Icicle creator and food safety expert Steven Burton was featured in a guest blog on Global Food Safety Resource (GFSR) this week, Improving Food Safety on Farms with Big Data, following his previous guest blogs on temperature control and food safety technology and how to choose food safety software earlier this year. This week’s post looks at the potential for big data and IoT to revolutionize agriculture in ways that haven’t been seen since the development of farming technology at the beginning of the 20th century.
The fact is that farmers have always relied on data to predict weather and other factors that affect crop health and yield. The potential for Big Data – the pooling of much larger quantities of data to conduct trend analyses – thus has huge potential to change the industry. Farmers can now collect information on scales never before seen.
The article looks at some major developments of Big Data in agriculture, including initiatives and technologies that improve the health of crops and livestock, such as smart farming, drones, precision dairy farming, and more. It also examines the application of Big Data to food safety software, highlighting Icicle’s Smart Hazard Suggestion feature that pools anonymized data to expedite and improve food safety planning. Software developments like these use Big Data to streamline the creation of HACCP and HARPC plans for food manufacturers by suggesting hazards from a database of hazards associated with an ingredient, process, product, material, packaging, and more. It also helps with food safety education in the workplace, building a better food safety culture.
One of the areas of application of Big Data, both on farms and in regulatory practices, is for inspectors. Large pools of data collected by software programs like Icicle can help regulatory agencies undertake document review and identify a profile of establishments where problems are more likely to occur. On the other side of food safety, Big Data is also being used by organizations like the CDC to track outbreaks and identify their source, even according to the specific genetic markers of particular strains.
When data is pooled, everybody wins: higher crop yields, better product quality, and improved bottom lines. Using Big Data on farms, in other food establishments, and in regulatory operations benefits society as a whole by delivering better, safer food.