What’s for dinner? Once a simple question, it has grown in complexity over the years for one main reason — people want to know what exactly they are feeding their families. There have been many shifts in how we think about food, which have been driven by health consciousness, green practices, and foodie culture. This has resulted in a rise in popularity of farm-to-table practices.
The Farm-to-table trend has continued to make waves in the food supply chain. End customers want to know the source of their food, if there are any allergens present, and whether or not the food is truly organic.
Some end customers want to know if the food was sourced from farms with ethical labor and environmental practices, as well as what countries the food comes from.
This is why farm-to-table is seen as a social movement, as well as a business practice. The core concept revolves around using foods sourced from local and regional farms for restaurants, school cafeterias, and even home cooking. Ideally, these are sourced through direct acquisition from the farms themselves.
You never know what will be a passing trend and what will be the new way of doing things. Some view the farm-to-table movement as a millennial trend, but it has retained staying power in the market so far. This is because of the benefits gained are multifaceted.
On a community level, farm-to-table promotes local and regional farming. This goes directly towards farmers and food producers in your area. Additionally, by sourcing from nearby regions instead of across the world, there is a reduction in carbon emissions throughout the supply chain. Less road traveled also means fresher food. Proponents of farm-to-table say it results in fresher, healthier foods.
While this gives the idea of an old farmer pulling up in his truck with crates of vegetables, that is not the standard for this method. A fully realized supply chain system exists around the farm to table movement – just as you would expect for the backend of the food service industry. Typically, farms work together or with a cooperative to feed their products into the existing supply chain infrastructure.
Farms, facilities, grocers, and restaurant groups considering the farm-to-table approach should know that turnaround time is extremely important to their success.
What Challenges do farm-to-table face?
While time is of the essence for this approach, there are many other challenges that can gum up the works for the supply chain. Let us take a high-level look at some of these.
Not only do farmers have to go toe-to-toe with larger international food producers, they need to stay ahead of them! To be competitive, these farms cannot have any delays in their supply chain. Since the product has a limited lifespan, fast delivery is even more important for the farm-to-table industry. To thrive, these farms have to be as effective as the global producers that supply restaurants, cafeterias, and grocers.
Fraud & Transparency
As we already discussed, customers want to know about what they put in their bodies. This means providing information on where the food comes from. Food packaging can include origin information, as well as how many stops were between the grower and table. This combats what is called food fraud — which occurs when shady business claim to provide farm-to-table products without actually doing so.
The organics market faced a similar issue, which was addressed by instituting a USDA Organic certification program. While there isn’t an official farm-to-table certification as of now, providing the consumer with more information lets them know that you aren’t engaging in false advertising.
These communications do not have to be overly complicated, either. With the wide availability of smart phones, simply including QR codes in menus and labels can show any information you want to share. This can even include the path food took to get from the farmer to the end customer’s plate.
Growth & Scalability
As popularity of regional foods and farm to table grows, your operation will need to scale to handle this growth. This is why you should implement a system that allows you to scale with that growth. As orders increase, you run a greater risk of overloading the flow of your supply chain.
The efficiency of the global economy is rooted in our ability to move products around the world in bulk. The farm-to-table method turns away from the globalized economy for a regional take. This comes at a cost, which directly affects pricing.
While local and regional foods often times cost more, fruit and vegetable import costs are on the rise, according to Statista.
Even if your products cost more on average, the trade-off is that your target customers care about the food they feed their families. This means that quality is in the spotlight, so pricing becomes a secondary or tertiary concern.
For an effective logistics strategy, you need to be able to track both inside of your facility and outside, as well. Externally, you should be able to interface with every touchpoint in your supply chain for traceability. Internal tracking and communication is also a necessity — and your warehouse software needs to communicate from one end of your system to the other.
While consumers will not need to see your internal tracking data, it can help you plan. With the right warehouse software package, you can plan for bottlenecks and peak seasons from past data and predictive modeling.
You need to empower your facility to deliver results — as well as fresh food — to your customers. SSI SCHAEFER has the technology and automation to support track-and-trace for farm-to-table.
SSI SCHAEFER Farm-to-Table solutions
High bay warehouse
Storage / Shuttle Systems
Automated Guided Vehicles
KPIs & Dashboards
If you are looking for a fully or semi-automated solution, or even just better storage for your facility, let’s talk. The experts at SSI SCHAEFER are ready to help you on your next project.