmers to monitor crops with precision and adjust conditions remotely, while crop management tools like Sensegrass Inc, Arable and Semios are enabling IoT-connected precision farming.
View the database of 15+ Companies here

👀 Who? (18 companies in this space)

  • Aeris (connected cold chain monitoring, USA)
  • AQUALAB 3 (cloud-based food moisture analytics tool, USA) 
  • Arable (smart precision agriculture, USA)
  • Bevi (bottleless water dispensers, USA)
  • Drop (smart kitchen platform, Ireland)
  • Farmapp (smart greenhouse automation, USA)
  • Growlink (smart greenhouse automation, USA)
  • Hazel Technologies, Inc (IoT solution for improved food waste management, USA)
  • Ida (AI-assisted dairy production, Netherlands)
  • KITRO (fully automated food waste management system, Switzerland)
  • Mellow (smart sous-vide machine, USA)
  • qZense Labs (IoT solution for fresh food quality assessment and management, India)
  • Rotimatic (kitchen robot to encourage healthier eating, Singapore)
  • Semios (precision agriculture-as-a-service, Canada)
  • Sensegrass Inc (soil intelligence system for fertiliser management, India)
  • Shelf Engine (machine learning to help grocery stores minimise waste, USA)
  • Telit (IoT solutions for the food & beverage industry, UK)
  • Tovala (smart ovens, USA)

📈 The figures

  • The global internet of things and traceability for the food & beverage manufacturing market was worth $6bn in 2019 and could grow to $14.4bn by 2029, at a CAGR of 9.2%. 
  • In 2020, 20.6 billion devices were already connected to the Internet of Things - and that’s a number that is only growing.

 🛒 Case study: Shelf Engine

  • Seattle-based company Shelf Engine provides intelligent forecasting, based on machine learning, to help grocery stores perfect their goods ordering systems and guarantee sales.
  • Motivated by minimising waste (the grocery industry in the US is responsible for 10% of all food waste), the company is transforming how grocery retailers buy and stock highly perishable goods. 
  • Working with supermarkets and food retailers, Shelf Engine intelligent forecasting uses POS data—along with real world considerations like school holidays, local events, and the weather—to create the perfect order for grocery stores. The company is so confident in their technology that they’ll even buy back goods if they don’t sell as predicted. 
  • According to the company, satisfied clients include big names like Kroger’s, Target, Walmart and Ralph’s. Its systems are already up and running in 2,000 stores across the US.
  • In March this year, the startup announced that it has raised $41m in Series B funding, which will allow it to expand its tools to thousands of new stores in the next year and a half.
Source: Semios

🚜 Case study: Semios

  • Canadian company Semios, meanwhile, is innovating at the very start of the food production line: on the farm. 
  • They have established themselves as the leading precision farming platform for permanent crops, offering farmers precision farming-as-a-service. 
  • The Semios IoT network uses big data, machine learning and AI to improve farmers’ experience, giving growers a precise picture of how environmental and soil-based factors are influencing the quality and quantity of their yields.  
  • As a result, Semios sensors can help farmers manage issues such as pests, disease, irrigation and inclement weather conditions swiftly and efficiently.
  • The company, founded in 2010, won ‘Overall Sensor Solution of the Year’ in the Internet-of-Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) awards category at the AgTech Breakthrough Awards last year. Meanwhile, its revenues have doubled year-on-year since 2015.
  • In 2020, the company announced $75m in new funding to expand its IoT network in agriculture. 

👍 The good

  • Increased automation may have downsides, but it also means a more uniform quality of service for foodservice operators and retailers as well as an ability to delegate mundane tasks that do not need human intervention. It’s also often more efficient, saving time and money. 
  • And cost savings are in and of themselves a major benefit of using IoT-enabled tech.
  • Many of the IoT-enabled innovations in the grocery and F&B industry are also good for the environment. Food waste management systems help stores and restaurants reduce waste while intelligent farming systems can reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilisers required. 
  • Instant access to data can also help those in the F&B industry to simplify the decision-making process, and quickly deal with any problems that arise.

👎 The bad

  • As with any connected technology, there are privacy and security concerns around the use of IoT tech generally. But users can (and arguably should) put in place robust data security measures to minimise the risk of hacks.
  • Because the IoT is a relatively new concept, there is a lack of compatibility between machines - devices from different developers are not necessarily designed to ‘speak’ to one another, which can make implementation trickier.
  • Relying on software and hardware to make your life easier and run your business more smoothly, whether you own a restaurant, a grocery store or factory, is a great idea in theory, but in practice, a technological glitch could have wide-reaching consequences if you’ve come to rely on it. 
  • And lastly, the IoT means more automation. There’s many good things about that, but it also means fewer jobs for lower-skilled employees in the F&B industry.

💡 The bottom line

  • There’s little doubt that adopting IoT technologies can help companies and actors in the F&B and agricultural industries reach their potential. The benefits, when deployed correctly, are huge - from improved food safety to reduced waste, to better farming and better traceability.

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