OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

CROVER - Comprehensive Grain Storage Monitoring (saving grains from quality and quantity losses)

To avoid any quality and/or quantity loss during storage along the whole GOP (Grains, oilseeds, and protein crops) supply chain.

Photo of Gianlorenzo De Santis
3 23

Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Crover Ltd.

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Edinburgh University (Research Institution); Farmer Coop and Organisation; Large Mill and Grain Processor (Large Company, over 50 employees); Local Grain Merchant (Large Company, over 50 employees).

Website of Legally Registered Entity

https://www.crover.tech/

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Edinburgh

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United Kingdom

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Eastern Scotland (NUTS 2: UKM2) and North Eastern Scotland (UKM5) [Total area: 24,840 km^2]

What country is your selected Place located in?

United Kingdom

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

We are a small and diverse team, which members come from all over the world and that have in common the dream of radically improving, through drastic innovation, the agri-food sector (in particular the grain supply chain) and we have found the possibility to do so in Scotland. Here there is the base of operations of numerous academic and commercial research institutions and industry actors that share their expertise in various fields for the overall betterment of Scotland food landscape. Scotland is currently at the forefront of the fight for climate change and the implementation of circular economy solutions. Scotland has a renowned history of discoveries and innovations and the Agri-tech sector is no exception. Scotland’s agriculture is the base for the booming Scottish food and drink sector and provides sustenance to its rural communities and society as a whole. There is here a powerful effort to improve the overall food system, through innovation, that will allow great improvement to its efficiency, sustainability and social impact.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Let’s have a walk in the Scottish county of Fife, a stretch of land located on the eastern side of Scotland between two major “firths” (the scots term for fjord). While going across its countryside, while coming across a damp web of “burns” (small watercourses and canals) and ponds, what we see is the familiar of uneven patches of hedged land, a view common to every territory with a very strong agricultural vocation. In fact, this is one of the most crop-oriented areas among the Scottish agriculture landscape. The selected areas of the East and North-East Scotland hold nearly all the entire Scottish arable land and they produce the largest part of Scotland’s crops, the majority of which are cereals (87%) with a predominance of barley. These are also the regions, outside of the metropolitan area of Glasgow, where most of the population is located and the ones with the biggest predicted demographic growth. The east of Scotland is drier, and its land-use options are expected to increase. For these reasons, this part of Scotland is considered more vulnerable than the west. Furthermore, fishing is an economic mainstay in parts of the North East of Scotland and along the west coast and it is linked to the location port infrastructures, of oil and gas services, commercial fishing and fish processing industries. Food is of immense importance for the Scottish People both economically and culturally. The agri-food sector is one of the largest industries of Scotland and the fastest growing (increasing by 78% since 2007), as well as the main export (with whiskey, above all other products, loosely followed by salmon and meat products) of the national economy. The reality of the Scottish food system is quite far from the stereotypes of the haggis and, more recently, of the fried mars bar. Scotland has ambitious priorities regarding its food system. Plans and policies are in motion to make Scotland a ‘good food nation’ by 2025: a commitment to the “right to food” for everyone in Scotland. This means that Scotland is striving to address the issue of food safety and security, increasing the resilience and fairness of its food system. There is also a growing interest in local food and its potential contribution to local development, and environmental and social benefits.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

24840

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

2844000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Eastern Scotland (NUTS2 UKM2) and North Eastern Scotland (NUTS2 UKM5) have the most concentration of arable land in Scotland and thus it is where there is the main production of cereal grains. These areas grown mainly barley (60% of total crop production) that is used as animal feed for both the meat and fish farming industry (the other 2 main Scottish agricultural outputs) and that feeds the vital Scottish beverage industry, which makes up 57% (£2,134M GVA) of the total national food & drink industry, to produce whiskey, the pride of Scottish manufacturing and its main international export (£4.4B in 2017). Here is also where the other Scottish crops are grown, like wheat and oat, that supply the local mills and baking industry [1–4]. Scotland farming has a high climate sensitivity and it’s riddled with dependencies, inefficiencies and its policies will not work in the future [5]. We are already experiencing the effect of climate change: The 2017/18 harvest has been severely impaired by adverse weather. Cereal yields were greatly affected (-12%), and the beef sector suffered substantial losses, due to the cost of forage [6,7]. This makes the proper storage of grains, the main objective of which is to control the condition of the stored grains, essential to create a buffer and to give farmers, cooperatives and the whole value chain a tool to contrast volatility in price and availability due to extreme conditions. In 2050 Climate change will influence the way land and farming are structured. Droughts will have a significant influence on land use in the future, kerbing the range of crops grown.[8] Diets will be more focused on plant proteins, rising the competition of cereal and protein crops among different sectors (animal feed, biofuel, etc). Food waste will be intolerable at any point in the food chain. Thus, longer and efficient grain storage, where every single grain is monitored, will be fundamental in the resilience and sustainability of the whole Scottish agri-food system. 

