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Supply chain resilience: The role of data in the agriculture industry

Oct 13, 2023
18 min read

The agri-food supply chain faces challenges aggravated by both internal and external factors, and businesses should leverage agricultural data to adapt. 

At a glance:

  • The agri-industry's vast scope includes agriculture, agri-food processing, and retail, contributing significantly to global GDP.
  • Data-driven decision-making revolutionizes agriculture, optimizing operations, mitigating risks, and enhancing market intelligence.
  • Challenges like perishability, quality control, climate change, and geopolitical tensions can disrupt the agri-food supply chain.

The demand for food is on the rise as the world's population steadily grows. The agriculture industry, encompassing the production and distribution of agricultural products, plays a pivotal role in meeting this global need. It is a massive and complex sector that sustains life and drives global economies. However, the agri-industry faces several challenges that threaten its ability to consistently deliver food to the world's tables. These challenges include climate change-induced disruptions, supply chain bottlenecks, and demand fluctuations.

In this era of data-driven decision-making, data analytics in agriculture is increasingly becoming a powerful tool for companies to overcome hurdles and ensure the resilience of their supply chains. This article discusses the critical role of data in the agri-industry and its capacity to navigate the industry through turbulent times. Specifically, we will explore how data is transforming the industry, mitigating challenges, and leading the way toward a more resilient food supply chain.

The agri-industry landscape

Understanding the agri-industry's current landscape is essential in knowing how data can be useful. It is a vast and diverse sector that encompasses traditional farming and the entire supply chain involved in getting food from farms to consumers.

The scope of the agri-industry

The agricultural industry is vast, comprising agriculture, agri-food processing, distribution, and retail. It employs millions of people globally and is a significant contributor to the gross domestic product (GDP) of many countries.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, agriculture alone contributes 3% to the world's GDP. However, the GDP derives more than 25% from agriculture in many least-developed countries.

Every subsector of the agri-industry has specific data sets and analytics that make sense to utilize for decision-making. For instance, by studying retail supply chain data, retailers can minimize the risk of inadequately stocking shelves and losing out on revenue.

Vulnerabilities and complexities

Despite its size and importance, the agri-industry is not without vulnerabilities. It operates in a highly interconnected and globalized world, making it susceptible to various disruptions. Recent examples of supply chain disruptions have highlighted the industry's fragility, particularly those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Food Supply Chains and COVID-19: Impacts and Policy Lessons report of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the global pandemic affected all food supply chain segments simultaneously, including farm production, food processing, transport and logistics, and final demand.

Different products have experienced disruptions at various supply chain stages. As such, not all sectors and products have been equally affected. Nonetheless, when one link in the supply chain breaks, it can have far-reaching consequences, impacting everything from food availability to pricing.

Real-world disruptions

The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of recent food supply chain problems and disruptions. Labor shortages in developing and underdeveloped countries due to the pandemic directly affected the livestock production, horticulture, planting, harvesting, and crop processing sectors, all of which are relatively labor intensive.

However, farmworker shortage was an important issue well before the pandemic began. This leads to delays and disruptions that can result in massive food waste, financial losses, and food shortages in the market. Such disruptions can have cascading effects throughout the entire agri-food supply chain.

Data as a game-changer

In recent years, data has emerged as a game-changer, leading the agricultural revolution. It has transformed the way the agri-industry and its sub-sectors operate and has the potential to develop it further.

The evolution of data in agriculture

To truly understand the impact of data in agriculture, recognizing the journey it has taken is essential. Agriculture has traditionally been a sector where knowledge was passed down through generations. Farming decisions were often based on experience and intuition. However, modern technology and data-driven tools have ushered in a new era of agricultural practices.

