Food Systems 4.0

Entering the smart food era

Defining Food Systems 4.0

Food Systems 4.0 refers to the digitalization process taking place across the food supply chain.

This can encompass applications as broad as food safety solutions in manufacturing and transport to tech-enabled flavour and product development. Whatever the use case, the term covers everything related to the intelligent networking of machines and digital systems, when used to enhance operations across the food and beverage industries.

Why digitalize our food systems?

We all know that the current methods and pace of food production are not sustainable in the long-term (1). Moreover, during the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses in the agrifood industry that had already embraced digital tools fared significantly better than those that had not (2). The crisis also highlighted the fragility of food supply chains, accelerating the shift towards Food Systems 4.0.

Digitalization offers the potential to revolutionize the entire food chain, bringing farms into the digital era with high-tech monitoring, harnessing data to create new functional foods and providing high-tech food delivery services – to name just a few developments. From production to processing, transportation and POS, digitalizing the food system will impact every part of the supply chain.

The use of digital innovations – leading, in the best-case scenario, to a thriving digital ecosystem that spans the entire agrifood sector – will improve efficiency and sustainability, providing benefits to producers, retailers, consumers and the environment in the process. Whether that is reducing food waste through intelligent monitoring and shipping, or more sustainable transportation and delivery.

Summarizing Food Systems 4.0, FAO Regional Programme Leader Raimund Jehl writes: “The food sector can harness digital tools ranging from e-commerce and mobile technologies for increasing access to markets, to the use of artificial intelligence for improved pest control and crop genetics, as well as tools allowing optimized management of natural resources and early warning of food-security threats. It will facilitate a holistic approach, bringing the economic, social and environmental dimensions together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.” (3)

What is meant by digitalization?

Food Systems 4.0 is an umbrella term that refers to a raft of innovations and technologies across the supply chain, from field to plate. The main applications consist of:

  • Food safety
  • Food security
  • Logistics and transportation
  • Supply chain transparency and traceability
  • Production and storage, with a focus on waste reduction
  • Flavor and nutritional development using AI and data
  • Greater personalization using data

To achieve these aims, Food Systems 4.0 is powered by technologies like IoT (Internet of Things), IoM (Internet of Materials), the Cloud, blockchain, sensors and web and digital technologies.


What are the key challenges?

Connecting our food systems digitally is one thing, establishing a permanent and always-on digital ecosystem is another. Such ecosystems are complex and comprise various actors, including suppliers, customers, trade partners, data service providers, digital experts and beyond. As the use of digital technologies, particularly in relation to IoT, is such a recent development, there is also a lack of compatibility between systems, and many apps and devices are not yet designed with collaboration in mind. Privacy concerns, technological setbacks and security risks are as much of an issue as with any connected technologies, and upfront costs can be prohibitive. Moreover, use of AI and the IoT will inevitably lead to greater levels of automation, potentially affecting the availability of roles in the industry.

In the report ‘Thinking about the future of food safety’, the FAO writes:

“As with all emerging technologies, there are opportunities and challenges. For such technologies to be made available to all, it will be crucial to promote standards and best practices, access to reliable and curated reference databases, communication of lessons learned, and transparency in data sharing across stakeholders.” (4)

The Swiss ecosystem actors

Digitalization in the food industry is an incredibly broad field, with opportunities spanning from the moment a seed is planted to the point of sale and beyond. In Switzerland, many organizations are already innovating in this area, including numerous SFNV members. Given these developments, SFNV members and the wider Swiss ecosystem are in an excellent position to further develop on these gains and contribute to the formation of Food Systems 4.0 for a more efficient and sustainable food chain.

ADM is committed to providing a clean label to customers through traceability practices

Agilery is your one-stop food manufacturer – Driving food innovation to catalyse the good change in our food system.

No more scattered quality information over pdfs, email and text messages in different channels. Agrinorm lets you manage and communicate quality information within your organization as well as with your suppliers and customers, all in the same place! 

Agropôle is a unique campus connecting all the agri-food business stakeholders and accelerating the deployment of world-class innovations: an active community, R&D projects, fields for trials, and strong commercial networks, for the implementation of sustainable food solutions.

Agroscope is the federal government’s competence center for agricultural and food research and is attached to the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG).

Simplicity, responsibility, and reliability are the core values that guide its actions. For the Swiss retailer, this means not only offering high-quality products at consistently low prices but also ensuring sustainable, environmentally friendly, and animal-friendly production. is Switzerland’s first artisanal meals delivery service that makes it easy to eat healthy food with pleasure.

Amazentis is a dynamic and growing commercial stage company delivering innovative advanced nutrition to consumers.