[1]Scottish Government, ‘Export Statistics Scotland 2017’, Scottish Government, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2019. 

[2]RESAS, ‘Cereal and Oilseed Rape - Harvest 2019’, Scottish Government, Edinburgh, Scotland, First Estimates, 2019.

[3]RESAS, Agriculture Facts & Figures 2019. Edinburgh, Scotland: The Scottish Government, 2019. 

[4]RESAS, Economic report on Scottish agriculture. 2016.

[5]Scottish Government, ‘A Future Strategy for Scottish Agriculture’, The Scottish Government, Edinburgh, Scotland, Final Report by the Scottish Government’s Agriculture Champions, 2018. 

[6]Ecosulis, ‘Impact of extreme weather on Scottish Farmers 2018 FINAL.pdf’, WWF Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland, Feb. 2019.

[7]RESAS, ‘Cereal and Oilseed Rape Harvest 2018: Final Estimates’, Scottish Government, Final Estimates. 

[8]I. Brown, ‘Climate change, drought risk and land capability for agriculture: implications for land use in Scotland’, Reg Environ Change, vol. 1

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Grains and cereal are the backbones of food systems globally and they have a substantial economic and cultural significance, which any other food type cannot match. They are the main source of calories and protein in the world and they are the most globally traded commodities [1]. To assure that grains are available all year round, between harvests, they need to be stored for long periods of time. These reserves are even more relevant when disruptive episodes influence, globally and locally, these crops quality and availability. The main objective of storage is to control the condition of the grain, so to maintain the original quality [2]. Nevertheless, grain spoilage and infestations create each year substantial losses, that affect the economic viability of growers or merchants and pose large risks for food access and human health. Bins and silos are essentially Black Box and the core of grain bulks are unfathomable places. Current monitoring systems have only limited reach and the usual procedures used in storage management, due to the shift in climate conditions, are becoming less effective. We are developing an innovative technology, based on a new physical discovery, that addresses these issues. The robotic device we are building can fluently “swim” through bulk solids, like cereals and grains, monitoring constantly their conditions while they are still in storage, without leaving any grain unchecked. This will allow acting only when it is needed and avoid the costly impact of late interventions or false positives by getting accurate 3D historical data of the conditions for the whole batch of grain in the store. 

Our goal is to:

  • make possible to store grain for longer periods and with more confidence, enabling farmers (most storage in the UK are located on-farm [1]), to have more agency in their trade providing them with extra assurance of the quality and safety of their operations;
  •  To reinforce the resilience of the system by creating a stronger buffer against volatility and instability in prices and harvests quantity or quality;
  •  and ultimately to improve the efficiency of grain storage along the whole grain value chain, limiting the impact of spoilage and infestations and avoiding any loss of these precious crops. 


[1]FAO, World Food and Agriculture – Statistical pocketbook 2019. Rome: FAO, 2019. 

[2]J. A. Anderson and A. W. Alcock, Storage of cereal grains and their products. New Delhi: Bio-Green Books, 2013. 

[3]EUROPEAN COMMISSION and Areté Ltd., ‘STUDY ON STORAGE CAPACITIES AND LOGISTICAL INFRASTRUCTURE FOR EU AGRICULTURAL COMMODITIES TRADE (with a special focus on Cereals, the Oilseed Complex and Protein Crops (COP))’, EUROPEAN COMMISSION, Luxembourg, Final, Nov. 2017.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

