It is no secret that making intelligent use of big data is one of the most exciting – and important – evolutions in enterprise technology. Covid-19 has increased the need to access big data and technology with social distancing and lockdown measures altering the working environment for all industries. It’s prominent now, more than ever, that the most successful organisations of the future will be those that can tap into the data they and their industry generates.

The importance of big data

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought into sharp relief the importance of having access to intelligent insights taken from big data across the global supply chain. Big data sets are offering real-time Covid-19 trackers that continually pull data sources from across the globe to supply healthcare workers, scientists and policymakers with essential insights that can better inform decision-making processes. The power of emerging technologies is highly influential with the likes of big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning combined to interpret large volumes of useful information. Harnessing big data can help businesses build up accurate and detailed performance information, supporting society’s ability to contain and respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. Technologies such as AI and advanced analytics have made it possible to gather more data-driven and pre-emptive insights – leading to better decision making when combating a global pandemic.

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Using big data to solve Covid-19 issues in the global food supply chain

It’s not only the healthcare sector that must utilise big data in the current climate and thereafter. In fact the use of big data is essential in all sectors – especially the food safety industry. Data around global food safety comes in a number of forms, for example data concerning food recalls and border rejections, and data reflecting the possible hazards behind food safety incidents.
Covid-19 has resulted in the need to pay even closer attention to personal hygiene, including regular hand washing, social distancing, and managing employee sickness effectively. In order to overcome the issues presented by Covid-19, it’s important the food safety industry continuously monitors and analyses all official and trusted data sources globally. Access to food safety insights enables businesses and professionals alike, to identify, monitor and prevent any increasing risks or incidents that need global attention across the complete supply chain. Additionally, these data sets can rapidly communicate data insights to all food safety and quality professionals in the supply chain and significantly reduce the time devoted to risk assessment and prevention.
Key food safety information has long been collected and publicised by food safety agencies and other public sector bodies, supplying data sets on potential contaminations or safety incidents which could have an effect further down the chain.


It’s not all about the data: integrating human skills

Although today’s technology produces a wealth of information and data, this alone is not enough. In order to truly enrich open-source data to create actionable intelligence – for example, reactive and predictive insights on the global supply chain – we must integrate human skills as well as the expertise of scientists and analysts.
Combining human skills experiences with big data means using human insights to interpret and even sense-check the results thrown out by sophisticated AI algorithms. What do they actually mean? Frequently, for example, big data analytics and machine learning are very effective at identifying that something has happened but are less effective at explaining why. That’s where you need the human approach to enrich data insights and create tailor-made intelligence to achieve greater visibility across the global food supply chain. Food safety experts are essential in food safety management as they have the ability to manually review extracted information in order to correct or approve its contents.
In other words, access to top-level data is not enough, companies must also have access to comprehensive, reliable data in real-time with the ability to properly analyse and harness that data using a human approach – this is critical for ensuring food safety amid an increasingly complex, and dynamic global supply chain


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What does this mean for the global food safety industry?

In the food safety industry, this means applying a human eye to the vast volumes of data pertaining to global food safety incidents and lab test results. Yes, we may develop a highly sophisticated AI algorithm to analyse that data and predict the potential food safety risks of the future, but by drawing on the expertise of food scientists, we can amend and enrich those algorithms with insights that even a machine would not reach on its own. By doing so, this enriched and accurate data can further support intelligent decision making and smart strategy across the food safety sector.
During the current pandemic, it’s ever more important that the food safety industry uses the continuous monitoring and analysis of all possible data sources across the world. Different industry bodies, food standard agencies and even larger food businesses provide continuous updates on incidents and trends affecting particular regions, with digital transformation enabling data to be made more accessible.

By combining rich information sources from multiple organisations as well as the latest big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning techniques with human intelligence, we are able to move into a new era of food safety, whereby we are able to respond faster to food safety incidents, intelligently predict which type of incidents are likely to occur, and map out how they would be affected by multiple geopolitical and environmental factors.

This approach will result in an increased resilience to the food safety challenges facing the industry both now and in the future. Organisations from across the industry are going to need intelligent tailor-made data insights using both big data and human expertise. This will allow for more accurate, comprehensive and dynamic insights – helping organisations to plan, prepare and respond to food safety risks across the global supply chain.

The international food industry will no doubt be reshaped in many ways by Covid-19. Intelligent information-sharing throughout the global food supply chain is what will ensure the safety and integrity of food in the years ahead.

This post was originally published by Nikos Manouselis, CEO of Agroknow and TheFSM project coordinator to the IT Pro Portal