Aiming to address global demand for food, The World Economic Forum, Switzerland, released Innovation with a Purpose: Improving Traceability in Food Value Chains through Technology,” a report that investigates the role of disruptive technology applications capable of effectively tracing inefficiencies in food value chains. From food fraud to foodborne illness and food loss caused by inefficiencies in the supply chain, lack of production and supply chain visibility are the first to suffer.

The World Economic Forum’s Innovation with a Purpose Platform is a large-scale partnership and project accelerator that aims to harness the transformative power of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to better address food system challenges.

Nearly one-third of global food production is currently wasted, and yet nearly 800 million people are undernourished. In addition, food systems are responsible for 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The World Health Organization estimates that 600 million people fall ill and 420,000 die each year due to contaminated food.

Traceability will address consumer demand for food production transparency and further enhance the ability to identify, respond to and even prevent food safety issues. Furthermore, it could reduce the exposure to outbreak of food risks by making it faster, more efficient and more feasible to identify a source of food contamination precisely.

"The Fourth Industrial Revolution is transforming food systems before our eyes. But, we cannot take its benefits for granted, especially in developing countries where the value chain is dominated by smallholder farmers and small and medium food enterprises. Now is the time to look at emerging technologies and ask ourselves what it is we can do on the policy and advocacy side to ensure they are moving the world in the direction of inclusive and sustainable development,” says Juergen Voegele, senior director, food and agriculture global practice, World Bank.

The innovative solutions will build on a range of transformative technologies such as blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) and food-sensing technologies, and offers an opportunity to improve information about the provenance, safety, efficiency and sustainability of food and food supplies.

“A transformation in food systems is needed to nourish the growing global population in a sustainable manner. There is enormous potential to leverage the power of disruptive technologies to transform food systems, so that it enhances the lives of millions of people. The government of The Netherlands is committed to support linking of such technologies in the agri-food sector to local innovation systems in an inclusive and sustainable way to contribute to the sustainable development goals,” says Sigrid Kaag, minister of foreign trade and development cooperation of The Netherlands.

The report also identifies several areas for collaboration with a focus on “pathways to scale” – policies, standards and economic models – that help support the inclusive scaling of new food-related technology solutions critical to support global poverty alleviation goals.

“Disruptive technologies like digital agriculture can accelerate implementation and adoption of solutions across the global food chain and allow mitigation of critical food safety concerns. What this timely report highlights is that for benefits from these technologies to be truly inclusive and maximized, there need to be new forms of multi-stakeholder collaboration focused on empowering small-scale producers in developing and emerging economies who will face barriers to adoption. The report is part of the Innovation with a Purpose Platform from the World Economic Forum’s Centre for Global Public Goods, which promotes rapid and scaled innovation in public-private cooperation platforms,” says Dominic Waughray, managing director and head of the Centre for Global Public Goods of the World Economic Forum.