Successful launch for Smart Horticulture Asia

Asia’s development is speeding up the use of horticulture technology, but adapting solutions to local supply chains is as important as disruptive technologies.
That was one of the key takeaways from the first edition of SMART Horticulture Asia, the new fresh produce technology conference, which took place on 8 September in Hong Kong.
Running alongside Asia Fruit Logistica, the conference explored the impact of disruptive information technology on traditional fresh produce trade practices, crop cultivation and business models.
Through SMART Horticulture Asia’s day-long programme, it became clear that disruptive technology and information exchange form the basis for a safe, efficient and durable fresh produce supply chain. Supply chain information from farm to fork is the key foundation for the international fresh produce industry, heard delegates.
Revolutionary technologies
In the morning plenaries, leading horticulture technology experts defined cutting-edge developments in the fresh produce and hort-tech industries.
Conference chairman Harrij Schmeitz opened the conference with a series of questions to highlight the impact of technology on the fresh produce business – now and in the future. Is the free web-based service IFTTT (If This Then That) going to change industry replenishment systems? Will the consumer get a sensor that can tell them how many chemicals are used on the crop? Are robots solving the industry’s labour problem of today in crop-care and yields? 
Professor Salah Sukkarieh of the Australian Centre for Field Robotics explained the groundbreaking developments in robotics and vision technology for agriculture. Meanwhile, Compac’s Ken Moynihan showed how supplying companies can use big data collected during the sorting process to protect their labels. 
Technology is also ringing major changes in the production sphere. Julia Charnaya of Priva demonstrated how new ways of cultivating crops are being implemented in retail stores and offices. Innovative uses of energy and water are enabling such breakthroughs, and they’re also being applied on a larger scale in greenhouses. Fulco Wijdooge of Ridder approached the subject from a different angle. Latest technology is not always needed to make progress in Asia’s fresh produce industry, he said. Rightsizing of technology is key, finding a balance between what is required and what is possible.
In the four breakout sessions, eight presenters reflected on the use of technology in horticulture, spanning production, retail, online channels and other fields. The sessions underlined that systems must be ‘interoperable’. International standards such as GS1 for retail and logistics and UNCEFACT for crop production are also needed. The industry has to organise such standards, in the same way that IFPS/Frug I Com do, as such work cannot be done by regulatory bodies.
Changing business
Edward Zhu, CEO of Chic Group, shared his vision on innovation, from strategy to operation. New technologies create not only improvements but also completely new products such as high-pressure processed (HPP) coconut water, he noted.
Loren Zhao of e-tailer Fruitday also revealed how more common technology in the fresh produce market can be used to create value-added products. By sorting citrus on its Brix levels, Fruitday created a value-added citrus brand for China’s B2C e-commerce sector, a market that is already way ahead in terms of innovation.
The next SMART Horticulture Asia takes place on 7 September 2017 in Hong Kong alongside Asia Fruit Logistica.

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