There are few industries we are more reliant on than agriculture. Not only does its produce sustain the global population, but it props up economies and communities. It also boasts one of the world’s most complex logistics operations. Agricultural supply chains cover farm production, all the way to processing, distribution and retail and there is mounting pressure on them to become more sustainable.
Despite this, one of the world’s most intricate supply chains is also one of the most reliant on 20th century technology. Tractors and other mechanical devices from the 1880s continue to play a key role. In the same vein, the industry remains plagued by two recurring challenges: visibility and compliance.
Transport planning and carrier compliance
When it comes to transport, two of the biggest challenges facing the agricultural industry are visibility and compliance. The former is not unique to the sector. Our shipper survey found that live vehicle tracking was the number one concern for shippers in 2019. Knowing when something is set to arrive means better planning and improved customer service. Two elements that are particularly important in the agro sector, where a real-time ETA can go some way to ensuring valuable resource isn’t wasted waiting around for fertiliser to show up.
We developed our Live Tracking solution to help deal with just that. With customised delay notifications and real time updates, it means substantial time and money can be saved by avoiding having drivers or unloaders waiting around for delayed deliveries. Automating the tracking also cuts down on phone calls and texts, instead allowing for real-time visibility of a truck’s location. That also helps in terms of the actual delivery location, which can often prove difficult to find when dealing with large agricultural spaces with no postal address.
Compliance – Making sure everything’s in order
Fertilisers are often classed as dangerous chemicals – and with good reason. Some have properties similar to explosives and need to transported accordingly. The need to source a specialised and flexible carrier pool adds an additional layer of difficulty to the logistics process. This is especially relevant due to the current driver shortage. Add to this increased scrutiny from governments and local bodies to follow rules and regulations and the need to work with a reliable carrier base becomes apparent.
Here, the answer is better collaboration within the transport community. And while some companies within the agricultural sector already pool their carrier resources, there is much scope for improvement. At Transwide, we’ve worked with our partners to develop the Alpega Hub, which brings together a community of 80,000+, pre-qualified carriers. We use a standardised carrier scorecard to ensure that shippers know exactly what they get when they work with a specific company.
Tailored solutions to unique needs
While a lack of transparency and stricter regulations are two key concerns for the industry, we haven’t touched upon some of the other unique considerations facing the sector. Take sustainability. While sustainability is a concern for most industries, in the case of agriculture it needs to take into consideration changing consumer trends, regulations and growing populations. Throw increasingly unpredictable weather and natural disasters into the mix and its clear that the sector has to balance a complex array of issues.
We will return to these concerns in a future post, but the one element all of them have in common is their potential to be managed by technology. It’s time for the agro industry to wave goodbye to the 20th century and usher in the era of digital technology.