Smart farm-to-table: how agritech innovations could revolutionize the supply chain

By Adrian Johansen

To say that the last few years have been challenging for the restaurant industry would be a gross understatement. Restaurateurs have endured a global pandemic, protracted lockdowns, and now a seemingly intractable supply chain crisis. It has been a lot to endure, and far too many promising establishments have not survived.

The good news, though, is that there is hope on the horizon, both in the seeming abatement of the pandemic and in the introduction of exciting new technologies that may very well revolutionize the restaurant supply chain as we know it.

Indeed, the ascendancy of agricultural technologies, or agritech, is enabling restaurant owners to manage their inventories and offer a level of personalized service that once seemed unthinkable.

Onsite, real-time monitoring

Agritech functions principally through the power of the internet of things (IoT). The IoT refers to a vast constellation of high-tech devices which are connected to the internet, enabling these devices to communicate with one another in real-time.

Farm tech

Restaurants and food producers alike are unleashing the power of the IoT to enable near-constant monitoring of the entire supply chain — from smart farm tech to table. For example, sensors installed on farmlands can provide ongoing surveillance of growing conditions, such as evaluating the condition of the soil or alerting growers to early signs of insect infestations.

From the producers’ side, this means that, with a strong internet network and well-placed agritech sensors, farmers will have more power than ever before to create and maintain ideal growing conditions. This helps to prevent crop failures and ensures that producers can more accurately assess the timing and size of their harvest — an essential attribute of effective supply chain management.

Restaurant tech

However, it is not only in the arena of food production that agritech is supporting supply chains. Restaurants connected to the IoT can also benefit by optimizing inventory management processes. For example, sensors can be installed on kitchen equipment, in stock rooms, and even tableside to provide real-time monitoring of inventory levels.

Many systems also enable automated reordering when supplies or ingredients begin to get low. This helps to ensure that restaurants never run out of essentials while also reducing the risk of overstock and waste. Restaurants are using the IoT in increasingly innovative ways that enhance the customer experience — from enabling wireless communication in outdoor patios to pop-up restaurants.

In addition, agritech can monitor equipment, trucks, and storage facilities. Sensors can detect everything from the functionality of transport vehicles and kitchen appliances to temperature controls. This helps to prevent malfunctions that might lead to delayed shipments or food spoilage, both of which could cause significant disruption to the supply chain.

Personalized offerings

Agritech is also promising to revolutionize the restaurant supply chain by offering unprecedented opportunities for menu customization. Omni-channel ordering, for example, prioritizes your customers by providing guests with a highly individualized digital experience throughout all phases of the customer journey.

For instance, patrons may use mobile online apps to browse restaurant menus or to place customer orders in which the guests determine not only which products but also what ingredients they want for their order. This information, then, is conveyed to the restaurant to be prepared for in-house dining, pickup, or delivery.

Not only does such flexibility and personalization offer a stellar restaurant experience, but it also greatly facilitates supply chain management. The data for each order can be used to track current inventory and support inventory management.

Because the use of agritech empowers restaurateurs to more effectively monitor inventories and track product shipments, restaurant owners will have a greater ability to offer the fresh, farm-to-table ingredients and plant-based menu offerings that Canadian diners desire.

Agritech enables restaurateurs to more accurately predict the type, quantity, and availability of locally grown products, thus enhancing a restaurant owner’s capacity to cultivate their brand as a purveyor of the freshest and highest quality products which are always in season and in stock. Since agritech supports local food sourcing, diners are likely to have more opportunities for pre-ordering farm-fresh, customized items.

The takeaway

Restaurant owners and farmers alike have faced a host of formidable challenges in recent years. The emergence of agricultural technology, however, is helping restaurateurs and food producers get a leg up in this all-important, post-pandemic recovery period. These technologies are also supporting operations in the face of a severe and long-lasting supply chain crisis.

Through the power of the IoT, agritech is revolutionizing the restaurant supply chain. Onsite sensors, for example, can provide continuous monitoring of growing conditions, equipment functionality, inventory levels, and consumer demand. In addition, agritech in the restaurant supply chain maximizes restaurateurs’ capacity to personalize the customer journey and cultivate their brand as a provider of only the freshest, homegrown products.

The result is not only greater operational and financial efficiency, but an unprecedented level of guest service.

Adrian Johansen lives in the Pacific Northwest. Her writing focuses on the intersection of business, technology and sustainability issues.