PEXELS-ICONCOM

By Bronte H. Lacsamana 

The best bet to ensure food security and growth in Southeast Asia is to invest in technology which can provide solutions to food wastage and supply chain disruptions, according to business leaders at a virtual roundtable on building resilient and sustainable food supply chains, held by enterprise application software group SAP. 

“Turning produce into food requires efficiency and a seamless, holistic journey,” said Verena Siow, president and managing director of SAP Southeast Asia, at the event in November. “Today, digital technology not only has enormous impacts on food production, but its benefits also extend across the whole value chain.” 

Citing the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), she added that around 1.3 billion tons, or one-third of all food produced, is lost or wasted yearly — whether it’s on the part of agriculture, manufacturing, distribution, or logistics. 

Dole Asia Holdings, a leader in the production and marketing of packaged fruit and healthy snacks, is one corporation currently trying to address the issue of wastage. 

“Technology in agriculture or ag-tech is vital in shaping our progressive and proactive waste reduction agenda,” said Leonardo Rabelo, chief financial officer of Dole Asia Holdings, at the roundtable. “The in-farm internet of things (IoTs), phase tracking, and end-to end digitalization will be the new superpowers in enabling us to improve our quality and overall product value like never before and remarkably reducing waste.” 

He mentioned that clean label and clean eating are part of Dole’s core values, with natural ingredients being the basis for all of their food products, including the processed ones. They also upcycle food waste into products like banana puree or frozen banana. 

“Dole has a commitment to take out all the processed sugar by 2025. That’s basically how we are channeling our efforts and making sure that we provide our contribution,” added Mr. Rabelo. 

Meanwhile, in 2020, Vietnamese manufacturer and supplier of agricultural products and services Loc Troi Group standardized all their processes to improve its planning and tracking capacity with the help of SAP S/4HANA. 

Efficiency is important in the bid to support farmers increase their yields and have more accurate data on crop health, especially in the Mekong Delta where climate change has taken its toll, said Nguyen Duy Thuan, Loc Troi Group’s chief executive officer. 

“Half of Vietnam’s total rice exports to the world come from more than 200,000 rice farmers in the Mekong Delta,” he explained at the virtual event. “It’s very challenging when we’re talking with farmers to adapt for the environment. With rice, we also face different requirements from different countries and markets.” 

To face these difficulties, they use technology like drones and mobile apps to help farmers monitor their rice and fruits. Currently, they are working on crop planting area codes and traceability through the use of QR codes. 

SAP Southeast Asia’ Ms. Siow lauded both groups’ efforts and expressed hope for more agri-businesses and corporations in the region to follow suit. 

“In this pandemic, we all had to learn to operate virtually in many ways. We have also further expedited and accelerated the development and adoption of technology,” she said. “While tech can be deployed in many ways, what’s important is we put it all together and audit data and bring insights for decision-making — to ensure that processes are not just streamlined, but optimized.”