This last year revealed many vulnerabilities and challenges for food suppliers. The pandemic exposed a vulnerability in manufacturers’ reliance on human labor. Regulatory bodies like the FDA, USDA, and GFFA are compelling supply-chain participants to adopt common standards and digital technologies. Retailers – who are under pressure from consumers demanding more variety, sustainability, transparency, and ethical sourcing – are increasingly willing to go around manufacturers to create the products they need if they can’t get the relationship they want with the manufacturer. These challenges will continue beyond 2021.
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At Purdue University's National Conference for Food and Agribusiness, speakers presented results of the University’s research study analyzing what data is collected across the food value chain, how it’s shared, and to what extent it is used to make strategic decisions. The study focused on five levels of the value chain: (1) Ag Input Manufacturers, (2) Ag Retailers, (3) Farmers, (4) First Handlers/Food Processors, (5) Food Manufacturers, and (6) Food Retailers. The event included panel discussions with representatives from each part of the value chain discussing trends they’re experiencing.
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CAT Squared is the first manufacturing execution system (MES) provider in the food industry to become an onboarding partner for IBM Food TrustTM, a blockchain-enabled global network of food chain participants that securely connects supply chain data across the ecosystem with trust and transparency.
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On March 29, members of the CAT Squared team attended the 2019 Blockchain Conference hosted by the Center for Blockchain Excellence at the University of Arkansas Sam M. Walton College of Business. The conference included several keynote speakers including Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas. There were also breakout sessions with panels of blockchain innovators and opportunities for developers to break out their laptops and practice interacting with blockchain development platforms. However, of all the sessions we attended, the one I found most exciting was a discussion led by Golden State Foods (GSF) Chief Technology Officer Guilda Javaheri.
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For nearly 25 years, CAT Squared has developed manufacturing execution systems (MES) to manage plant-floor processes for food processing facilities. CAT Squared’s MES delivers end-to-end traceability from receiving of ingredients and dry goods through shipping of final product. By combining our MES with blockchain and other IIoT technologies, CAT Squared can now expand the reach of our capabilities outside the four walls of the plant, connecting all participants of the food value chain.
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On September 24, Walmart released a letter to their leafy greens suppliers requiring end-to-end traceability back to farm by September 30, 2019. This mandate is in response to multiple high-profile recalls and outbreaks associated with these types of products. To help their suppliers meet Walmart’s traceability goal, the letter refers suppliers to the IBM Food Trust network, a blockchain solution pioneered through a partnership between Walmart and IBM to improve food safety.