Banner Image: “How Does Last-Mile Traceability Help Oil Palm Producers Achieve Sustainability Goals?”
Banner Image: “How Does Last-Mile Traceability Help Oil Palm Producers Achieve Sustainability Goals?”

Last-Mile Traceability

How Does It Help Oil Palm Producers Achieve Sustainability Goals?

Biofuels are witnessing a surge in production and consumption globally, as the fight against climate change is calling for renewable and clean fuels that do not contribute excessively to global greenhouse gas emissions. In Europe, numerous policies since the early 1990s have encouraged the production and use of renewable energy, particularly in the transport industry. Presently, the European continent is recognised as one of the largest biodiesel producers and consumers globally, with many countries including Germany, Italy, France, Austria, and Sweden contributing to the annual production of nearly 11 million tonnes of biodiesel. While the extensive rapeseed and sunflower cultivation across the continent contributes to the locally-produced biofuels, Europe also imports large volumes of palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia, the top two producers of crude palm oil globally, for its consumption in the food and automobile sectors.

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An infographic on the Oil Palm industry. © CropIn Technology

Palm Oil Production In Southeast Asia

Palm trees are indigenous to tropical and subtropical terrains and are typically found in moist and hot climatic conditions. The oil derived from the fruit of these trees is edible and nutrient-rich. It is a key ingredient in nearly 50% of the packaged products found in supermarkets. Considering that this commodity is both versatile and affordable, it finds use in numerous food, cosmetic, personal care, and biodiesel industries worldwide. Today, among the 44 countries that produce palm oil, Indonesia and Malaysia contribute to approximately 85% of the global palm oil supply.

  • Secondly, as crops, they require far fewer agrochemicals compared to other oilseed plants.
  • Thirdly, these trees offer the highest yield among all oilseed crops. The yield per acre of a palm tree is nearly five times as much as rapeseed, almost six times that of sunflower, and more than eight times that of soybeans.
  • Fourthly, palm trees can grow in soil conditions that do not sustain other crops.
  • Lastly, a combination of these properties, together with the right cultivation practices, bring down the cost of production well below that of other similar oilseed crops or animal fat.
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Why is oil palm the most productive vegetable oil? [Source: Golden Agri-Resources]

The Way Forward For Sustainable Supply Chains

Indeed, it is only reasonable to question the sustainability of palm oil production when several countries are, in fact, building their efforts towards realising the SDGs. However, considering the world’s deep-rooted dependence on palm oil for production of processed food, cosmetic and personal care products, biofuels, and several other products, banning the importation of this commodity on the grounds of irresponsible production will only increase the strain on replacing this commonly-found ingredient in thousands of products with one that is as inexpensive and can be produced without much difficulty.

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No quick fixes to palm oil. [Source: The International Union For Conservation of Nature (IUCN)]

Implementing Digital Technologies To Strengthen Commitment to Sustainable Production

As mentioned previously, stakeholders in the palm oil sector need to collaborate to ensure that the production is as sustainable as it can be. Further, the supply chain needs to be made more transparent to simplify the certification process. Companies need to improve the visibility of processes right from the origin where farmers collect the fruits, to their movement to the mills, followed by the distribution of the oil to its consumers across industries.

Creating A Digital Footprint From Source

CropIn’s digital ecosystem is one such global platform that has a proven track record of achieving traceability to source for numerous crop value chains. CropIn enables producers to geo-tag the exact location and the acreage of the cultivated land with its farm data management solution, SmartFarm®. This mapping initiates the chain traceability for the end product, and each activity that follows can be recorded against the corresponding farm or plantation worker, all the way till the oil is packaged for export or sale. Post-harvest activities, including sorting and inventory management, and order processing and tagging, can be efficiently managed using mWarehouse, CropIn’s packhouse solution for traceability and compliance.

Training and Advisory For Sustainable Practices

SmartFarm® is also an effective solution for information dissemination to plantation workers. The organisation’s management can configure the activity schedule and the package of practices (POP) for the crop in the application. This can be used by the extension staff to guide the farmers in following the right practices for high-quality yield. The digital record of the completed activities will assure the certifying bodies that only the recommended, sustainable practices were followed during the production of the palm oil. Besides, the agronomists can provide extensive training for the farmers and monitor its result throughout the production cycle. The training helps farmers to understand the need to adopt practices that do not harm the environment.

Monitoring Land Usage

CropIn’s AI/ML-powered engine SmartRisk® leverages satellite imaging and proprietary algorithms to map land usage and categorise them according to the land use classification system developed by the United State Geological Survey (USGS). This classification based on remote monitoring of land usage will enable stakeholders to compare the current and past land cover records to determine a change in land usage if any. SmartRisk® can also be utilised by palm oil producers to identify abandoned or unused tracts of land for cultivation purposes, thus preventing the need to clear forested areas or peatlands.

Compliance and Certification

The digital record of production activities in CropIn’s platform, supported by customised Farm-Level Survey Forms, streamlines the certification process for palm oil companies. Oil producers can use SmartFarm® to regulate and track vital parameters that impact quality, including pesticide residue levels, crop quality, and alerts raised by field staff at the farm level and resolved by remotely-located agronomists. Authorised users can then extract the data this Form in the form of a structured report to submit for quality certification purposes. These users can also prepare customised reports by extracting relevant data from the record of events and activities in the database. In addition to the above, plantation managers can also record personal details of the farmer to establish that no child labourers were employed by the company.

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