Out of disaster, innovation

Out of disaster, innovation

Feeding a population of more than 1.4 billion, the World Bank has predicted that Africa’s food and beverage market will reach over US$1 trillion by 2030. While the industry has faced significant challenges since the onset of Covid, especially in terms of delivery and supply chain management, the crisis has also served as a catalyst for innovation.

Oliver Elirani, managing partner of the Ollen Group – a global consulting firm with offices in South Africa, India, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – emphasises that we have lived through challenging times recently, especially for the food and beverage industry. “The Covid-19 pandemic forced supply chain operators to recognise that they need a more flexible and resilient supply chain,” he highlights in his piece Supply Chain Trends in Food & Beverage.

Trends from the turmoil

“Previously, most companies preferred offshoring to cut costs and maximise profit margins. They did not consider expanding their vendor options to include nearshoring,” Elirani explains. “Supply chain personnel now understand the volatility of relying on one global region. They need to modify their business operations to create more resilience for the future.”

He notes that nearshoring ensures companies’ flexibility to accommodate different customer demands: “It’s easier to scale inventory and speed up delivery due to the reduced distance to the point of sale. It also makes it possible to order products in their raw form depending on the demand rather than buying the products to stock.”

Elirani points out that the food and beverage supply chain is now more reliant on data and digitisation. “Data analytics empower supply chain executives with essential market insights,” he says. “It helps them plan operations better and stabilises sales.”

Smart devices are also influencing customer shopping behaviour. “Such devices provide data that companies use to guide inventory sourcing,” says Elirani, adding that smart technology offers insights for product innovation, while technological advances such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and analytics help to empower decision-making.

On the other hand, a shortage of labour is a worrying trend. “There are numerous job openings in the transportation and warehousing sector. Employers find creative ways to attract new talent, such as bonuses and free college tuition,” he says. “However, low wages and poor working conditions remain a significant hurdle.” He notes that the automation of warehouse processes is an excellent way to cut manual labour and sustain operations.

Trickling down to the roots

With all of these new trends it’s no wonder that innovation has seeped down to the source of the food and beverage industry as well. The demand for global agricultural robots and drones in terms of market size and share, for example, will grow from just over US$5 billion in 2021 to more than US$14.12 billion by 2028, growing at a compound annual growth rate of about 18.21%. This is according to the latest study on agricultural robots and drones from Facts and Factors, a leading market research organisation*.

The report highlights the fact that this growth can be linked to agricultural robots’ role in addressing societal issues related to expanding human populations, by enhancing food yields, monitoring environmental footprints, and alleviating a widespread labour shortage.

“Agricultural robots assist farmers with cloud seeding, fruit harvesting, weed management, environmental monitoring, seed planting, and soil analysis, as well as increasing efficiency, lowering operating costs, and enabling the latest precision agriculture techniques,” the report states.

These units include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), milking robots, automated harvesting systems, and driverless tractors. UAVs are expected to be the leading segment by type moving forward. “Agricultural drones’ prices have steadily dropped over the years, making them an appealing investment for many modern farmers. The development of low-cost multispectral cameras has also contributed to keeping costs as low as possible. With authorities such as the Federal Aviation Administration laying the groundwork for drone regulations, the use of UAVs for agricultural applications has skyrocketed. As a result, UAVs have the largest market share,” notes the report.

Due to the high penetration rate of UAVs and the high average selling price of driverless tractors, the field farming application is expected to hold a significant share of the agricultural robot market between now and 2028. “Drones and self-driving tractors are assisting in the automation of field farming. As the use of driverless tractors for automating field farming applications expands, the market for driverless tractors is expected to surpass the market for milking robots,” says the report. “Milking robots have already been marketed, so the market is maturing. As a result, it will grow the slowest, causing dairy and livestock management applications to grow slower than other farming applications.”

In addition, there is an increased use of electrification technology in agricultural robots, and the utilisation of real-time multimodal robot systems in fields. “All of these factors have created numerous opportunities for manufacturers of driverless tractors, milking systems, and drones,” the report notes.

Building solutions for today, tomorrow, and the future

So, while the food and beverage supply chain has faced many challenges, its future is looking bright – all the way from its first link. As Elirani points out, though, the ultimate way to keep the positive trends going is to integrate data, analytics, modern technology, automation, and near-sourcing. “(This) helps your supply chain manage disruptions and adapt to the changing customer demands. Products can reach assembly lines faster, and on-demand,” he explains.

He adds that strategically placed warehouses and distribution centres will reduce possible risks within the supply chain: “It promotes accelerated, efficient, and accurate order fulfilment. A resilient supply chain ensures continuous product movement through the supply chain. Fleets can optimise delivery processes, and customers can estimate the delivery time of their products.”

* The Facts and factors report is entitled Agricultural Robots and Drones Market Size, Share, Growth Analysis Report By Type (Milking Robots, UAVs/Drones, Automated Harvesting Systems, Driverless Tractors, Others), By Farm Produce (Fruits and Vegetables, Field Crops, Dairy and Livestock, Others), By Farming Environment (Indoor, Outdoor), By Application (Harvest Management, Field Farming, Dairy and Livestock Management, Soil and Irrigation Management, Others), and By Region – Global Industry Insights, Comparative Analysis, Trends, Statistical Research, Market Intelligence, and Forecast 2022 – 2028.

Published by

Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publication in southern Africa.
Prev A perfect partnership
Next Production line ready to roll

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.