Woolworths is launching a bold plan to stop food waste and reshape the supply chain with the use of technology.
Partnering with independent start-up Escavox, the primary goal is to extend the shelf life of fresh fruit and vegetables in all retail outlets by tracking and monitoring the produce from the farm gate to the supermarket. Each box of fruit and vegetables will include a blue plastic tracking device that measures temperature, time, and location in real time.
The plan assumes the use of 1864 devices in the first year and ramping up to 95,382 in the second year and 997,668 in the third year, with the goal of drastically reducing the amount of fresh food wastage across the board, and represents a major tech shift for growers.
If successful, Escavox could help contribute to a reduction in the annual food wastage bill in Australia of $20 billion.
Escavox grew out of a realisation by its founding CEO, Luke Wood, that the only way to solve the myriad and complex problems in the supply chain was to have solutions presented by an autonomous and objective party.
Former Woolworths Chairman John Dahlsen said the supply chain for fruit and vegetables is the most complex in retail.
“The retailer does not have clear line of sight in regard to where the product is actually grown, when it leaves the grower, how long it takes to arrive at the distribution centre and what happened along the supply chain,” said Dahlsen.
“Disputes develop because relevant and independent information is seldom available to monitor what has gone wrong and how the cost of disruption should be shared.
“What is very clear is that if there was clinical objective and reliable information on the flow of produce from grower to retailer, with knowledge of all contact points, timing and temperature issues, then it would be possible to reduce many of the issues that emerge between grower and the retailer.”
Dahlsen said government agencies would have a deep interest in the data gathered by Escavox because it would help trace the provenance of Australian fruit and vegetables and this, in turn, would assist Australian growers servicing export markets.
“It is clear that every day, or in some cases every hour, that can be taken out of the delivery process means the stock can remain fresh longer on the retailer’s shelf and at the consumer’s home,” he said.
“If stock and wastage could be extracted this would have a significant impact on the days of stock and the supply chains’ working capital. Huge gains could be obtained from removing blockages in the supply chain.”
This article is based on one that appeared in the Australian Financial Review on 23 April, 2019, written by David Rowe.