That was the verdict delivered by speakers at the Institute of Food Science & Technology’s (IFST’s) 2018 spring conference at the University of Birmingham on 19 April.
Vincent Doumeizel, vice-president, food and drink at Lloyds Register, told delegates drones had been used to audit food producers in areas such as Syria and Iraq and this had worked “very well”.
Difficult to monitor everything
Use of the technology to keep track of the entire supply chain was a suitable solution, as it was extremely difficult for large manufacturers and retailers with complex chains to monitor everything, he said.
“If you are a big food supplier, you have got visibility of tier one suppliers and good visibility of tier two suppliers, but after that it’s not so good,” he said. “You can have up to 20 tiers of suppliers.”
However, he added: “Remote screening … is better than nothing, but we will not replace human interaction.”
Rob Chester, managing director for food at NSF International said a joint project launched with Google in 2014 used Google Glass worn by food business operators on-site to screen practices and procedures to auditors remotely.
“The factory manager puts the glasses on, walks around the factory and we can see and hear what’s going on. We are now up to just over 1,000 audits for different customers.”
Google Glass could also be used for training purposes, he said.
Potential for the technology was being developed by a venture known as EyeSucceed.
Meanwhile, in an exclusive video interview filmed at the conference, Doumeizel said a deficit in qualified auditors to meet demand was a major challenge for food and drink firms.