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Smart food value chain – the solution to Asia’s food distribution


The term food value chain refers to the entire process of value addition to agri-food products along the value chain from breeding, production, processing to distribution, sales, and consumption. By implementing advanced digital technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things) and Big Data in the food systems, agricultural productivity, distribution system, and values of the agri-food products could be enhanced. Smart Food Value Chain (SFVC) could contribute to improve incomes and wellbeing of farmers in Asia.

The symposium project was proposed by NARO in 2019. The symposium topic addressed FFTC’s Strategic Action Plan, Theme 2: “Smart agricultural value chain”. The project aimed to (1) examine the domestic distribution situation of agricultural products in Asian countries, (2) formulate policies and discuss the future R&D to address the issues identified, (3) smartly adopt the Food Value Chain, and (4) improve agricultural productivity in Asia Pacific Region.

The project planned to invite 16 experts from the Asian and Pacific Region and partner institutes of NARO to share experiences and discuss 1) smartization of food value chain and smart food production, distribution, marketing and consumption. About 200 participants were expected from research, policy making, and public sectors, and the private enterprises involving in commercialization of agricultural technologies.

A two-day symposium at NARO in Japan, including an excursion was originally planned. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and local/ international travel restrictions, the workshop format was changed to be online via Zoom operated by an online workshop company contracted by NARO.


  • Smart Food Production
  • Smart food processing and distribution
  • Smart food marketing and consumer preference 

Program highlights

The one-day online symposium consisted of an opening ceremony, two keynote speeches, and three thematic sessions with 4-5 presentations (15 min each) followed by a 20 minutes of panel discussion in each session. Online participants were groups into panel (speakers and moderators) and attendee (camera-off and microphone muted) in the “Zoom” virtual meeting room. The thematic topics are broad, embracing aspects from production to consumption and from research, piloting to policy. This report highlights major takeaways with key technologies, approaches and suggestions presented by session speakers. 


  1. Digital technology addresses global challenges – climate changes, increased population, urbanization and demand for higher productivity and efficiency of food system. By contracting the digital technology in the 80s and current, showed great and promising potential of applying the technologies in monitoring environmental impacts, smart agriculture, and value addition for smart value chain of the future. (WUR, Netherlands)
  2. Personalized nutrition and dietary advice based on an individual’s physiological and psychosocial characteristics is more effective compared to the population-based dietary gridlines for improving nutrition as personalised one can help people to make healthy choices in a way that best suits them. (WUR, Netherlands)

Session 1: “Smart Food Production”

  1. Using plant growing sensor and artificial intelligence (AI) in predicting and forecasting vegetable growth, harvest time and quality helps in-time transportation and delivery to markets, processors and consumers. However more data is needed for model development. (NARO, Japan)
  2. GAP is not only a measure on reducing the risks in food safety, environmental conservation and work safety, but also useful for business improvement through better utilization of the records and documents required for GAP. Active participation of employee and family members in GAP certification/ implementation would help better farm management and training of successors. (NARO, Japan)
  3. Thailand is “Kitchen of the World” and the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to diminish the demand for Thai agricultural products. While achieving the equilibrium in terms of economics, society, and the environment, continuation to collaborate for strengthening food security is vital so as to sustain global food supply from Thailand. (KU, Thailand)
  4. A smart forewarning system on Rice Brown Planthopper was developed using mobile phone taking selfie stick, image recognition and database, and machine learning for farmers to monitor planthoppers population and level of damage in their own fields. This technology helps farmers take timely preventive measures. (TARI, Taiwan)
  5. Rice are produced in different agroecological system in Indonesia that help resilient from climate impacts. Nationwide monitoring of rice production/ distribution/ market indicated that COVID-19 has limited impact on rice production and instead, increased production areas and new distribution patterns were observed. Postharvest processing loss remain the key issue in Indonesia. (IPB, Indonesia)

Session 2: Smart food processing and distribution

  1. Shifting the transport method of fresh produce from air to sea shipment not only increase transportation capacity but also save cost. Optimum cushioning package and storability characteristics research using predictive models of quality change to overcome possible damages from vibration shock and high temperature during sea shipment were introduced. (NARO, Japan)
  2. Microwave processing was suggested for reducing drying time, quick cook rice, oil-free snack, development of lower GI gluten-free products and assisted-baking to serve fresh bakery to customers. (KU, Thailand)
  3. To build a more agile and resilient agricultural food chain in response to the pandemic, a farm to fork intervention model was suggested, highlighting (a) retaining value creation, efficiency, and inclusivity goals in further developing the supply chains; (2) adopting smart technologies, innovative systems and solutions to improve adaptive capacity; and (3) advocating for sustainable and diversified consumption. (PCAARRD, Philippines)
  4. In addition to the Codex standards under FAO/WHO, exporters should also pay attention to some domestic regulations for export as not all food safety and quality standards are covered by Codex. Examples include FSMA rules in USA, BRC standards in UK, EFSA in EU, and Xiamen entry-exit inspection to get import license in China. (KU, Thailand)

