Food, culture, and technology are crossing paths with each other now more than ever before. Square Roots, a Brooklyn-based startup, is one of the many examples of this convergence. This community-based urban indoor farming company has integrated technology, artificial intelligence, and multi-generational farming techniques into its program.
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Similarly, food safety leaders are recognizing and leveraging the benefits of integrating technology with food safety and quality management. Here are a few ways this is happening.
AR/VR Tools in Food Safety Trainings
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) tools are gaining popularity within the world of continuing professional development. Interactive food safety training programs that are either delivered in person (classroom style) or online, are increasing user engagement through these tools. New employees can gain a virtual tour of a facility and put their learning to the test in real time. Although this technology is still in its early stages, it certainly adds value to the participants’ learning experience.
Digitized Food Safety Systems
In the past, a certified food safety and quality management system required businesses to maintain documentation and records that were collectively as thick as the English Oxford Dictionary. To add a layer of frustration, auditors would often have to guess what the hand-written records were trying to demonstrate. Digital food safety systems are not only eco-friendly, but are easier to track and update, and make it easier to collaborate with the rest of the team. In addition, food safety audits are being conducted digitally using metrics that enable businesses to monitor and measure overall performance at regular frequencies. It is easier to improve something that is being measured. Digitizing food safety management systems takes the guesswork out of how well the implemented system is doing.
Data-Driven Predictive Modeling
A valuable lesson I learned as a consultant is that food safety data analyses should not happen within a silo. While my team and I were working on a food labeling revision project, our analyses were better whetted with the collaborative efforts of the sales and marketing team, rather than only working with the health and safety team. Not only were we able to leverage user data to better understand what influenced consumer choices, but we were also able to project production needs for the near future. Predictive modeling is a valuable tool that can help organizations make more informed decisions, especially when it comes to food safety management.
IoT in Supply Chain Management
The Internet of Things (IoT) has redefined modern-day supply chain management. Simply put, IoT is a collection of devices that communicate with each other by transmitting and exchanging data. These devices include wireless sensors, smart devices, software, etc. IoT has reinforced supply chain management through better monitoring, tracking, and authentication of food products. This also complements food traceability systems more efficiently.
While there are many benefits to integrating technology with food safety management, it is important for food safety leaders to determine whether their organization is ready for the integration to take place. This may require a bit of change management to ensure that the employees are aware of the “why” behind the introduction to new technology in the workplace.