  1. From handwritten records to digital insights: Historically, farmers relied on handwritten records to track crop yields, weather patterns, and other essential information. These records were valuable but limited in scope and accessibility. Today, digital tools and sensors collect data at an unprecedented scale, providing a comprehensive view of agricultural operations.
  2. The rise of precision agriculture: One of the most significant developments in modern agriculture is precision agriculture. This approach involves the precise application of inputs (such as water, fertilizers, and pesticides) based on data-driven insights. Sensors, GPS technology, and remote sensing enable farmers to optimize their practices, resulting in increased yields, reduced resource use, and minimized environmental impact.
  3. Data-driven decision-making: Data analytics has become the cornerstone of decision-making in agriculture. Farmers can now analyze historical data, real-time information, and predictive models to make informed choices about planting, irrigation, pest control, and harvesting. This data-driven approach maximizes efficiency and profitability.

Types of data in agriculture

Agriculture generates and consumes various types of data, each with its unique significance. Understanding these data types is crucial to harnessing their potential.

  1. Weather data: Weather has a profound impact on agriculture. Access to real-time weather data and forecasts allows farmers to plan planting and harvesting times, predict weather-related challenges, and optimize irrigation practices.
  2. Market data: Market data provides insights into supply and demand dynamics, pricing trends, and consumer preferences. It helps farmers and agri-businesses make decisions about what to grow and when to sell their products for maximum profit.
  3. Crop and soil data: Sensors and remote monitoring provide data on crop health, soil moisture levels, and nutrient content. This data aids in precise resource allocation and optimizing crop yields.
  4. Livestock data: For the livestock sector, data on animal health, weight, and feeding habits can improve animal welfare, increase production efficiency, and ensure the quality of animal products.
  5. Transaction data: Transaction data, such as what Tridge Data & Analytics provides, is particularly valuable. It offers insights into trading prices, market dynamics, and competitor activities. This data empowers businesses to make informed pricing decisions, understand market trends, and maintain a competitive edge.

The significance of data analytics

Data in itself is valuable, but its true power lies in data analytics — the process of extracting meaningful insights from raw data. In agriculture, data analytics plays a pivotal role in transforming information into actionable knowledge. With it, you can:

  1. Optimize operations: Data analytics enables the optimization of various agricultural processes. For instance, it can help farmers determine the ideal planting density, irrigation schedule, and pest control strategies. By fine-tuning these factors, farmers can maximize yields while minimizing resource use.
  2. Mitigate risks: Agriculture is inherently susceptible to risks such as weather-related disasters and pest outbreaks. Data analytics allows farmers and agri-suppliers to identify early warning signs without relying on guesswork. Accordingly, they can take proactive measures to mitigate these risks, reducing potential losses.
  3. Utilize predictive analytics: Predictive analytics uses historical data and advanced modeling techniques to forecast future events. When applying this type of data analytics in agriculture, farmers and agri-businesses can predict crop yields, market trends, and disease outbreaks. These predictions can help make strategic decisions.
  4. Use resources efficiently: Data analytics helps optimize the use of resources like water and fertilizer. By precisely matching resource application to crop needs, agribusinesses can reduce waste and minimize environmental impact.
  5. Gain market intelligence: Understanding market trends and consumer preferences is crucial for agribusinesses. Data analytics provides actionable market intelligence, allowing businesses to tailor their products and marketing strategies to meet consumer demand effectively.

Supply chain challenges in the agri-industry

The agri-food supply chain is unique in its complexity and the specific challenges it faces. To navigate these challenges successfully, it is crucial to identify and understand them.

Major challenges


Many agricultural products have a limited shelf life, making them highly perishable. This requires a fast and efficient supply chain to minimize food waste. According to the United Nations, 13% of produced food is lost between harvest and retail globally.

Meanwhile, an estimated 17% of total global food production is wasted in households, in food service, and in retail altogether. A 2020 study from the University of Plymouth cited this statistic and added that perishable food products (PFPs), like fruits and vegetables, constitute about 70% of the total wasted food.

Quality control

Ensuring the quality and safety of agricultural products is paramount. Any lapse in quality control can lead to health risks and financial losses. Poor quality control at the farm level, during handling, storage, and transportation, is also connected to the problem of perishability.

Without proper quality control, agricultural products and resources lead to waste. The FAO corporate Statistics Quality Assurance Framework (SQAF) is a valuable tool promoting the adoption of sound and internationally accepted statistical concepts that may help with quality control efforts.