Session 3: Smart food marketing and consumer preference 

  1. Vietnam government issued various policies to manage food safety in the past 10 years, but progress is limited partially due to lack of interest and involvement of private sectors. A safe agri-food value chain governance model from policy studies was proposed. Consolidating the certification system, digital traceability service and public-private partnership are mandatory requirements in the governance model. (VAAS, Vietnam)  
  2. Five planning tools highlighting stakeholder participation, healthy and mindful consumption were developed in designing a value based and sustainable commodity chain. A value chain design with a chicken protein product at KU organic farm was demonstrated. (KU, Thailand)
  3. To promote Japanese agricultural standards (JAS) and contribute to ensuring food safety/ quality. facilitating transactions, and strengthening exporting Japanese agricultural products, the “Testing Method” in providing mark/ label of phytonutrient contents of agrifood products by accredited laboratories in Japan was implemented in parallel of ISO or other international accredited certifying body. (NARO, Japan)
  4. Smart’ (or ‘nudge’) food labeling policy ‘at the point of purchase’ based on behavioral science (or economics) advises showed effective in healthy choice. Smarter food policies should be provided without going against the nature of smart consumers at the stage of making food choice decisions in order to achieve the intended policy goals. (KREI, Korea)
  5. The functional food market in Asia Pacific is predicted to double in values from US$51 billion in 2015 to US$104 billion in 2024. With substantial projected market values for functional foods in the next several decades, the R&D sector plays vital roles to identify and serve the future market needs through developing new value-added health products. (MARDI, Malaysia)

Suggestions and conclusions

  • Innovate agriculture by developing smart food supply chain with enormous emerging digital technologies.
  • Apply Artificial Intelligence technology to innovate agriculture and develop new smart “tools” that can be used by smallholder family farmers in the Asia Pacific region.
  • Develop smarter and cost-saving sea-shipping technologies for promoting export of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Organize and manage food safety value chain to ensure food safety and quality at all stages by consolidating the certification system and electronic traceability service.
  • Identify consumer’s requirements for food quality, food safety as well as healthy foods in terms of quality standards and certification methods of agricultural commodities
  • Develop “personal base nutrition and dietary advice” using personal data and food data with AI analysis; and consider “demand driven values” and create a relevant food supply chain. 
  • Encourage and promote consumer’s choices of healthier food including fruits and vegetables by utilizing behavioral economics and concept of “nudge”; develop smart food labelling policies, implement smart public campaigns, and strengthen private-public partnership.
  • Nourish the post COVID-19 world and Rebuild new normal “Smart” and “Resilient” food production and supply chain by leveraging “smart” technologies, especially digital technologies, and other innovations and logistics.


Publications: A total of 15 PowerPoint presentations, 15 abstracts and 11 full papers were collected. Full papers were reviewed and edited by FFTC and the symposium proceeding was provided to NARO for distribution to the registers through Zoom system. Those full papers and PPT with authors’ consent to open access were uploaded to FFTC website for public access.

Participants: The contracted Zoom virtual meeting room provided max. 500 seats. The registration system was closed on 19 October when the register number reached 516. A few more people requested for registration after the closing date. On the event day, a total of 288 persons logged in Zoom meeting and around 165 – 240 meeting room seats were occupied during the entire event. In the future, the registration date could be extended beyond the max. number of registers as online participants come and go during the event. Only about 35-45% seats were always occupied. The participants joined the event from 12 countries (Japan, Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore, Netherlands, Germany, Ethiopia, USA etc.). About 30% of the online participants did not indicate the country.

Participants’ feedback: a feedback survey form was sent via Zoom meeting system to online participants right after they leave the virtual meeting room. The feedback form using a 0-4 survey score (poor, fair, very good, excellent) for the relevance of the workshop, usefulness of the activity, facilities and the secretariat. A total of 136 participants provided the feedback and the majority indicated the score of 4 (excellent) or 3 (very good) for the workshop performance.

Feedback from the questions of impressive speakers and important things learnt from the events were diverse indicating various interests in topics and expectations by participants. Participants were interested in either or both of specific technologies/ issues and the broad scope of food value chain.

Suggestions were summarized in the follow points:

  • Logistic improvement: (1) better audio quality control, (2) split into two days, (3) cohesiveness of topics, (4) slides with number and controlled by speakers, (5) including screen message during break session
  • Future topics: (1) various topics suggested related to aspects along the supply chain and value chain, (2) future food, (3) impact of digital technologies on labors, (4) collaborations among actors in smart food systems, (5) farmers capacity development for SMART agriculture.
  • Planning and program: (1) allocate a timeslot or use the Break session for participants with camera-on to interact with speakers and/or among groups, (2) open call for papers and presenters, not only limit to those invited from organizers, (3) provide a second option either online/offline platform (eg. recorded video) for audience at where and when the internet connectivity is not stable. 
  • Coordinator’s note: The program activities went smoothly without major technical problems encountered though the audio quality control at the meeting site and for some of speakers could be further improved. Future program development could consider a timeslot for social interactions and another online/offline platform for the audience having poor internet access and connectivity. That would encourage participation of audience from resource-poor areas. Overall, the symposium was successful in planning, coordination and delivery.

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