Post-harvesting losses - how to minimize using technology


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The post-harvest process is a system consisting of multiple moving parts–from seed sun-drying and cooling to cleaning and storage; there's plenty to take care of at every stage of the post-harvest cycle. Every seed company starts with the target of maximizing seed viability, vigor, and health. Additionally, optimized efficiency, maximized returns, and minimized losses are other big goals seed companies strive for–from harvest to consumption. The end goal of seed processing is to obtain the maximum percentage of pure seed with full germination potential. 

However, this journey is not one without crippling challenges. According to research, losses in the post-harvest sector are estimated to be anywhere between 10-25% in durables, semi-perishables, and products like milk, meat, fish and eggs. This number skyrockets to 30-40% when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Timely technological intervention with a strategic approach can cut down on losses–be it food or otherwise. 

Post-harvest challenges seed companies encounter on a daily basis 

The post-harvest losses and the stages at which they occur depend on various factors such as the supply chain, location, existing climate, prevalence of pests, use of technology (or lack thereof), and so on. As a result of these losses, seed companies are left with low quantity, poor quality seeds that are neither consumable nor profit-making. Some of the other key challenges seed companies face include (but are not limited to): 


  1. Lack of digital records: Tracking and maintaining a digital record of key post-harvest activities such as cleaning, drying, seed treatment, bagging, storage, and shipping can prevent adulteration. Data-driven tech tools can: 
    -Prevent instances of carelessness and lack of proper hygiene during processing, packing, storing, and transportation 
    -Assure buyers seeds of high quality with minimum adulteration levels 
  2. Absence of seed traceability: Seed traceability is among the most significant challenges encountered by seed companies today. A package solution technology such as RootTrace can: 
    -Help in capturing farm data at critical points post-harvest of seeds 
    -Establish end-to-end traceability of the seed life cycle 
    -Ensure seed authenticity and eliminate counterfeiting 
    -Provide access to new markets and build consumer trust with seed to shelf traceabilit
  3. Poor compliance measures: Often, seed companies are unable to monitor compliance policies and measures in place while storing seeds. Lack of adherence to proper hygiene can affect output quality and seed nutrition. This is where a QR-enabled tool can: 
    -Establish quality benchmarks, eliminate counterfeiting (which accounts for about 30% of products in FMCG), and ensure that seed companies get the best quality of produce 
    -Ease in end-user traceability when required.
    -Bring in transparency and build trust with the end consumer, boosting ROI and profits along the way 
    Pro tip: QR-code tools such as RootTrace provide tamper-proof and weatherproof stickers, making the end-product impossible to counterfeit. Seed companies must go back to the drawing board and ponder over investing in productive, 'smart' technologies that can eliminate key bottlenecks that hamper the quality and, by extension, the organization's bottom line.
  4. Improper inventory management: Another critical issue that plagues seed companies across the post-harvest journey is inaccurate inventory management. As per data, nearly 50%–60% of cereal grains can potentially be wasted during the storage stage. The primary culprit is a lack of technical efficiency. In stark contrast, using scientific storing methods can reduce these losses to as low as 1%–2%! Unassumingly, the Hail Mary for seed companies might be leveraging solutions such as SmartWare that can help: 
    -Monitor logistics and keep the supply chain in check 
    -Keep track of customer orders and drive inventory accuracy 
    -Ensure end-to-end tracking with SKU tagging and enhanced visibility 
    -Improve quality control and packaging quality, and ensure better marketability
  5. Monetary losses: The timely intervention of technology can cut down on post-harvest waste and lead to cost savings. For instance, mechanical reapers can help augment productivity in the post-harvesting stage. Additionally, mechanized drying can help in the grain-drying stage. The strategic use of technology can not only ensure quality products are processed but also ensure robust storage management practices are followed.

The Final Word 

“If post-harvest grain loss alone was completely eliminated, the world would gain virtual territory equivalent to three times the cropland area of France.” - McKinsey. 

There are numerous advanced technologies and tools that seed companies can leverage today. Cropin’s data-driven and AI-powered smart agriculture solutions can keep the post-harvest losses to the minimum, ensuring compliance and transparency across the entire process. This can drive immediate and proactive correction of errors and ensure GMP practice, both during seed transit and while they are kept in storage. If seed companies want to extract optimum value and maximize profits throughout the seed value chain, adopting customized and sustainable technology is well worth the effort and investment. 

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Vijay Nelson

About the Author

Vijay Nelson is the Chief Product Officer at Cropin, the Agritech pioneer who has built the world's first purpose-built industry cloud for Agriculture - Cropin Cloud. He has two decades of experience in product conceptualization and E2E product development for businesses and consumers, bootstrapping new product teams, building product strategies for new businesses, cross-functional team leadership, people management, and software development.