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Data Sharing Between Food Tech Group Companies: The Cantilever Strategy

February 18 2021

Contributed by: Chris Martin, Managing Director, Food Tech Group

The food supply chain so directly effects all of us. Socrates told us to let food be thy medicine. History tells us that societies rise and fall with their foo supplies. Bombs and bullets get the headlines but what do we need 3x a day?

Without question awareness our food system’s frailties has been heightened in the last year. The Food Tech Group companies have been thinking for much longer about to leave the food supply chain a better place. Now, a vehicle to have that thinking become manifest: we’re calling it the Cantilever Strategy.

“Sharing data just to get ‘visibility’ isn’t enough.”

Why doesn’t the food system, particularly the foodservice channel, share data well? The simplistic answer is that this industry has a complicated ecosystem of supply chain relationships. Manufacturers and Distributors heckle over who owns the end customer. In kind, the community of food tech vendors aren’t incented to help everybody get along. The few data standards we have are not easy to implement. The average EDI 867 project takes 18 months!

Vendors also tend to be only able to serve one link - think supplier or customer - in the supply chain. I proved this to myself the hard way at Tibersoft. Loyalties must be clear or the market will not let you be successful.

So here is the proposition: join the Food Tech Group, a buy and hold investor, and when client needs require sharing data across the supply chain, across the buyer seller relationship, collaborate with your sister Food Tech Group companies to unlock value for your respective clients. The head of sales at a household name beverage manufacturer gives a great example. “We craft a very sustainable product, but aside from a few certifications on our website, we really can’t prove it in an easy, tactile way.” After a little priming on how Cantilever might work, he continued “if the customer could easily find out the fruit in this beverage came from a farmer a few towns away, that would be a game changer.”

What I like about this potential application of the Cantilever strategy is that it directly solves a business challenge. One company might handle the grower
management data (think ExtendAg). Another could manage the go-to-market data (think Tibersoft). There could be a restaurant tech company that helps operator clients connect this information with patrons.

This data sharing could take many different forms but it will always be customer driven. Sharing data just to get “visibility” isn’t enough. The feature driven from this data has to be specific. And since that data feed is proprietary that feature could feed the “special sauce”. Individual applications of this strategy are in the formative stages now. Will this strategy see progress in traceability, promotion measurement, food quality tracking? It will be fun to see how this evolves.