How technology helps trace cotton from farm to consumer?

How technology helps trace cotton from farm to consumer?

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How technology helps trace cotton from farm to consumer?

Cotton in numbers and why they matter

Every year 27 million tons of cotton is produced globally and it is also the most often used natural fibre according to Statista. The WWF reports cotton production employs almost 7% of all labour in developing countries and provides income for over 250 million people worldwide. They also raise the concerns of the industry’s environmentally unsustainable methods of production. Did you know cotton uses more chemical pesticides than any other crop? Worldwide these result to 16% of all the insecticides and 7% of all herbicides used. Cotton is also a very thirsty crop adding more pressure on our natural resources. Water has been diverted to grow cotton crops resulting in devastating changes to many local ecosystems in already struggling regions.

Tracking the life cycle information of this widespread crop and its end products is becoming paramount to ensure the sustainable development of this industry. Traceability information tracks the product’s origin and its impact on the environment and society throughout the supply chain until the final products reach the end users.

This article will share some further details about the cotton industry and the challenges it faces to develop sustainably. We will also discuss how technology can play a significant role in solving some of the problems for the benefit or our planet and our people.

Cotton impacts in the garment industry

It is estimated that the clothing industry uses around 60% of the world’s cotton with industrial products and home furnishing accounting for the rest. Organic cotton certification, often used by fashion brands to drive ‘sustainable’ clothing lines, has been challenged in areas due to lack of rigorous standards and verification processes.  Big fashion brands have also been exposed to using forced and child labour, imposing unethical working conditions and pay that is well below minimum wages.

These fashion brands are also increasingly under pressure by the changing shopping habits of our citizens, the Gen Z in particular, who are more informed about the negative impacts many industries and practices have on our climate. Purchasing decisions are based on their concerns and wishes to minimize negative impact on our planet and people.

We can also see the legislators beginning to address the lack of transparency in supply chains. The European Commission is presently debating a comprehensive proposal that would mandate tighter due diligence standards in businesses entire supply chains. Similarly, American customs officials impose more transparency requirements on cotton imports from high-risk nations.

As a large part of the cotton crop is used for clothing it is crucial to tackle the problems created by the garment industry to significantly reduce the negative impact this crop has on our environment and the workforce involved.

The Importance and benefits of supply chain traceability

Lack of traceability frequently coexists with complex supply chains. Tackling a complex supply chain poses many challenges to a brand when they are embedding sustainability into their product development. Traceability is also a key prerequisite for circular business models, where a business will support the regeneration of our natural systems and work to keep the raw materials used and products manufactured in use for as long as possible.  

Cotton traceability offers the following benefits:

  • Transparency of the supply chain and material use for better in-depth analysis, and supply chain management
  • Improved value stream mapping for product development and informed decision making for profitable business
  • Opportunity to assess and integrate circularity for future business resilience
  • Transparent communication of products and processes, facilitating also easier access to product certifications, to build brand reputation and customer loyalty
  • Ability to meet changing regulatory needs
  • Data to support Net Zero Strategies and help reduce carbon emissions

Farmsio traceability solution

Working directly with cotton producers, Farmsio has developed a comprehensive cotton traceability solution. Our digital platform incorporates traceability allowing the tracking of the cotton value chain from pre harvest to the product’s arrival at buyer’s warehouse.

The data is tracked all the way from the originating farm, with GPS coordinates, and details of crop farming and monitoring practices.

Any applicable crop or farm certification information can be integrated. Our platform also tracks post-harvest activities of shipping and procurement with visual mapping. The traceability extends to marketplace linkage and inventory and warehouse management also featuring necessary reporting.

Our traceability module assists with product quality control, risk management and transparency throughout the supply chain.

If you would like to learn more about digitising farms and our traceability solutions, have a look at FARMSIO Solutions on our website, read our previous blog on Weaving Bales with Bytes: A Case for Cotton Digitalization and get in touch with us for a demo.

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