What we can envision in 2050 Scotland’s food system, is that diets will be much more differentiated from what they are now. People will get protein not only from traditional meat and plant origins but also from a plethora of different sources, such as insects, algae, 3d printed faux-meat. A reconfigured farming and dairy industry will use only the best genuine crops to feed the ethically treated livestock. All side streams of whisky production are completely reused and reinserted in the production cycle, closing the loop. Scotland will have a more efficient and linked agri-food system that will be able to easily sustain, with substantial reserve to face sudden calamities, its 5,57 million population, a good portion of which will be employed in the forthcoming hi-tech, cutting-edge agri-food sector. Food waste is not an acceptable occurrence anymore and the idea itself is considered immoral. Cereals, oilseeds and crop protein can be easily and safely stored and controlled for years and they are essential for human consumption, but also an important input for all the previous mentioned sub-system, a solid base to support the overall sustainability of the whole Scotland agri-food system. Additionally, in 2050 will see ourselves being able to provide our solution even more affordably to other developing areas of the world, by employing a Circular Economy business model (thanks to the intrinsic concepts of product life extension, refurbishing, remarketing and cascade use), where the local food systems will greatly benefit from the enhancement in the storage management and from the consequent improvement in food safety, accessibility and resilience.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Uncertainty is the distinctive trait of our current global situation, including Food Systems, thanks to the, ever faster, macro changes that are happening on several fronts: political, technological, economic, and climatic. In 2050 we envision a world where transformations and innovations will be even more rapid, but where the term uncertainty has been entirely removed from the public discourse about the Food System and the world 9.1 billion people can be certain about “their bread”: having no doubt about food security, access, quality, and safety.

We’d like to contribute to this vision by trying to drastically improve the efficiency of the storage along the whole GOP (Grains, oilseeds, and protein crops) supply chain, radically reducing losses due to spoilage and avoiding a quality decrease of these valuable crops that are the backbone of our global food system and crucial in sustaining the world.

Grains, oilseeds and protein crops made up the basis of food systems globally. These crops are the main food and source of nutrient for humans, livestock and are also becoming a key component of bio-based industries. Just wheat, maize, soybean and rice accounts for the use of half of the world’s entire agricultural lands. Grain and seeds have the utmost economic importance, as they have been traded for thousands of years and are one of the main reasons that the current international trade is structured as it is, and they still are the main traded commodity globally.

To assure the required (due to constant demand) steady supply of these crops, storing grain for long periods is necessary to bridge the gap between harvests and any of their subsequent use. The storage process has critical importance within the GOP supply chains, as it helps of consolidating commodity flows and is often used as a buffer against food insecurity [6, 11]. This will become even more essential in the future as the population will grow, diets will expand, and these crops will still need to sustain human’s nutrition directly and all the other food sub-systems. Grains and seeds are both exceedingly durable and highly perishable. If they are kept at low moisture content and low temperature, they may retain their original processing quality, and even their original germinability, for years or decades [4]. However, many storage shocks can happen, that directly impact grain storage such as spoilage due to moulds and fungi (which toxins pose great health risks) or infestations. These two, combined, account for the loss of about 25% of food grains worldwide [10, 11].

We are developing an innovative technology, based on a new physical discovery, that addresses these issues. The robotic device we are building can fluently “swim” through bulk solids, like grains and seeds, monitoring constantly their conditions while they are still in storage, without leaving any grain unchecked. This will allow acting only when it is really needed and avoid the costly impact of late interventions or false positives by getting accurate 3D historical data of the conditions for the whole batch of grain in the store.

Our goal is to:

  • make possible to store grain for longer periods and with more confidence, enabling farmers (most storage in the UK are located on-farm [1]), to have more agency in their trade providing them with extra assurance of the quality and safety of their operations;
  •  To reinforce the resilience of the system by creating a stronger buffer against volatility and instability in prices and harvests quantity or quality;
  •  and ultimately to improve the efficiency of grain storage along the whole grain value chain, limiting the impact of spoilage and infestations and avoiding any loss of these precious crops.


This technology will also allow us in the future to execute remotely all the other procedures that now require the presence on the bulk of some workers, highly increasing the safety of these storage systems.

Why this is important for our place and its people? East Scotland holds nearly all the entire Scottish arable land and they produce the largest part of Scotland’s crops, the majority of which are cereals (87%) with a predominance of barley.  The climate of the East of Scotland is temperate without extremes of temperature or rainfall but, although meteorological catastrophes are rare, the climatic sensitivity of wheat and barley to soil moisture deficits has increased in recent years.  Phenomena like the “haar” (a coastal blanket of mist, up to 15 km inland, due to easterly winds passing by the North Sea) can also slow the drying of grain at harvest. The harvest period tends to be humid and grain crops are commonly harvested at moisture contents above the critical level for safe storage. The severe weather experienced during 2017/18 impacted on livestock numbers and yields of key crops. Total cereal production losses are estimated at £62 million equivalent to 6% of total output in 2017. The main impact was on wheat and barley. Climate change projections imply that other factors could become increasingly influential, putting further strain on Scotland’s Food System, including the effects of elevated CO2 concentrations on crop growth and water use efficiency, the pervasiveness of pests and diseases, and changes in the frequency of extreme events.  The higher temperatures associated with climate change are also predicted to increase the severity of other fungal diseases affecting crops. [2, 3, 5, 7]

