February 25, 2024

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Digital Transformation in Australia’s Agrifood Exports

Australia, boasting a robust reputation and efficient systems, aims to enhance its agricultural and food exports by addressing significant inefficiencies in the current monitoring and reporting of food safety. It must be acknowledged that there are complexities and costs associated with the existing manual steps and duplicated reporting processes in the monitoring of food safety.

The burden on food producers and processors hampers scalability and growth in export value. To overcome these challenges, a digital transformation is deemed critical to streamline safety compliance and quality assurance data, reducing the regulatory burden while unlocking insights and opportunities for the industry.

The goal is to establish an interconnected food assurance system that not only ensures market access but also provides assurance across various attributes such as food safety, biosecurity, quality, animal welfare, provenance, and climate.

Collaborating with the Australian government’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), and engaging with state regulators, Dr. Ryan McAllister, the lead for CSIRO’s Trusted Agrifood Exports Mission, aims to create a digital method that organises relevant data and specific modules to manage and assess risks at critical points along the supply chain.

The focus is on continuous assurance, utilising digital technology to collect, collate, and make data accessible from ‘paddock to plate.’ The project lead, Dr Bob Barlow, underscores the importance of turning compliance data into a valuable asset, particularly for export markets. The team is working towards creating a platform that transforms existing compliance tasks into real-time digital insights, with an initial emphasis on food safety compliance and plans to expand into quality, biosecurity, sustainability, and other trade-important credentials.

Dr. Barlow stressed the shift from static records to continuous, free-flowing information. The continuous assurance system allows for real-time analysis, moving away from the traditional approach of revisiting data only during regulatory audits. The potential benefits extend beyond meeting compliance standards to empowering food producers and processors to conduct audits on the fly and assess their performance across multiple metrics.

To pilot this approach, collaboration with major Australian beef processors, Australian Country Choice (ACC), and Teys Australia has been initiated. Funding from the Australian Government’s National Agriculture Traceability Grants Program and Meat & Livestock Australia supports the project. The initial step involves connecting the vast amount of data collected across supply chains, often scattered across different databases or disconnected systems.

The interconnected data sets offer valuable insights into business operations and opportunities for continuous improvement. For example, by analysing data related to ACC’s spray-chilling process, the team uncovered a small percentage difference in overnight carcase weight loss depending on the location in the chillers. This discovery led to potential cost savings of AU$5 to AU$7 million per chiller per year, with a total savings potential of AU$60 million for ACC.

The continuous data analysis approach is not limited to food safety; it extends to various operational aspects, as demonstrated by the weight-loss disparity in chillers. Dr Barlow estimates that solving similar issues across the industry could result in savings of up to AU$ 900 million annually.

Ultimately, the goal is to have data streams from multiple sources populating dashboards that update compliance in real-time. This real-time reporting not only facilitates quality and trade verifications but also uncovers potential process improvements that can lead to significant cost savings. The innovative use of continuous data analysis and real-time reporting is not merely about meeting compliance standards; it is a strategic move towards building and maintaining trust in the global market.

The Trusted Agrifood Exports Mission is pioneering a digital transformation in Australia’s food supply chains. By leveraging technology to streamline safety compliance, enhance data analysis, and provide real-time reporting, the mission aims to boost trust, trade, and the overall value of Australian agricultural exports. The collaboration with government agencies and industry stakeholders underscores the commitment to creating a sustainable and efficient food assurance system for the future.


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