Distribution issues

Efficient distribution of agricultural products from farms to consumers is a critical component of the agri-industry. However, this process is not without its challenges, and disruptions at any stage can lead to delays, increased costs, and food losses. Some of the specific distribution challenges in the agri-industry include:

  1. Logistical complexity: The agri-food supply chain involves intricate logistics due to the diversity of products, various stakeholders, and often long distances between farms and consumers. Managing the movement of agricultural goods efficiently can be a significant challenge.
  2. Transportation challenges: Reliable and timely transportation is essential to prevent spoilage and ensure fresh products reach consumers. Issues such as inadequate infrastructure, road conditions, and limited access to refrigerated transport can hinder the smooth flow of goods.
  3. Storage facilities: Adequate storage facilities are crucial for preserving the quality and safety of agricultural products. Lack of proper storage options can lead to spoilage and waste, especially for perishable goods.

These distribution challenges highlight the need for data-driven solutions that provide insights into supply chain operations and optimize transportation routes. Data analytics can help agribusinesses address these specific distribution issues and enhance their overall supply chain resilience.

External factors

Climate change

Climate change is one of the most pressing external challenges facing the agri-industry. The agricultural sector is highly dependent on weather patterns, making it vulnerable to the increasing unpredictability of climate-related events. Climate change impacts the agri-food supply chain through:

  • Erratic weather patterns: Rising temperatures, prolonged droughts, and erratic rainfall patterns can disrupt planting and harvesting schedules. Unpredictable weather events, such as hurricanes and floods, can damage crops and infrastructure.
  • Altered growing seasons: Climate change can alter the traditional growing seasons, affecting the availability and quality of crops. It can also lead to the emergence of new pests and diseases.
  • Water scarcity: Changes in precipitation patterns can result in water scarcity, which affects 700 million people in 43 countries. Competition for water resources can intensify, leading to conflicts among agricultural, industrial, and domestic users.

Geopolitical tensions

Global geopolitical tensions, including trade disputes and export restrictions, can have a direct impact on the agri-food supply chain. These tensions can disrupt the flow of agricultural products between countries and regions:

  • Trade barriers: Tariffs and trade barriers imposed by countries can lead to reduced exports or imports of agricultural goods. This can affect the availability and affordability of certain food products in domestic markets.
  • Export restrictions: Some countries may impose export restrictions on essential agricultural commodities during times of crisis or to safeguard their domestic food supply. These restrictions can disrupt global supply chains and lead to price volatility.
  • Import dependencies: Many countries, approximately 66 according to the FAO, depend on imports to meet their food needs. Geopolitical tensions can disrupt these imports, leading to food shortages and higher prices.

Economic factors

Economic factors, including currency fluctuations and financial crises, can affect the agri-industry as well:

  • Currency volatility: Currency exchange rate fluctuations can impact the cost of imported inputs and the revenue from exports. This can in turn compromise the profitability of agricultural operations.
  • Financial stability: Economic downturns and financial crises can lead to reduced investment in agriculture and disruptions in the supply chain. Farmers may face challenges accessing credit and resources.
  • Food price inflation: Economic instability can lead to food price inflation, making essential food products less affordable for consumers.

Financial implications

Crop losses and reduced yields

One of the most significant financial consequences of supply chain disruptions in agriculture is crop losses and reduced yields. When supply chains experience delays or bottlenecks, it can result in several adverse outcomes for farmers, suppliers, and distributors alike:

  • Crop spoilage: Perishable crops, such as fruits and vegetables, are particularly vulnerable to supply chain disruptions. Delays in transportation or storage can lead to spoilage, rendering the entire crop unsellable.
  • Reduced quality: Even if crops are not entirely lost, supply chain disruptions can impact their quality. Produce that remains in transit for extended periods may lose freshness and appeal, reducing its market value.
  • Lower yields: In some cases, disruptions can affect planting schedules and lead to reduced yields. This not only results in financial losses for farmers but also contributes to food scarcity and increased prices in the market.

