Tomato transparency: from vine to dine
February to April is tomato harvest time in Victoria, with Australia’s premier tomato processor, Kagome, processing around 180 tonnes of tomatoes every hour, 24 hours a day, for 70 days straight.
More than 4000 tonnes of tomatoes are processed each day and, by the end of the season, 40,000 tonnes of tomato paste and diced tomato products have been made.
Kagome-owned farms grow about half of the tomatoes, with contracted growers supplying the rest. But all harvesting is done by Kagome, using its own harvest fleet. Coordinating this operation through 500-odd phone calls each day and paper records was a mammoth task. So Kagome approached Microsoft’s partner, Advance Computing, to digitally transform the entire process.
Kagome wanted to know exactly where the tomatoes came from, when they were picked, which truck delivered them, when they arrived at the plant, processing conditions, when they were packed and where they went … In other words, they wanted transparency from vine to dine.
Advance Computing devised an Internet of Things (IoT) solution that incorporated data from on-farm sensors, in-truck devices and technology installed in Kagome’s loading bay to ensure that the company could have a clear window on its operations. The system is based on Windows 10 IoT devices and a range of Microsoft Azure cloud technologies, reporting and analytics tools.
Kagome’s CEO, Jason Fritsch, says that the Azure-based solution paid for itself five times over in its first season.
How it all works
Using the IoT solution and the range of Microsoft Azure cloud technologies, Kagome is able to collect RFID information about its raw product at each step of its journey from the farm to the factory. All harvesters, tractors and collection bins have been fitted with RFID tags and GPS technology. Load-measuring cells on the trailers that hold the bins as they are loaded with produce give farmers visibility of the weight of the produce as it is being harvested. This enables operators to track the actions in the field, and to record the amount of produce collected.
The GPS-located IoT system means yield can be tracked against paddock boundaries and visualised in heat mapping of fields, which will be collected over time to show productivity rates and yield patterns. Kagome is working on using this information to help forecast production and plan for potential yield ahead of harvest.
A web app enables Kagome’s logistics team and drivers to move the perishable product on a first-in, first-out schedule while maintaining an efficient, steady flow into the plant.
100 B-Double trucks deliver the tomatoes to the factory, where a weighbridge marries up the incoming bins with an accurate weight measure for the incoming delivery. When a bin crosses the weighbridge at the plant, and is tipped into the processing line, an IoT device reads when the bin was harvested and the GPS location it came from.
The bins are then allocated to a product line, where the contents are processed into either tomato paste or diced tomatoes.
Processed tomatoes are then fed into ‘pack-off’ bins and barrels, which are also all RFID tagged, and then shipped to end users across the country and the globe.
Company executives, farm owners, factory staff, end customers and food safety authorities can all access data held in the Azure cloud platform via PC or web apps accessible on mobile devices.
The full supply chain visibility afforded by the IoT/Azure system enables Kagome to be confident in the provenance of its product. This level of traceability means Kagome can tell the whole history of any packet of its tomato paste — down to where and when the tomatoes were harvested.
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