Microsoft and Levarht on the importance and future of data within the food industry

This year we created our own IT Food Forecast trendmagazine, following up on last year's trend report. We interviewed 10 different professionals and specialists on some of the major changes in the Food and IT sector.

One of the topics that was discussed repeatedly was data, its importance and what it will mean for the future of the food industry.

Bring supply and demand even closer together

We interviewed Dimitri Mayer, Director Information management at Levarht, who “unlike most people” has no traditional background in the food or IT. Instead he has experience working in business consulting at i.e. Capgemini. As someone who witnessed the complete development of e-business from the start, he is able to help build towards a data-driven future with more transparency, predictability and control on the supply chain at Levarht.

As the growers, retailers and consumers have a constantly evolving demand, it is key to go through a complete digitalization to ensure you can meet these requests and maintain your competitive edge. Every party wants to have as much certainty as possible, and to guarantee this, a company needs have good control over their quality, price and availability.  This requires a lot of knowledge, insight and predictive capabilities. In short, data.

Becoming an intelligence supplier

“Nowadays, we’re managing many supply chains that are ‘invisible’ to us, as the goods are being shipped directly to wholesalers and retailers across the world, without ever passing through our location. Meanwhile we also want more insights than ever before, which is why we are working on a complete renewed IT-infrastructure and way of working. This process may take 5 to 10 years and requires the cooperation of our partners, the growers, retailers and wholesalers. 

Our business offering has far expanded to what it used to be. Now we are supporting the retailers to help create a better customer experience. How should products be presented, what products should be offered, can our growers offer those products to provide the right customer experience? If not, how can we still realize this provides the same value to the customer. Are the products looking presentable and do they still match with the current taste development of consumers? These and more are all aspects that we cover and make us an intelligence provider”, Dimitri says.

 

Next is Jan Brouwer, Business group lead and spokesperson for agriculture and food at Microsoft, focuses mainly on ERP and CRM in the entire (value) chain. From grower to retailer. Data processing, storage, and Artificial Intelligence are really progressing, from both a food quality and safety perspective but also related to marketing.

Technology as a driver for ecological entrepreneurship

Not just an interesting development for Microsoft, but also a necessary one in order to continue to be able to feed the growing world population. Jan explains, “With a global shift in consumer behavior towards more animal-based protein, the pressure on the ecology increases. How are we going to live more responsively on this earth is the growing challenge for the agricultural industry? As production processes puts a lot of pressure on various natural sources. Meanwhile the industry is also battling to become more efficient to be able to offer products at a low price.

Technology can both help with the development of plant-based protein alternatives to feed the growing world population more responsibly and also ensure a better yield at a lower cost.

What’s for the future?

Both Dimitri and Jan expect the role and importance of data to continue to increase in the future.

Dimitri explains that Levarht wants to control the entire (value) chain by becoming a platform organization, so to work together with different parties. “As a director that has connections with multiple parties in the value chain but also delivers added value”. This is how Dimitri sees the future for not just Levarht, but all companies in the fresh produce sector. “While customer experience becomes increasingly important, the human factor will change in the process from hands to head. We become “just” an IT company and the more effective we do that, the better we will perform. Data will be key just like in many other industries. Of course to identify the origin of products, but almost more importantly to add value by being able to provide guarantees to the value chain within different elements.

Jan refers to image technology as the next big thing within the food & agricultural sector. From satellites to drones with smart camera techniques like the Hololens. “Through very small satellites with very powerful camera’s we will be able to capture and record every two square meters on the entire earth, every two days! Coffee and tea farmers for example can use this to see what actions they need to do and where, all on their mobile phone. This will also lead to more automization with smarter machines such as kiwi picking machines that are capable to select only the ripe ones. Another item of interest within Biotech is quantum computing, which is able to solve increasingly complex issues. Nature still holds many secrets, but in the coming years with the help of the gigantic mathematical capabilities of quantum we will be able to start to unfold them.”

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Want to read all 10 interviews?

You can download it for free here! The magazine is available in Dutch.