Increased operating costs

Supply chain disruptions often require additional resources to manage their resulting challenges. These increased operating costs can strain the finances of agricultural businesses:

  • Transportation costs: When supply chains are disrupted, alternative transportation methods may be required to get products to market. This can involve higher shipping costs, particularly if expedited shipping is necessary to minimize losses.
  • Storage costs: To cope with delays, businesses may need to invest in additional storage facilities or extend the storage duration. These added storage costs can eat into profits.
  • Resource reallocation: Farmers and agri-businesses may need to reallocate resources to address supply chain disruptions. This can involve diverting labor, equipment, or capital away from other critical activities.

Price volatility

Supply chain disruptions can lead to price volatility in the agricultural market. This volatility can have cascading effects:

  • Price increases: When supply chains are disrupted, the availability of certain products can decrease. This scarcity can drive up prices, making food less affordable for consumers.
  • Price decreases: Conversely, in cases where perishable goods face supply chain disruptions, prices may decrease due to oversupply and the need to quickly sell products before they spoil. While this may benefit consumers, it results in financial losses for producers.
  • Market uncertainty: Price volatility introduces uncertainty into the market. Producers may find it challenging to predict revenue, and consumers may face unpredictable price fluctuations.

Data-driven solutions

To address these challenges, the agri-industry is turning to data-driven solutions. Data analytics has various applications for enhancing supply chain resilience. Here are some solutions:

Predictive analytics

Predictive analytics involves analyzing historical data and current market conditions to forecast demand and supply fluctuations, allowing for better planning. This data-driven solution can mitigate uncertain demand fluctuations, ensuring a consistent supply of agricultural products to meet market needs.

Quality control

Quality control relies on sensors and data analysis to monitor the quality of agricultural products throughout the supply chain. By ensuring only safe and high-quality products reach consumers, this solution addresses the challenge of maintaining product quality and safety, reducing the risk of product recalls and waste.

Transaction data

Transaction data provides accurate pricing insights, offering real-time data on trading prices. This solution helps businesses make informed pricing decisions, allowing them to cope withf pricing fluctuations and market volatility. It enables businesses to optimize their pricing strategies for better profitability.

Tridge Transaction Data is a valuable resource for data-driven decision-making. It collects and analyzes B/L and customs data from the global market, and offers data visualizations, making it easier to understand market data. This also provides invaluable insights into trading prices, market dynamics, and competitor activities.

Competitive analysis

In the agri-industry, competitive analysis is crucial in helping businesses make smarter decisions about their pricing and product strategy. For instance, the Company Analytics service offered by Tridge is instrumental in evaluating potential partnerships and monitoring competitors.

Company Analytics can provide valuable information about potential partners, including their financial stability and trading history. This data can help businesses make informed decisions when considering new collaborations.

In addition, Company Analytics allows agribusinesses to closely monitor their competitors' activities. This includes tracking their product offerings, pricing strategies, and market reach. Armed with this information, companies can adjust their strategies and gain a competitive edge in the market.

Use cases and success stories

Several companies have already demonstrated the power of data-driven solutions in agriculture. For example, one case employed predictive analytics and weather data to manage inventory effectively. It also used data sets to develop advanced algorithms that predict the protein content of soya.

Meanwhile, data-driven solutions can be customized to address the unique challenges of the agri-food supply chain. For instance, data can help optimize transportation routes to reduce delivery times and minimize spoilage. It can also enable better inventory management to ensure a consistent supply of products.

Regulatory and ethical considerations

While data holds immense potential in the agri-industry, its use is not without challenges. It is essential to address regulatory and ethical considerations to ensure responsible data usage.

Regulatory landscape

The regulatory landscape significantly shapes the role of data in agriculture. These regulations aim to balance data-driven agriculture's benefits with individual rights and environmental protection. They encompass various rules and guidelines governing data collection, storage, and sharing. Agri-businesses and organizations must effectively navigate these regulations to ensure responsible agricultural data collection and usage while complying with the law.

Data privacy regulations

A prominent example of data privacy regulation is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union. GDPR demands that personal data, including information about farmers or consumers, be collected and processed with consent and securely. This affects data collection practices and requires stringent compliance to protect individual privacy.

Food safety regulations

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in the United States exemplifies food safety regulations. Such regulations mandate traceability and record-keeping to ensure food safety. Agricultural data may need to be maintained and shared for traceability, posing challenges for data management, but ensuring consumer safety.

