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Industry 5.0: Leveraging Technology for a Sustainable Food Value Chain

Food system components are becoming more linked on a global scale. However, inefficiencies in the food supply chain constrain the delivery of sustainable food security outcomes. Traceability in the food distribution network, food fraud, and low food safety standards are critical to a sustainable supply chain. In recent times, the path to a more inclusive and resilient food value chain has necessitated adaptable and innovative approaches. This initiative is consistent with UN Sustainable Development Goal 12 of attaining sustainable production and consumption in the context of the food supply chain.

Knowledge gap

In recent times, there has been poor technical change to accelerate agricultural productivity growth, which addresses social, economic, nutritional, and environmental challenges. There is a widening gap in global investment in agricultural research and innovation to meet the Sustainable Development Goals for agricultural and climate change mitigation. As a result, there is an imbalance in translating research findings to the market, which is crucial in delivering innovation for sustainable growth. The dawn of the fifth industrial revolution (Industry 5.0), which supports research and innovation in the process of transitioning to human-centricity, resilience, and sustainability, is a welcome development in the agrifood industry. With the era of digital advancement, key values of industry 5.0 have a significant impact on driving efficient resource use, changes in consumer preferences, food distribution, and acceptability needed for food system transformation. Industry 5.0 initiatives promote innovative thinking and entrepreneurial skills, through which resilient strategic approaches will ensure food value chain sustainability. In essence, data-driven innovative technologies such as big data, blockchain, and the internet of things (IoT) are here to scale up and facilitate supply chain optimization concepts.

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Key digital technology booster

Here is a quick look at three of the various digital tools, highlighting the key boosts that Industry 5.0 technologies can bring to the sustainable food supply chain.

The first is the blockchain. It is a decentralized and immutable technology that ensures supply chain optimization through transparency and traceability. Its application in food ecosystems offers more secured logistics and distribution nodes in areas of food safety standards for better consumer satisfaction. The chain process helps reduce food waste and, subsequently, greenhouse gas emissions through efficient management of food recalls and schedules, thus creating an environmentally friendly and sustainable food system.

Also, a big data algorithm, as a data-driven system, manages the supply chain using data analytics through data optimization for informed decisions. The data management system inherent in its process promotes operational efficiency in food product development, quality, and acceptability, which ensures an equitable food system that enhances food and nutrition security. In another way, prospective areas of food waste can be tracked while predicting the nature of future demand for optimized production that promotes environmental sustainability. Data-driven systems approaches to support value chains for inclusive development outcomes through the co-design and delivery of context-relevant technology solutions for sustainable agri-ecosystems This aggregating data system approach can lead to greater cohesion and directionality to catalyze and absorb innovation for agricultural development.

With the rapid development of the Internet of Things (IoT), concerns about connections and networking are optimized through various models. The expected potential of IoT can be harnessed through smartphone applications and web-based platforms for food distribution channels. This data-driven technology, such as smart logistics with modern integrated logistics systems and track supply routes. It improves the chain in terms of food sourcing, logistics, transportation, warehousing, and distribution. Well-defined information management services can also contribute to time and cost savings and have the potential to reduce the environmental pollution caused by logistics. For instance, the development of apps for city-food movements, particularly in the areas of fresh foods, waste disposal and management, and precision agriculture, will contribute to the future sustainability of the food system.

Going forward: Industry 5.0 and the Quadruple Helix

Without a doubt, the Industry 5.0 technology paradigm has promising contributions for food value chain integration. The role of innovation transcends economic growth by showcasing the vital role of social and environmental impacts. Yet, ground-breaking innovations tailored towards the food supply chain for sustainability are often under-incentivized for national and societal development. Research translation and scaling digital talents is urgently needed to tackle the biggest global challenges of the supply chain. By leveraging the strategies of the fifth industrial revolution, spinouts from innovations through quadruple helix model would serve as a springboard for connecting the dots in food system transformation. Exploring technological process through innovative digital technologies that align the food industry with the fifth industrial revolution will help achieving the sustainable development goal of ending hunger and achieving food security.

How to make it happen within the quadruple helix

  • Applied research and innovation in the academia foster the research translation to enterprise, enables start-up growth; and facilitates a culture of scaling research outcomes for societal needs.
  • In the industry space, well-tailored engagement with industry experts on collaborative innovation from ideation to execution for investment funding of industry take-off at different nodes of the food value chain while building startup ecosystems around artificial intelligent and sustainable solutions to meet societal needs.
  • Government’s political will with respect to established policies around digital innovation and technology is a welcome development. Creating an enabling environment through tech-friendly policy (the recent implementation of blockchain policy in Nigeria) is crucial to realizing the full potential of supply chain technology and shaping the future of the agrifood industry.
  • A final take on the quadruple helix is the involvement of community of talents in upskilling and entrepreneurship initiatives for supply chain innovations. This would harness ideas and skills needed to bridge the digital gap and advance the state of innovative technologies for social impact.

The food sector is at the middle of a strategic shift, research and innovation have the propelling force to optimise sustainable production and consumption. Moreover, the sustainability prospect for integrating Industry 5.0 evolution in the food value chain systems would therefore speak to economic (enhanced incomes, agribusiness growth, and job creation); social inclusion (talent skilling and empowerment); and environmental effects (safeguarding natural resources and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions through food loss and waste) in the food supply chain.


Dr. Adesola Ikudayisi for Opolo Global Innovation, Lagos, Nigeria.