Launching Inventory Management and Post-Harvest Functionality
Farmsoft has always focused on building tools for your growing team. Early on, this meant focusing heavily on the plant only while it grows (from seed to harvest). Over the past few months and after countless conversations with our customers, we’ve been hard at work building tools that extend beyond harvest and begin prior to seed. Today, we’re incredibly excited to launch our new Inventory Management and Post-Harvest functionality!
Growers need the ability to track raw materials as they are consumed throughout the growing process. Most growers we work with passively track inventory on spreadsheets. This leads to over-purchasing items or worse, running out when you need items the most. Also, growers need to track when certain fertilizer, pesticides, or other applications are applied to crops for compliance and traceability. Now, you can do both right in Farmsoft.
Traceability is at the heart of what we do. We are introducing a new concept of inputs and outputs that can be consumed or produced throughout your workflow. This enables you to track raw materials as they are consumed, deduct quantities from your inventory automatically, and provide visibility into what products are on hand at all times.
In addition to managing materials inventory, we are also launching a new feature to help growers manage work-in-progress, called Stages. This allows you to flexibly control additional stages of your workflow to properly manage live inventory real-time. You can now add stages to your growth cycles, creating additional production visibility.
Growers can now also track harvests through packing and shipping stages in Farmsoft. If you’re packing SKUs with multiple varieties, you can simply create package templates that consume the outputs (harvest) of batches. You can also add timelines and tasks, which can account for cooler times or inspection checklists for example. Our new post-harvest functionality also integrates with Farmsoft and CCA for cannabis operators who want to create packages in Farmsoft and sync directly with your compliance system.
Harvest Inventory Management and Storage
Agriculture inventory mismanagement processes lack precision and efficiency and cost the world around $1 trillion a year, and more in waste .
Grain Inventory mismanagement alone costs the world $1 trillion or more annually, representing losses of up to 50-60% of product. Due to inefficient storage methods, an estimated 52% of the nation’s essential fruits and vegetables are being discarded and 34% are ruined before leaving the farm, leading us to assume similarly scaled financial losses for fruit and vegetable inventory mismanagement, and demonstrating the scale of the issue for the industry as a whole.
All STRATO Use Cases
agriculture | agriculture industry | AgTech | inventory management | precision ag | STRATO Use Case | Supply Chain | waste management
Key STRATO Features
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Context & Challenges
Inventory management is a tricky practice to perfect and if not executed properly, can lead to immense post-harvest losses and food waste, one of the foremost concerns for farmers. Mainland China reported that it loses 12% of its grain and 20% of its potato and fruit product due to improper storage.
To reduce these losses and the astronomical costs that accompany them, farmers must proactively store inventory at a carbon dioxide concentration below 600 parts per million in order to curb mold growth and infestation. Currently, there are sensors in production that can discover and flag any potential losses 3-5 weeks earlier than traditional temperature monitoring methods, which often only uncover risks too late to fully prevent losses.
Proper farm inventory storage relies on adequate and accurate data, full oversight of all activities in real-time, and proper communication between all parties. Without these factors, there will inevitably be costly financial, product, and resource losses.
While product waste occurs throughout the supply chain, reducing losses at the post-harvest storage stage could significantly reduce waste throughout the chain, especially as it sits at the beginning of the supply chain.
If agricultural products are stored properly, they are more likely to meet retailers' standards and not be discarded at this stage.
Food loss is an issue that affects the industry on a financial, social, and environmental level.
If product is stored incorrectly, farmers lose product they have put resources and time into, creating financial and agricultural waste. Additionally, disposing of food waste can be very costly and difficult, as it is a highly regulated practice.
If food is ruined at the storage stage, distributors cannot pick up the promised quantities, which can affect their margins.
Wasted food not only involves lost resources, disposing of food waste can also be unfriendly to the environment and very costly.
Food losses mean lower yields, which inherently affects society's ability to feed itself. This is particularly important in countries that rely on smallholder farmers, which tend to have the highest proportion of losses due to storage.
Farmsoft Post Harvest Sensor
Cost-effective ethylene detection allowing you to accurately forecast
ripeness of produce, receive real-time alerts and automate ethylene
cleaners & other FoodTech systems.
What's at stake?
Agribusiness is one of the largest industries in the world, valued at approximately $US 1.4 trillion a year. While this figure is astounding, there is an ever-expanding percentage of food loss & wastage year-in-year-out.
