Is AI the Missing Link in Sustainability Efforts?

Over the past year, there has been a shift in the sustainability conversation to help identify what changes need to occur to have a meaningful and long-lasting impact. But, before the industry can move forward, there needs to be accurate information about what is happening today. And this is where both the tea and coffee industries continue to hit a stumbling block because it’s not just about collecting data.

From a logistical standpoint, keeping track of all that information can be overwhelming. Paper records are difficult to keep organised and often have gaps in information. This includes finding a way to reduce human error and subjectivity from the picture. The use of artificial intelligence (AI), such incorporating data obtained through satellites, for example, is one way that the industry can track both current and historical data on yield, water index, and temperature, and the geographical location. This automated data can provide objective information that can increase the transparency across the supply chain.

Check Integrity, a software system by Organic Services, Germany, is one example of a cloud platform that collects and analyses data to help increase the transparency of the food and beverage industry. This system uses satellite tracking to verify certifications and practices across the supply chain. “When you work with digitalised data than you have real data and can’t falsify the certificate, it helps to prevent fraud along the supply chain,” said Gerald Hermann, owner, Organic Services. These systems provide producers with transparency about their growing practices, including their acreage and yields. This could then be used to help increase their overall marketability, and in turn, their revenue. However, these financial improvements take time, and the cloud software, can both be expensive and challenging to implement.

Unfortunately, improving the challenges within the supply chain and the industry as a whole, is not as simple as just installing the right software. Because, obtaining accurate and objective data, is only a part of the puzzle. “Technology is not the solution, you need a systemic approach to analyzing your supply chain and make a hierarchy of what is really important,” said Herrmann. “If you establish a system that has a holistic approach than there is no question you can’t answer after a short period of time.”

Long-time T&CTJ contributor, Anne-Marie Hardie is a freelance writer, professor and speaker based in Barrie, Ontario. She may be reached at: [email protected].

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