Scotland main export is whisky, which highly depends by the barley produced in the East: approximately 35% Scotland's barley goes into malting and  90% of the barley used in Scotch whisky production is sourced from Scottish farms. If Scotland in 2050 wants to benefit from its current strengths that are rooted across various sectors (but especially the agri-food one), internationalisation will be crucial. Furthermore, it has been estimated that by 2050 developing countries’ net imports of cereals will increase by 55%, reaching 300 million tonnes. Since, as previously mentioned, Grains are the most traded global commodities, we can envision a 2050 where Scotland has become a world-renown grain hub that efficiently grows (and store safely) nutrient-dense varieties that are resilient to its climate [8], for its consumption and export. This focus on export will have positive spill-over effects in the Scottish economy: it is estimated that for every 100 exporting jobs, an additional 66 jobs will be created. [5, 12, 13]

The East of Scotland is also one of the most densely populated areas and it is the ones with the highest predicted demographic growth. Urbanisation is one of the key global trends, which is changing (and will even more in the future) access to food, diets, and consumption patterns. It creates longer, more complex, commercial food value chains and results in a concurrent increase in the need for storage [1, 9].

These are the reasons why in 2050, impeccable long-term storage, thanks also to our solution, will become essential to protect the crops between more and more unpredictable and irregular harvests, while still providing constant supply.

To feed everyone in 2050 we need to produce more and better. Estimates say that cereal production needs to grow more than 43% [12,14].  A more efficient, vibrant, and ecological agricultural and production sectors are necessary for the future sustainability of the food system. But this is not enough.  Being it a system, without middle stream solutions, such as ours, that can safeguard the food produced and enhance the efficiency of all internal and external streams, we cannot secure all the improvement we need to create a truly sustainable and just Food System, locally and globally.


REFERENCES

[1] Batey, I. Chapter 20 - Maintaining Grain Quality During Storage and Transport. 20.

[2] Brown, I. 2013. Influence of seasonal weather and climate variability on crop yields in Scotland. International Journal of Biometeorology. 57, 4 (Jul. 2013), 605–614. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00484-012-0588-9.

[3] Butterworth, M.H. et al. 2010. North-South divide: contrasting impacts of climate change on crop yields in Scotland and England. Journal of The Royal Society Interface. 7, 42 (Jan. 2010), 123–130. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2009.0111.

[4] Christensen, C.M. and Kaufmann, H.H. The Role of Fungi in Quality Loss. 172.

[5] Ecosulis 2019. Impact of extreme weather on Scottish Farmers 2018 FINAL.pdf. WWF Scotland.

[6] EUROPEAN COMMISSION and Areté Ltd. 2017. STUDY ON STORAGE CAPACITIES AND LOGISTICAL INFRASTRUCTURE FOR EU AGRICULTURAL COMMODITIES TRADE (with a special focus on Cereals, the Oilseed Complex and Protein Crops (COP). EUROPEAN COMMISSION.

[7] Hay, R.K.M. ed. 2000. Crop production in the East of Scotland. Scottish Agricultural Science Agency.

[8] Nourish Scotland 2018. Scotland’s Food Atlas: 2018 - 2030 -. Nourish Scotland.

[9] OECD 2019. OECD-FAO AGRICULTURAL OUTLOOK 2019-2028. OECD.

[10] Shankar, U. and Abrol, D.P. 2012. Integrated Pest Management in Stored Grains. Integrated Pest Management: Principles and practice. 386–407.

[11] Waldman, K.B. et al. 2019. Smallholder food storage dynamics and resilience. Food Security. (Nov. 2019). DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s12571-019-00983-2.

[12] How to Feed the World in 2050. FAO.

[13] 2019. Scotland in 2050: Realising Our Global Potential – Final Report. Fraser of Allander Institute.

[14] Powell, N. et al. 2012. Yield stability for cereals in a changing climate. Functional Plant Biology. 39, 7 (2012), 539. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1071/FP12078.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website
View more

Attachments (2)

Crover poster.pdf

Crover Poster

Crover References.pdf

Reference of the sources cited throughout the submission.

3 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Spam
Photo of Constanza Castano
Team

Hello again!

The following link may be of interest to continue refining your 2050 Vision. Here you will find the invitation to an upcoming Future-casting Webinar, and a recording of our recent Systems Thinking Webinar:
https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/food-system-vision-prize/open-submission

This is the moment when you can connect with other Visionary teams, provide feedback and get inspired by other submissions.

Warm regards,

Constanza

View all comments