The main contributor to food waste is fruits and vegetables with a staggering 45% of all post-harvest produce being lost or wasted within the food supply chain. This is roughly 1.3 billion tonnes of food, which equates to $US 680 billion dollars worth of wasted produce not reaching an end consumer each year.
To combat this industry problem, Farmsoft Post Harvest have created the most accurate real-time ripening sensor in the world, to help monitor the health of fresh produce shipments within supply chain storage.
How it works
As the world struggles with overwhelming food wastage, Farmsoft Post Harvest has
developed a patented technology to help proactively deal with the problem,
in the form of an atmosphere reader.
Highly sensitive detection
Farmsoft Post Harvest technology cost-effectively detects extremely low levels of gas in the atmosphere, as a way of tracking fresh produce quality as it is moved through the supply chain.
Representation of the roles of robotics in the post-harvest supply chain. The post-harvest supply chain consists of Quality control & sorting shortly after harvest, Storage on location or during transportation, Pick & pack to prepare produce for the next actor in the chain, Distribution to retail, and Retail itself. Robotic technologies can support multiple activities in the chain, including manipulation operations (such as grading, sorting, packaging, palletizing) and storage management and material flow (using mobile robots for, i.a. real-time monitoring of product quality and storage conditions, automated inventory and stock management, efficient space organization)
Monitoring quality and safety, making decisions, and taking actions along the different parts of the post-harvest chain require different approaches that depend on the individual chain elements. Robotics can play a vital role in addressing such challenges in the post-harvest chain. The role of advances in robotics is reported here with a focus on monitoring, maintaining, and preserving product quality, as well as facilitating quality-driven decision-making in the post-harvest supply chain.
In the following sections, the current state and the outlook of robotics for post-harvest quality management are detailed with emphasis on two key perspectives: manipulation and navigation. Both perspectives emphasize varying degrees of interaction between the robot and its environment, ranging from the grasping and manipulation of objects to navigation and transport. Subsequent sections attend to robotic technologies suitable for grasping, manipulation, and movement of fresh products across the post-harvest supply chain. The conclusions are reported in the closing section. To keep the survey size manageable, contact-free sensing technologies and artificial intelligence, though highly relevant, are not included in the scope of the survey.
One of the most common set of robotic activities in post-harvest processes is repetitive pick-and-place operations, which range from grading/sorting actions to processing, packaging, and palletizing [9, 12••]. A key distinction to be considered here is when manipulation requires direct contact with the fresh product (grading, sorting, cutting, primary packaging) against indirect contact (e.g., stacking and palletizing).
Indirect contact primarily involves grasping, moving, and placing uniform and rigid objects, albeit of different weight, shape, and size, such as individual packages or crates stacked on pallets. Such applications are prevalent from the moment of harvest (stacking crates with harvest), through transport and storage, all the way to retail. These are some of the more common applications with several exiting industrial robotic solutions [9, 12••] (Fig. 2). Such robots are generally not specific to food industry, but their deployment needs to consider which robots fit the existing factory floor planning, payload capacity, and right end-effectors to handle the diversity (in size, shape, weight, intact/deformable) of packages to be handled. Therefore, the current need of the industry is to have a structured approach to industrial robot selection suited to their current processes. In a recent work, Bader and Rahimifard propose the 4-step FIRM (Food Industrial Robot Methodology) approach for industrial robot selection in food processing operations [12••]. The scope of their work is broader than post-harvest products and processes, but the methodology is highly relevant for processes where industrial robots already exist.
Examples of industrial robot solutions for object handling where the robot does not directly make contact with the product inside the packages. a ABB robotic palletizer IRB 660 (source: ABB Robotics); b FANUC M410-iB mixed palletizing solution (source: FANUC); and, c Depalletizing robot solution from SERFRUIT (source: SERFRUIT)
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In the post-harvest supply chain, direct contact between the robot and the products occurs primarily during quality control (e.g., grading and sorting) and pick-place operations (e.g., primary packaging). The main point of contact is between the produce and the robotic end-effector (a.k.a. end-of-arm tooling), which can grab, hold, and release objects, as well as move the objects to a desired location. Although a variety of robotic handling solutions have been proposed in industry as well as academia, robotic handling approaches have been slow to catch on in the food industry. Contributing factors include societal issues such as economic and social barriers, as well as technological limitations for flexible grasping and manipulation, and adverse effects of direct contact on product organoleptic quality and overall hygiene [9, 12••, 28, 29]. Here, we focus on the technological perspective.
