Knowing the exact origins of food – and other products – is becoming a hygiene factor rather than a novelty among many consumers now there is an increased awareness about a whole range of factors when selecting brands. Was a fair price paid to the small farmers for their avocados? Is a particular Ethiopian coffee truly organic? Was there a detrimental impact on the environment due to the production of palm oil in a shampoo?
From the retail side, the quest for traceability may be to comply with a certification scheme that proves the ethical origins of a product, or it may simply be a differentiator which helps command a premium price. In either case, there is no question that this trend for traceability in food supply chains is leading greater inclusivity and empowerment for small, low-income producers.
“Traceability helps make much of what is currently “invisible” within our food systems “visible”. It could potentially facilitate comprehensive tracking of the environmental, economic, health and social consequences of different agricultural production processes, even making it possible to calculate the “true cost of food”, which will help meet consumer demand for transparency… Traceability could improve producer revenue, market access and opportunities for affordable access to capital.” Innovation with a Purpose: Improving Traceability in Food Value Chains through Technology Innovations (WEF, 2019)
Digitisation of agricultural processes is a key enabler for traceability; “the real revolution in the (agro-food) sector is in the increasing capacity to produce and use data that was not previously technically or financially feasible” (Digital opportunities for trade in agriculture and food sectors, OECD, 2019). Increased access to mobile data, even in rural areas, and reducing costs of hardware have provided opportunities that simply were not available a few years ago.
Digitizing Outgrower Honey Production in TanzaniaPure Joy Honey is an ethically oriented Tanzanian honey company that sources from hundreds of traditional beekeepers. Their business model is to provide training to farmers on the principles of organic production and sustainability in order to increase the value of their honey and the amount of money in their pocket. Because the honey is sourced from hives in designated Miombo forest reserves it helps protect native forests areas by providing livelihoods to the local communities which do not involve agricultural activity that would encroach on the forests.
Pure Joy’s traceability challenge was to find a solution which would enable them to track the 20,000+ buckets that they use to procure honey from c.900 beekeepers. Keeping track of where all the buckets were, and what type of honey was in each once it had been bought from a beekeeper and transferred to one of their 25 warehouses, was not an easy task! The company contacted the Smallholdr team to find out what solutions we could offer and subsequently selected our services to deliver a digital management solution.
In order to meet Pure Joy’s honey-tracking needs, we first implemented QR code labelling for their buckets. This labelling was a physical challenge as the buckets are very ‘well used’. The codes were attached in three different places to each bucket and the 4 digit identifier associated with each code was also scratched onto each bucket as a last resort. To tag a bucket at a new location and mark its contents, Pure Joy’s agents simply scan the QR code using the Smallholdr mobile app on their tablets. Where a large number of buckets are moved together, we have developed a ‘batch scan’ function to save time. Pure Joy’s managers can now see the history of every movements of every single bucket on their bespoke Smallholdr dashboard as well as a full report of the honey cropping profiles that make up each batch of honey they produce. This provides a level of traceability over and above most organic / fair trade certification requirements. QR codes are also used as unique identifiers for each beekeeper, enabling an audit trail of all interactions and a track record of all the beekeeper’s honey production, sales and trainings.Smallholdr also provides a number of other features to help Pure Joy manage their business. The mobile app has Work Plans to allow remote management of field agents’ various tasks, from registering new beekeepers, to delivering training and procuring honey. The mobile app calculates the payment to each beekeeper based on the type and volume of honey and deducting any input loans. This payment is currently made manually to the beekeeper’s mobile money account, but this will eventually be automated.
We are looking forward to seeing the next stage of Pure Joy’s export plans in which they intend to use the full traceability story of their honey back to their Tanzanian beekeepers as an even more important part of their branding. Their cutting edge website demonstrates how the whole journey from beekeeper to UK retailer unfolds – just type in PUREJOY to see how it works!
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