SAP tackles Global Food Supply issues with Big Data

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16 July 2014 | 0

Big data techniques will be used to better understand the planet’s diversity and enhance food safety in an initiative by software giant SAP.

Using the SAP HANA platform, data will be collected and analysed to help crowd source the identification and analysis of species globally, as well as identify fraud in the global food supply.

The International Barcode of Life (iBOL) project involves a consortium of institutions building a database containing DNA barcodes for every species on the planet. The database currently hosts more than 400,000 species. However to identify all the species on the planet, estimated at anywhere between 10 million to 100 million species, the iBOL project is looking to expand the number of people contributing to the research.

The urgency of this task is clear, say the project leaders, as species are disappearing from the planet at an alarming rate. To help tackle the problem, SAP and the iBOL project collaborated to build the LifeScanner application, available on iTunes to crowd source the collection and analysis of all of this information. LifeScanner is an application that anyone can use on an iPhone to collect a tissue sample or whole organism, send it off for analysis and get the species identification using DNA barcodes from anywhere on the globe. The application uses SAP SQL Anywhere solutions to ensure data integrity and that it works in places where there may not be network connectivity.

The SAP University Alliances programme plans to help crowd source the analysis of data collected through the LifeScanner application. The published DNA barcode data is intended to be made available to researchers and students for analysis and to be accessed through SAP HANA, SAP Lumira software as well as other third-party analytics tools. The SAP University Alliances program’s global network includes more than 1500 universities in more than 80 countries worldwide.

The urgency of this task is clear, as species are disappearing from the planet at an alarming rate

“Whether it’s better understanding the human species, or any other animal or planet species, there is no doubt that Big Data gives us the opportunity to better understand life all around us,” said Irfan Khan, senior vice president and general manager, Database and Technology, SAP. “The volumes and sources of data continue to grow rapidly and using this information intelligently can help prevent the extinction of species, promote new life science discoveries and improve the health of life on our planet. The SAP HANA platform helps organizations better process Big Data so they can acquire, analyse and act on insights in real time.”

Research by the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario shows that food contamination and mislabelling is prevalent in certain areas, such as herbs and spices, as well as fish and seafood categories. The soon-to-be-published market studies investigated product authenticity of common herbs and spices in the marketplace such as thyme, cinnamon, cloves and chilli powder. Drawing on early findings from the research project, adulteration was indicated in one-third of the products tested. This included product substitution, contamination and use of fillers, which were not listed on the product label.

Additionally, research on seafood fraud in Canada, which examines adulteration of seafood over time, suggests that product substitution in the marketplace remains high, with more than 20% mislabelling, despite repeated media exposure. This stands in contrast to studies in the UK that revealed a combination of increasing consumer awareness and regulatory enforcement resulted in a significant decrease in seafood fraud.

Traceability of food sources and confirmation of food product authenticity is difficult and time consuming. Most global supply chain visibility solutions in the food industry ensure strict processes and track packaging, but knowing what species are inside the package is challenging because many species can be difficult to identify after processing. To help address this challenge and to identify fraud in the food supply chain, SAP and Tru-ID are exploring solutions to increase visibility in the supply chain leveraging SAP HANA.

Integrating DNA-based verification testing and product authenticity certification into supply chain solutions will help companies identify the source of adulteration among their suppliers. Using SAP HANA Cloud Platform, companies will be able to require suppliers to share independently audited tests. This would give companies better visibility into the authenticity of the foods provided by their supply chain.

Users will be able to integrate test results into supply chain visibility solutions from SAP, so they can address problems that may arise from food-quality problems such as determining the quality of the foods supplied by certain suppliers, initiating product recalls when food contamination or substitution is detected and identifying risk exposure by supplier and product.


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