Aquantis develops new measuring solutions using laser and milli/microwave technologies. This technology allows us to measure the conditions on the outside and inside of solid and liquid products.

Axino combines advanced sensor technology with artificial intelligence algorithms to remotely detect core temperature of refrigerated food in retail stores.

Beelong has created a solution that makes it easy for restaurant owners to calculate the environmental and nutritional impact of their menus and display the results to their customers.

Bossy Céréales
Since 1852, Bossy is the breakfast cereals specialist for both distributors and consumers. We supply a wide range of customers in Switzerland and in Europe.

Bühler is developing smart solutions to revolutionize milling.

CleanGreens Solutions
CleanGreens Solutions provides growers cultivation technology and knowledge to lead a profitable business and agriculture towards sustainability.

Cluster Food & Nutrition
The Cluster Food & Nutrition is an association active in the agri-food industry since 2015.

COOS Change Agency
COOS is a change agency hungry for impact with a mission to make food the most powerful tool to keep both people and planet healthy and thriving.

Crokeo is a tailor-made delivery service for dog and cat food in Switzerland: simple, efficient and environmentally friendly!

DSM-Firmenich is using Path2Farm™ – a proprietary digital traceability application – to provide customers with sourcing information from farm to final product.

Eat by Alex
We are here to prove that eating nourishing food using whole food plants can be simple and delicious.

We are the leader in Europe in transforming coffee husk and pulp (i.e “cascara”) normally considered as fruit waste by the coffee industry, into antioxidant healthy organic drinks.

Biola Sàrl has created the EcoCook restaurant’s sustainanbility assessment and certification on-line platform allowing all type of restaurants, from anywhere in the world, to reduce their environmental and social impacts and communicate their achievements.

EEat has developed an IoT-driven platform that makes it simple to comply with food safety regulations.

EHL Group
The EHL Group is the global benchmark in education, innovation and consulting for the hospitality and service sector.

EPFL through its Integrative Food and Nutrition Center – brings together more than 350 internationally recognized Professors that can provide expertise in the field of digitalization, from media analysis, food behavior monitoring and smart wearables to manufacturing optimization and modeling.

ETH Zürich
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETH Zürich) is a public research university characterised by its curiosity-driven approach to science, excellence in research, innovative teaching, strong partnerships and entrepreneurial spirit, which all contribute to its vision of paving the way in a complex world.

Fabas is developing a novel plant-based ingredient to produce the NextGen of plant-based food.

FOOD2050 measures and monitors the environmental impact of each stakeholder group within the food world and helps them to improve their environmental footprint with clear actions enabling all participants within the value chain to make a change, bite by bite.

Where Food & FoodTech professionals come to get the inside scoop on industry news and meet partners, friends, mentors, investors – and everything in between.

Founder Institute
The Founder Institute is the world’s most proven network to turn ideas into fundable startups, and startups into global businesses. Since 2009, their structured accelerator programs have helped over 6,000 entrepreneurs raise over $1.75 billion in funding.

Fruitful Farming
We are Fruitful – a team of tech enthusiasts using cutting-edge data science and image processing for controlled environment agriculture.

Givaudans Sourcing4Good program is driving transparency across supply chains.

The main goal of the association GOOD IS… is to ensure via the automatic distribution (known as vending):
The promotion of healthy, vegan, natural food-based exclusively on ingredients from fair trade, sustainable, renewable sources, respectful of the environment and natural cycles…

Gramont offers end-to-end services from Business&Application Consulting, Architecture&Development Services, UI/UX Design&Implementation, Support&Maintenance to actual Service Outsourcing.

GreenState AG is a Swiss-American Start-Up company focused on the development of modular and Vertical Farming as well as hardware and software solutions, with a focus on reducing the cost of vertical farms, the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning.

Haelixa offers proprietary and innovative solutions to physically mark, trace, and authenticate products from producer to retail creating transparency along the entire supply chain (linear or circular).

Helbling Technik
The Helbling Group is a leader in technological innovation and engineering for food and beverage systems and supports its international clients in all phases of product development and in their business processes. 

hilky AG
hilky is the Swiss start-up that is fully committed to the taste experience of plant-based dairy products.

House of Lab Science
We empower science-preneurs to focus on validating game-changing ideas, business growth and maximising capital efficiency.

Innopearl develops a unique marketplace to activate start-up – corporation partnerships. We make the partnering process radically easier, quicker, and smarter for founders and corporate leaders.

iSense SaaS accelerates flavor selection, matching and creation, and enables the first tech-driven B2B flavor marketplace.

Kickstart is one of Europe’s largest zero equity, multi-corporate ecosystem innovation platforms that run a scale-up program for later-stage startups with a goal to accelerate deep tech innovation.