Environmental regulations

Environmental regulations related to pesticide use and water quality are another facet of the regulatory landscape. Agricultural data on pesticide application, soil health, and water management may fall under these regulations, influencing farming practices and data reporting to promote environmentally responsible agriculture.

Cross-border data transfer

International data transfer regulations apply when agricultural data crosses borders. Compliance includes ensuring data security and adhering to local data protection laws. These rules can impact international data sharing, affecting global partnerships and collaborations in agriculture.

Implications of regulations on data in agriculture

  1. Data security and privacy: Regulations require robust data security and privacy protection, increasing data management costs and complexity for agricultural businesses.
  2. Data sharing restrictions: Certain regulations may limit sharing of sensitive or proprietary data, potentially hindering collaboration in the sector.
  3. Compliance costs: Agriculture businesses must allocate resources for regulatory compliance, impacting operations and budgets.
  4. Traceability and accountability: Food safety and environmental regulations enhance supply chain traceability and accountability, ensuring safer and more sustainable practices.
  5. International data handling: Cross-border data transfer regulations influence international data sharing, affecting global partnerships in agriculture.

Ethical considerations

Ethics in data usage within agriculture is essential to protect privacy, ensure fairness, maintain transparency, and build trust among stakeholders. It safeguards individual rights and contributes to the responsible and sustainable development of data-driven agriculture, which is crucial for addressing global food security challenges. As agriculture continues to embrace data-driven technologies, ethical considerations must remain at the forefront to create a more responsible and equitable future for all.

  • Data privacy and consent: Farmers and individuals providing data need confidence that their information will be handled responsibly and in compliance with privacy laws. Respecting data privacy ensures that personal information is not misused or exposed without consent. Getting informed consent for data collection and storage is an ethical obligation.
  • Fair data ownership and control: Ethical concerns include determining data ownership and control. Clear mechanisms are vital to prevent data exploitation and ensure equitable distribution of data benefits among stakeholders.
  • Avoiding discrimination: Data-driven decision-making should not result in discrimination. Algorithms and models must be designed and trained to avoid perpetuating biases or unfair practices.
  • Benefiting all stakeholders: Ethical data usage in agriculture should aim to benefit everyone involved, including farmers, consumers, and the broader community. Data should not be exploited to harm any group or individual.
  • Long-term sustainability: Sustainable agricultural practices are not just about protecting the environment but also ensuring data usage's long-term sustainability. Ethical data practices contribute to this by preventing misuse and promoting responsible stewardship of data resources.

Future trends and innovations

As technology continues to advance, new trends and innovations in agricultural data are emerging, further enhancing supply chain resilience.

IoT in agriculture

In the age of technology, the Internet of Things (IoT) is undeniably making its mark in agriculture. IoT devices can collect data on soil conditions, weather, and equipment performance, providing real-time insights that help farmers make timely decisions. With the role that IoT plays in agriculture, agribusinesses have transparency on the various stages of the supply chain and can easily adapt to unforeseen changes and challenges that might arise anywhere from production to distribution.

Blockchain in supply chain

Blockchain technology is being adopted in the agri-food supply chain to enhance transparency and traceability. It allows consumers to track the journey of food products from farm to table, ensuring authenticity and quality. The rise of blockchain technology in the agri-food industry will allow businesses to ensure that their data collection and analysis processes are aligned with food quality, safety, and security requirements.


The agri-industry must adapt to survive and thrive in this rapidly changing era. The challenges it faces, from supply chain disruptions to climate change, are formidable. However, the power of data offers a reprieve.

Data analytics is transforming the agri-industry by providing solutions to specific challenges, optimizing operations, and enhancing supply chain resilience. The Tridge Transaction Data tool, with its wealth of information on trading prices, market dynamics, and competitor activities, is a valuable ally in this data-driven journey.

As we look to the future, emerging trends and innovations, such as IoT and blockchain, are poised to further strengthen the agri-industry's resilience. It's clear that data is not just a tool but a lifeline for an industry tasked with feeding the world.

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