MARKET | Sep 19, 2016

#IoE And Agrifood: the case of Penelope

#IoE and Agrifood together have created the Penelope start-up, grown within the Cisco innovative ecosystem which monitors the food chain

Penelope was founded as start-up and it strongly connects to Cisco through a mixture of competence in the food industry, IOE, value-added technology and infrastructure. “Our lucky encounter with Cisco – says Francesco Marandino, sole director of Penelope – took place 5 years ago when we had the need to broaden and field test our intuition which had led to a product tracking and monitoring system and Cisco was looking for a technology which would complete its offer within a new industry”.

Union then and not just scouting, exchange of expertise and not just the “purchase” of small start-ups to be swallowed, mutual growth and not just another incubator or business angel. A six-month job together to integrate sector skills and technology. This was the relationship characteristic that linked a large corporation like Cisco to what was a small company, like Penelope, which today has an enviable market position. “Never would I have believed – continues Marandino – we could maintain our brand by increasing the value of what we were and who we are. I believe that this is due to Cisco’s strong ethical background, a real exception in a world which often does not take people into account. After all, when we met, we were a small lifeboat compared with an aircraft carrier“.

ValueGo technology

ValueGo is an integrated system which allows you to trace the entire supply chain of a food farming product, supporting the logistics and decision making process of enterprises in addition to protecting and warranting the consumer, who therefore is able to obtain complete transparency concerning the origin of what he puts on his table. “The goal of our technological platform – says Francesco Marandino – is to promote Italian excellence combating all attempts at counterfeiting and unfair competition as well as maximizing food safety“. But to do this you need IOE and data governance in order to document all the steps made along the supply chain: from the origin, to distribution, to sales. “Cisco supplied its networking, cloud storing and big data analysis expertise – continues Marandino – so as to be able to check data coming from each product component in real time“. And thanks to the infrastructure, the Penelope-Cisco experiment has destroyed all geographical restrictions giving us the possibility to track products from all over the world.

The advantages of ValueGo

A company which adopts the technology platform demonstrates concern for transparency in respect of the consumer who, through a smart label, is able to reconstruct the history of what he eats. It also allows an improved organization of the production processes and a more effective coordination of the entire supply chain. “Adopting this system – continues the director of Penelope – is a must for companies investing on the protection and enhancement of the brand and which work towards obtaining quality and origin certifications“. So much so that Penelope’s first experimental application was on the production chain of buffalo mozzarella.

The extension of the technology: SAFETY4FOOD

On the occasion of Expo 2015, Cisco and Penelope involved Barilla and NTT Data in an “experiment” of traceability carried out on a limited supply of pasta (farfalle) and basil sauce on sale in the Future Food District of the Milan fair. The Barilla phrase “Give people the same food you would give your children” is perhaps the essence of the project which supports health and environmental sustainability, and which was put into effect through a QR Code positioned at the center of the box of pasta, allowing the discovery of the entire supply chain. Through this app, by photographing the code, you embark on an actual journey which starts from the field, with all the information about the farms which grew the grain necessary for its production. From the field we move on to selecting the durum wheat with the explanation of the process, all the information regarding the companies participating in this stage and the plant’s environmental profile and carbon footprint. Wheat becomes semolina, we enter the mill, to then reach the production and description of the processes, up to packaging and storage. “The product speaks for itself – says Marandino – giving the feeling of total control over what you are eating. Two years ago we did it by reconstructing the production process of a winery during a Cisco live: from the vineyard to the bottle. I remember the amazement of those who expected to see switches and instead saw a concrete application of the support that technology can give to the food industry“.



Future projects

Leading off from the fact that this project is unique and that it is Italian, they are working on its internationalization as well as on its application in other contexts. “We must aim – says Marandino – on quality certification and on control, for example of organic products, in order to reaffirm the importance of our Country, which is home to food farming“. And which, in this case, has the honor of being home to a unique project which combines digital technology and agri-food.
We need to support a sector that represents 17% of the Italian GDP – continues Marandino – and that needs not just funding, but also training and support in disseminating its own B2C and B2B markets”. And that’s what we are doing with the latest announcement in these days of a memorandum of understanding between UniCredit and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry aimed at supporting investment and facilitating access to credit for businesses operating in the Italian food sector. The “Value for Food” project, where Unicredit joins Cisco and Penelope, intends to finance and implement the technological development programs of agri-food companies so that they may combine territorial communication and marketing needs, efficiency and automation of supply chain processes, dematerialization and digitalization of IT assets.

Penelope has always been the symbol of the ability to wait patiently, and has therefore become the symbol of those who create innovation to then wait patiently for the right occasion to merge and share which leads to spreading the good things that have been built.

Sonia Montegiove