MagicTomato has developed a unique digitalized food distribution system that makes it easy for consumers to eat healthy, local and seasonal food with minimal waste.

Mocoffee was founded in 1991 by the hand of a revolutionary engineer who invented the coffee pod with the aim of sharing the best espresso worldwide.

NEMIS Technologies
NEMIS tackles the current challenge by offering a rapid and cost-effective lab-free screening tool. Our method enables extensive and frequent on-site testing, revolutionizing environmental monitoring.

Innovation is Nestlé’s hallmark. We’re committed to developing innovative products and services that provide nutrition and health for people and pets everywhere, across all their life stages, in a way that’s good for our planet. is a digital tool that helps private and public sector catering partners to monitor and improve the nutritional and environmental quality of their meals and provides them with an ecoMenu score to help consumers make more informed choices.

pi2Life is a digital platform for finding where to buy sustainable consumer products and sending business sourcing / procurement inquiries to brands/manufacturers and distributors.

planetary is an infrastructure platform designing, building and operating upstream, downstream and formulations capacity and related IP for biomass and precision fermentation players globally.

Planted produces delicious meat from alternative proteins, focusing on the perfect bite. Inspired by nature, the company pioneers a novel biostructuring approach that combines protein structuring and biotechnology.

PowerAPI empowers corporates, service & product integrators, agencies, and the public sector with white-label plug-and-play tools to facilitate digitalization, boost their product offering, answer customer needs, and a quick go-to-market.

ProSeed provides upcycled food raw materials to the professional ingredients market. By combining technological know-how and a circular approach, ProSeed upcycles by-products from the food industry, such as brewers’ spent grains and fruit pomace, into quality raw materials.

Raps Schweiz
Raps Schweiz is a specialist in the development of individual products and applications for the food industry.

REM Analytics
REM Analytics provides a novel method to profile the micro type in people.

We create protein-based ingredients from upcycled single cells, through a process that unlocks unique functionalities, like heat-set gelling, emulsification, and more.

Scantrust is a connected goods and products platform that drives better supply chain traceability.

Sight and Life
Sight and Life is a Swiss-based foundation and humanitarian nutrition think tank working to innovate in nutrition towards eradicating all forms of malnutrition in children and women of childbearing age and so improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Steasy is a mobile mini-steamer with a sophisticated design and the size of a lunch box.

The Cultured Hub AG
Our purpose is to accelerate our journey to cultured food. We do this through Scale Up as a Service facilities for startups, bridging the gap from small lab environment to industrial manufacturing.

The Fribourg Development Agency – State of Fribourg
Since 1971, the Fribourg Development Agency (FDA) has been helping local businesses to get off the ground, outside companies to relocate to the region, and established companies to expand their operations.

Thought For Food
Thought For Food is the world’s next gen innovation engine for food and agriculture. We create, empower and support a new generation of leaders to solve our planet’s most pressing challenge: How to sustainably feed 10 billion people?

Vege’tables is a platform of experts in nutrition and sustainable development at the service of organizations, restaurants and people.

Voltiris offers a solution that allows growers to gain energy independence, profitability, and sustainability. Voltiris solar modules filter sunlight to transmit only the components needed for photosynthesis to crops, while also producing solar energy with the unused light.

Weekly Food Sàrl
Weekly Food – Fresh box of meals prepared in Switzerland and ready to eat since 2021.

Wondermeal prepares and delivers fresh healthy meals daily. We help people to gain free time and improve their life quality.

The ZFV-Unternehmungen (ZFV) cooperative is an innovative host in the areas of catering, accommodation and care.

Food systems 4.0 & the Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015 with the aim of ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring peace and prosperity for all. Find out how food systems 4.0 can contribute to to the delivery of these goals below.

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Digital technologies can be used to improve food production, distribution, and access, which can help to reduce hunger and improve food security. For example, precision agriculture technologies can help to increase crop yields and reduce food waste, while digital platforms can help to connect small farmers with markets and consumers.

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Digital technologies can be used to improve food safety, traceability, and nutrition. For example, digital traceability systems can help to ensure that food is safe and free from contaminants, while digital nutrition platforms can provide personalized nutrition recommendations to individuals.

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Digital technologies can help to improve the efficiency and sustainability of the food system. For example, precision agriculture technologies can help to reduce the use of inputs such as water and pesticides, while digital platforms can help to connect producers with consumers and reduce the environmental impacts of transportation.

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The food system is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Digital technologies can help to reduce these emissions by improving the efficiency of food production and distribution, as well as by reducing food waste.

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Digital technologies can be used to improve land management practices and protect natural habitats. For example, precision agriculture technologies can help to minimize the impact of farming on the environment, while digital platforms can help to connect producers with consumers and promote the adoption of sustainable practices.

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