Robotic grasping and manipulation actions that require direct contact with the fresh products pose two primary challenges:
Products are difficult to grasp and manipulate: complex and varied characteristics of the products (irregular shapes and sizes (e.g., ranging from rigid cabbage to soft and fragile berries) and high deformability (e.g., a bunch of grapes)) make them extremely difficult to grasp and manipulate. Several works have extensively categorized foodstuff characteristics and the challenges they pose for manipulation [12••, 30•, 31•].
Grasping and manipulation may damage the product. Improper handling exposes fresh produce to damage and pathogen spread, which affect the overall post-harvest quality, leading to changes not only in appearance, but also in other organoleptic properties such as taste, smell, and texture [8, 12••, 30•].
The traditional, and most prominent, approaches for robotic handling of fresh products in the industry are contact-based (e.g., electric, pneumatic, hydraulic, inflating rubber, multi-body mechanism grippers) and air-based (e.g., suction cups commonly coupled with contact-based grippers, Bernoulli principle-based levitation grippers) [12••, 28, 29, 31•]. Other mechanisms, such as pinching and freeze gripping that are common for foodstuff manipulation, are generally not suitable for fruits and vegetables since the gripping principles are inherently destructive to fresh products. Adding compliant materials to gripping elements (e.g., rubber pads) is a widely employed, but an incomplete solution to the problem.
Given the difficulty to handle a variety of fresh products and the potential to damage by grasping, traditional end-effectors are suitable only for a limited number of products. That is, the solutions are not universal. In particular, handling of fragile products is extremely challenging with traditional end-effectors. With advances in materials science and soft components, there is an increasing trend towards lighter, simpler, and more generalized grasping solutions [31•, 32, 33]. In the design of such universal grippers, advanced materials are increasingly studied that can change shape in response to external or internal actuators as well as to their interactions with objects [32, 34]. Application of these materials makes grippers capable of grasping and manipulating a wide array of objects of different shapes, sizes, and rigidity. Additionally, increased mechanical compliance also means that the control complexity for these grippers is highly reduced. In the last decade, several such solutions, primarily silicone elastomer-based grippers, have transitioned from research labs to commercial products . Due to strict hygiene requirements, not all of these end-effectors are suitable for fresh products (or foodstuff, in general). In recent years, several food-grade soft end-effectors have been commercialized which are waterproof and cleanable for foodstuff handling (Fig. 3).
Examples of soft end-effectors capable of handling irregular and fragile products, and meeting hygiene standards for post-harvest applications. a FinRay gripper “DHAS” from Festo modeled on the fin of a fish (source: Festo); b OnRobot Softgripper, a flexible food-grade gripper which does not require external air supply for grasping and releasing actions (source: OnRobot)
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Soft robotics grasping and manipulation remains a highly active field of research with inspiration coming from i.a. material properties (such as silicone elastomers, shape memory materials, active polymers, and gels) , biology [33, 36], and folding and cutting patterns [37, 38]. These approaches will play a key role in handling soft and delicate products and are highly relevant for a multitude of fresh products not manipulable via traditional rigid-joint end-effectors.
Immediate data collection
Farmsoft Post Harvest's device collects atmospheric data on a regular cycle, providing highly accurate predictions of ripening timelines; without ever having to handle the product.
Farmsoft Post Harvest's software has the ability to collect any and all data from the Environmental Sensor's reads and then forward that data on to subscribers in the form of real-time notifications.
The Benefits of Farmsoft Post Harvest
Farmsoft Post Harvest’s real-time sensor detects ethylene levels down to Parts Per
Billion (PPB), allowing cool store operators to:
Atmospheric readings that measure down to the Parts Per Billion range allow for accurate forecasting across all forms of fresh produce. This ensures that you can optimise your supplies, sending them out on time, every-time.
Most accurate ripeness/ethylene detection system in the world
Measurements down to Parts Per Billion range to give long-term warnings
Real-time alerts of changes within the storage atmosphere
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and over-ripened produce take less than 2 hours to have irreversible effects on the surrounding batch. Farmsoft Post Harvest’s Environmental Sensor now provides cool room operators with an informed window of opportunity to act upon, proactively stopping large losses in product.
24/7 measuring - taking readings on a regular cycle
Alerts and Notifications can be sent via SMS, Email or Desktop
Actionable data and suggested responses provided
Real-time level reporting allows Farmsoft Post Harvest to know the perfect conditions and timing for your fresh produce shipments. Link your Farmsoft Post Harvest unit into your ethylene management systems in order to automate the entire process of caring for your stock.