Traceability & Transparency in Agri-business

By Maria Onofrio

Fri, 3 Aug 2018


  • Definitions:
  • Challenges within Ag (Traceability and Transparency)
  • Solutions
  • Leading Tech Provides in the current space, Thought Leaders, and influencers
  • Latest News and Legislation on Ag Law, Transparency.


Agricultural traceability refers to the collection, documentation, maintenance, and application of information related to all processes in the supply chain in a manner that provides a guarantee to the consumer and stakeholders on the location, origin, and history of a product and assisting in crises management in the event of quality and safety breach.

Traceability embodies the ability to identify the farm where the produce was grown and the sources of input materials, as well as the ability to conduct full tracking to determine the specific location and life history in the supply chain by means of records. It also contributes to showing understanding of the transparency of the supply chain using verifiable labelling and records.

Moreover, traceability supplements the quality management system via proving the communication connections for verifying and identifying sources of non-compliance to be suitable for customer expectation. There are important elements of this concept, and in this way, when merged together it creates an integrated food supply and agricultural traceability system.

Agricultural transparency refers to the idea of demonstrating the quality of a product by capturing quality data, such as product certifications, throughout the whole of the supply chain. This data is useful when used to ensure a certain company only works with a trustworthy and compliant supplier to earn consumer trust.

Transparency requires to be effective, honest, and open when it comes to consumers and explaining how their food is produced. Developing an all rounded strategy to effectively deal in a positive and transparent way with consumers is proven to be crucial in the ag industry for the years to come.


When it comes to traceability, its main challenge is that it presents an issue for farmers in their operational activity, as at times it requires a significant logistical problem and expense for them to meet the purchasers’ requirements in making sure the produce does not get contaminated and to log relevant data that is required by the consumer.

The challenges in traceability within the agri-business are dependent on market availability and on the demands to the actual type of product being sold. In the US it has become vital to implement a traceability strategy for food and food-related products. Thus, it is needed for growers and ag-value chains to implement contemporary mechanisms without falling behind with the progression of the industry.

Transparency as well presents its challenges; from worrying factors regarding safety and nutrition to the matter of animal welfare through to moral judgements on what processes the industry should use in producing food.

Both traceability and transparency are crucial in the current times, but the question arises on who will provide transparency. If singular operations and industry fail to do so, then activist groups will feel the need to.


Further solutions can be derived from a certain amount of measures that an agriculture/food company can take on board. The first being implementation of using governmental certification through accredited bodies that ensures and supports the supply chain to develop further through the improvement of the quality of the products, recognising rights of workers and general wellbeing, environment. Thus, such certification will only aid such issues relating to bringing ‘value’ into the market.

The above mentioned are of importance and should be necessary to implement such strategies and policies aimed at those operational influencers, who feed into the idea of giving migrant workers or workers alike, exploitation and abuse (violations of labour rights committed). Only through the implementation of such concerted practices (i.e. promoting transparency), it will be conceivable to clean up and alter a supply chain system that is labelled and characterised by an unequal distribution of the wealth accumulated and builds that upon poverty; instability
of workers and on their vulnerability of being oppressed.

When it comes to safety and management and food quality; traceability becomes a preventative strategy that is used. In situations such as food scares to hazards, a good traceability system will cater towards an effective product recall system and determination of liability. When such full trace capability is implemented in any stage of the food chain it will bring a means in addressing public concern (regarding food related deaths and illnesses) and a declining consumer confidence.


In the likes of thought leaders who have pioneered agriculture, below are listed also influencers and tech providers who have influenced the industry;

–    Patrick Doyle, CEO, and president of Domino’s Pizza: Doyle is leading the charge for restaurants to engage farmers in transparent sourcing of quality food products. “with the dairy industry’s help, we are reinventing our brand and the pizza category, which had been declining”

–    Deb Arcoleo, Director of Food Transparency at The Hershey Company: Arcoleo is doing what she believes is responding to consumers. Launching the ‘Simple Ingredient’ initiative which continued to progress in sourcing sustainable ingredients from its suppliers. She is making product information more accessible to find and understand through the creation of Grocery Manufacturers Association’s (GMA), a new Smart Label program using on-pack QR codes which when scanned, displays product information on ingredients, nutrition facts, allergens, and GMO’s.

–    Conservis, Cloud Services/SAAS, in Minneapolis, USA; Acknowledges the pressure of growers to deliver profits and transparency. The company created a farm management software in wanting to help growers see their operations so that they can track field activities, manage inventories, and analyse yields. Farmers are now able to be more competitive, productive, and further efficient. They provide growers and stakeholders visibility and transparency, covering more geographic locations and crop types than any other management solution on the market.


Below is listed, the current news and legislation on agriculture and the pursuit of acquiring transparency.

 The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has requested that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) make it compulsory for corporations to reveal refined ingredients from bio-engineered crops on labelling’s. The legal implications would now impact on the various products that will now require being disclosed in the future, as GMA estimates that 78% fewer products are now being declared and this is due to the exclusion of refined ingredients.  GMA mention how this move will support the ability to engage with consumers via dialogue on how technology will better the environment, society, and lives. Unilever, Hershey, and Nestlé have also stated for USDA to make GM ingredients on labelling’s to be clearer such as beet sugar and canola. 90% of US crops are bioengineered, impacting on beverage and goods, which contains refined ingredients; believing consumers deserve transparency and this is something that mirrors the core of their businesses. 

–    The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reformed its guidelines for Designating Bio based Products for Federal Procurement to add 12 sections that have product categories which products will be afforded a procurement reference by contractors and agencies. The benefit of this is will be under section 9002; which increases domestic demand for ag-commodities that can serve as feed-stocks for production of bio-based products, adding value on a national/regional level, thus resulting to strengthening marketing for bio-based materials used in these product categories.

Our Agriculture 4.0 workshop mission is to help farmers better engage with the latest technology available in the market and present a wide range of solutions for the modern farmer.

To address these challenges, we have developed AG40 workshop, a programme designed around bringing key stakeholders from throughout US agriculture together to tackle the most issues in relation to the stability of the market. To find out how this will be achieved, and whether you can be involved in this, follow the link here and below:


Challenge Advisory is bringing together AG40, a unique workshop where organisations will have the ability to network amongst each other for precise and profitable resolutions across the entire industry. There will be panel discussions and workshop sessions designed to create partnerships and profitable business development, helping to find cross-specialism solutions to current sectoral challenges.

Join Challenge Advisory and all our stakeholders for education, interoperability and investment relating to the latest technology in digital agriculture – click here to find out more:

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Maria Onofrio

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