Food Chain Management Knowledge Platform

Knowledge Platform for Food Chain Optimization

© Fraunhofer IML
Fig1: Losses in food retailing
© Fraunhofer FOOD
Abb 2: Demonstrator der Plattform (B. Anderseck/ Fraunhofer IML)
© Fraunhofer FOOD
Abb 3: Demonstrator der Plattform: Einfache Tests zur Messung der Warenqualität auf allen Stufen der Lebensmittelkette

Losses due to spoilage occur at every stage of the food chain. In the case of fruit and vegetables, just half of the goods reach the food retail trade (Fig. 1). The spoiled fruits and vegetables incur additional costs for removal and disposal. The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft's Economic-Strategic Alliance (WISA) Food Chain Management addresses this problem by working on procedures for quality, safety and transparency in the food chain.

The cause of the problem described is that the degree of ripeness of fruit and vegetables is usually not checked until the goods are received. Quality defects are thus often only detected in the store. In order to reduce losses in the food chain, permanent monitoring of the degree of ripeness of the goods is required. Ideally, the logistics chain should be based on the condition of the product. The aim of the research project is therefore to minimize losses through targeted logistical control (Fig. 2). Simple tests should make it possible to measure the quality of goods at all stages of the food chain (Fig. 3). A web-based expert system developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML) is to represent the entire food chain from the producer to the retailer (Fig. 4).

Knowledge platform as information and technology platform

Abb 4: Wissensplattform: webbasiertes Expertensystem bildet die gesamte Food Chain vom Erzeuger bis zum Handel ab.
Food chain Management Knowledge Platform: Representation of processing steps in the "Food Chain Management Browser"
Abb 6: Wissensplattform: Einfache Tests zur Messung der Warenqualität auf allen Stufen der Lebensmittelkette: FreshScan Frischescanner

The knowledge platform informs the user about processes and potential hazards in the entire supply chain.

"We want to show the user what leverage his activity has on upstream or downstream production stages," explains Björn Anderseck, Head of WISA Food Chain Management. A dialog system for adapting the food chain to legal and product-related requirements keeps the system up to date at all times. On the one hand, the knowledge platform therefore serves as an information platform (Fig. 4). On the other hand, it is a platform for technologies, as services and technical innovations are proposed to optimize the food chain.

The knowledge platform presents the processing stages of the food chain in a "food chain browser" (Fig 5). The browser is divided into three levels: Process Stage, Main Processes, and Process Steps. At the process level, for example, the user can choose "Trade". Then, at the main process level, he can click on "Goods receipt". At the process step level, the user can then select, for example, "Goods receipt entry", "Weighing of goods" or "Drawing of a quality sample". In addition, test and control routines are automatically executed depending on the risk and reliability of the partners and visualized and output in the form of scenarios and corresponding recommendations for action (Fig. 6). In this way, transparency, safety and quality are to be strengthened at all stages of the food chain.

"Economic-Strategic Alliances" WISA of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

WISA Food Chain Management of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Six Fraunhofer Institutes have joined forces in the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft's WISA Food Chain Management to take an  interdisciplinary approach to quality, safety and transparency in the food chain. The alliance partners include the Fraunhofer Institutes for Material Flow and Logistics (IML), Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME), Physical Measurement Techniques (IPM), Integrated Circuits (IIS), Process Engineering and Packaging (IVV), and Reliability and Microintegration (IZM). Fraunhofer IML is in charge of the project management. In addition, Fraunhofer IML is responsible for the development and programming of the expert system. The other five institutes provide the technologies for the expert system.

With the "Economic-Strategic Alliances" (WISA), the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft promotes joint research projects of the Fraunhofer institutes. In this way, the institutes always have the latest technologies and interdisciplinary approaches at their disposal. The aim of the WISA is to develop solutions and products with which new market segments can be opened up. The projects, which run for up to three years, are selected in an internal competition and subsidized with up to several million euros.