Woolworths is quietly pursuing one of Australia’s largest-scale internet of things (IoT) projects, installing sensors throughout its supply chain to track fresh produce “from farm to fork”.
The project, understood to be codenamed ‘Fresh Insights’, offers the supermarket giant data collected across its supply chain, from growing food to transporting it to shops and then selling it.
“We’re looking at putting internet of things devices – and we have already – everywhere from the farms, vineyards that we run, to dairy farms, to see from beginning to end what has happened,” Woolworths’ GM of IT service operations and infrastructure Patrick Misciagna told a recent industry forum.
Misciagna said Woolworths is able to keep track of how much sunlight and water its crops receive, when produce is picked up by a truck, how long it is refrigerated in transit, how fast it is travelling and even “how bumpy the roads are”.
“You don’t want your produce damaged on the way,” Misciagna said.
“Not only because we’re the ‘fresh food people’ and we want to give you that fine product, but also because anything that’s damaged is waste.
“Even if we do send it back to a farm to feed animals with, I have to pay for the fuel to [take it back]. So we took all that into consideration.”
Aside from optimising its supply chain, it appears Woolworths plans to make some of the data available to shoppers so they can check the provenance of goods.
Both Woolworths and its supermarket rival Coles have previously tried a version of this, where shoppers could scan a QR code on the back of a bag of carrots – in the case of Woolworths – and receive some information on where they were grown.
However, the latest implementation of this idea appears to be far more sophisticated, potentially relying on some of the insights taken from the farm to fork project.
“We’re doing some very cool things with IoT in the stores … where you can scan over the food product with your phone and actually see the entire journey that piece of fruit or meat took throughout its life,” Misciagna said.