Press Release

Tech on the Table

August 16, 2018
Gus Wigen-Toccalino with West Monroe Partners talks with guests about blockchain technology. On Aug. 7, food industry stakeholders met in Chicago to talk about blockchain, CRISPR and drone technologies and their implications in the food supply chain.


Tech on the Table

Food industry stakeholders discuss technology at Soy in the City dinner


CHICAGO – Aug. 16, 2018 – There’s no question technology has revolutionized the world. The food industry is no different.


Food production benefits from technology applications like autonomous driving and GPS yield mapping, which 40 percent of soybean and corn producers use to more precisely understand field dynamics, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. Food processing is more efficient and safer, and there is more data and information access across all supply chain sectors.


So what’s next? How does the industry keep getting better, more efficient and more sustainable?


Talking Tech + Food
Leveraging technology innovation in the food and agricultural industry is a core focus for the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff program. As part of its Soy in the City initiative, Illinois soybean producers recently invited 23 supply chain stakeholders to the table to discuss some of the up-and-coming technologies with potential to influence the industry. Those included blockchain, CRISPR and drones – applications still somewhat unrefined, but that could have significant implications across the supply chain.


“The world is changing, and producers must stay ahead of the technology curve,” says Stan Born, ISA director and soybean producer from Lovington, Illinois. “There’s still more to learn, and meeting with other value chain stakeholders allows us to understand the full picture of where our industry is headed and what we can do to ensure producers thrive through change.” 


Guests ranging from food company sustainability leads and chefs to dietitians and scientists explored these topics, considering things like the transparency and traceability value of blockchain to their organizations, how drones can create a smarter supply chain, and the potential of a technology like CRISPR to address food waste and allergies.


Bob Tantillo and Gus Wigen-Toccalino with West Monroe Partners, a business and technology consulting firm in Chicago, facilitated conversations about how blockchain can deliver key benefits to supply chain processes through increased efficiency, improved traceability, enhanced security and greater transparency.


“We’re equipping stakeholders with information that makes them smarter about important industry issues and question where these technologies might make sense,” says Tantillo, senior principal in West Monroe Partners’ Manufacturing & Distribution practice.


Innovation Required
There’s a number that’s become very familiar to most people: 9.7 billion – the United Nations’ estimated world population by 2050. With that statistic, innovation is no longer a novelty but mandatory, and its presence in agriculture is taking hold. Funding for ag tech start-ups and investments reached $4.2 billion in 2017, according to AgFunder, fueling innovation in novel farming techniques, blockchain software and food safety.


Chad Colby, ag technologist and Colby AgTech founder, talked with guests about drone potential on farms, from adding more precision, to crop scouting, to GPS map creation and thermal imaging. Drones are just one technology revolutionizing food production.


“Producers are using technology today they wouldn’t have even considered a few years ago,” says Colby. “The tech boom we’re in will provide countless solutions to more efficient, transparent, sustainable production.”


Add to the farm and food landscape a new lens on consumption. Consumers care about food “familiarity” – natural, recognizable ingredients – more than ever. According to the 2018 International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation Food & Health Survey, 59 percent say sustainable food production is important for what they purchase and consume.


“It’s a fascinating, opportune time for our industry,” says Jayma Appleby, ISA director of industry relations. “Populations are rising, consumer preferences are changing and we’re in the midst of a major tech movement. It’s important we continue connecting on how we can encourage and apply technology on the farm, but also along the entire supply chain. The future requires it.”


The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff and membership programs represent more than 43,000 soybean farmers in Illinois. The checkoff funds market development, soybean production and profitability research, issues analysis, communications and education. Membership and advocacy efforts support Illinois soybean farmer interests in local areas, Springfield and Washington, D.C., through the Illinois Soybean Growers. ISA programs are designed to ensure Illinois soy is the highest quality, most dependable, sustainable and competitive in the global marketplace. For more information, visit the website


Photo caption: Gus Wigen-Toccalino with West Monroe Partners talks with guests about blockchain technology. On Aug. 7, food industry stakeholders met in Chicago to talk about blockchain, CRISPR and drone technologies and their implications in the food supply chain.


For more information, contact:

Rachel Peabody
Sarah Duwe