Opinion: Digital transformation, not Covid, is the biggest challenge to food supply chains


Friday 16th October was World Food Day.

For one day at least, food security was back in the spotlight. That our shelves have remained fully stocked (save two weeks in early March) throughout the outbreak of Covid-19 is an example to the remarkable efficacy and durability of global food supply chains.

According to the Economist, as the population has grown to almost 8bn people, so the global supply of food has nearly tripled since 1970. Yet, in the same period, the number of people who have too little to eat has fallen from 36% to 11%. Food exports have grown sixfold over the past 30 years and approximately 80% of the world’s population consume food that was grown and produced in another country. Indeed, the value of food supply chains is equivalent to 10% of world GDP today.

In overcoming the immediate ‘Covid shock’, can we then conclude then that food supply and value chains have survived the greatest challenge? Actually, no, because an even greater challenge to global food value chain actors lurks on the immediate horizon: digital transformation.

Digitising Food Value Chains

The digital transformation of food supply chains is about much, much more than applying advanced digital technologies to increase efficiencies.

It is about a holistic transformation that connects producers and suppliers with buyers and consumers in one, seamless journey.

It is about finding new ways to generate value from food whilst improving the preservation of our planet and our most scarce resources. It is about finding ways to personalise and tell the story of each farmer, and to deliver that story to the end-buyer through packaging technology.

Above all, the digital transformation of food supply chains is about empowering both producers with higher wages and buyers with better information, whilst at the same improving food quality, lowering food prices and (perhaps most importantly), lowering CO2 emissions.

Digital technologies can make parts of the food chain more efficient. Digital transformation can transform the global food industry through technology. How? By creating new digital collaboration opportunities between produces and buyers, whilst enabling food suppliers – those currently driving food supply chains – to be part of this collaboration opportunity, in the process decreasing friction and costs, and improving efficiencies, value and choice.

Power to the people (specifically, farmers , suppliers and consumers)

According to research by McKinsey, new digital connected infrastructure for food producers could generate up to $500bn in additional value to GDP by 2030. Indeed, advanced connectivity could contribute $2trillion to $3trillion in additional value to global GDP over the next decade.

A key part of this digital transformation will be the building of critical digital infrastructure to enable advanced connectivity throughout food value chains. Current food value chains remain heavily manual, negatively affecting not just producers and consumers but also food suppliers, who are in between both and unable to respond to changing customer requirements and tastes, thereby threatening their own long-term survival.

A new digital framework

How can food value chains be digitally transformed? At OneAgrix, we are answering that question by building a singular digital and digitised ecosystem, incorporating not only our proprietary tech but also the advanced technologies of key supply chain partners. This means we can offer supply chain traceability, blockchain enabled verification solutions, logistics and payments all in one turnkey solution for both suppliers and buyers.


Viruses don’t recognize borders. They spread indiscriminately and even if they could be contained to one physical location, its effects would be felt outside of national borders. The same is true for CO2: food insecurity in one location may be the result of drought on the other side of the world. Food insecurity is one of the leading causes of geopolitical risk.

The digital transformation of food value chains is perhaps the surest way to integrate these as yet still disparate components and create new collaboration opportunities.

We are only as strong as the most vulnerable. In this context, it is about time we strengthened the two weakest components in the food ecosystem, producers and consumers, increasing food supply, quality and farmer incomes, whilst reducing waste, consumer prices and CO2.

Author: Matthew Hoffer, Managing Director, Europe & the Middle East, OneAgrix.