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Bridging the supply chain gap with virtual reality
Bridging the supply chain gap with virtual reality
News 29 Agu 2018

We're using VR technology to bring people in palm oil supply chains closer together.

Palm oil fruit, freshly cut from a tree, is loaded on to a truck by a smallholder. From there it travels to a nearby mill. Once it arrives, it’s processed into crude palm oil, or crude palm kernel oil, and then shipped off to a refinery to become an ingredient, found in everything from shampoo to chocolate bars. The palm oil fruit’s journey might be easy enough to imagine, but how many people will get to experience every step of it?

The answer is very few. Those who work in each link of the supply chain may never see the next step; smallholders may never see what comes of the Fresh Fruit Bunches that they grow, just as mill and refinery workers or managers may not see where the fruit comes from.

With that in mind, TFT recently developed a Virtual Reality (VR) film based on our Rurality project in Takoradi, Ghana.

Physically taking people to each location in the palm oil supply chain would be a nearly impossible task. So, TFT developed the VR film as the next best thing, giving viewers the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the next step in the process. It’s allowed smallholder farmers in Ghana to see where their product goes, and mill workers, who refine the palm fruit into oil, the chance to see where the fruit they work with actually comes from.

The film begins with an introduction to Rurality by Charles Boateng, a Rurality field officer, before embarking on an immersive tour of a palm oil plantation to see the daily work of smallholders, narrated by Yaw Manso, a local farmer. It then follows a truck to the nearby mill, showing the steps in the production process from sterilisation to refining.

“The purpose of the film was to take people who work along the palm oil supply chain, whether they are smallholders, mill workers in Ghana or brand employees based elsewhere, and let them experience what the reality is really like for others in that supply chain,” explains Marianne Martinet, head of TFT’s Rurality programme. “We also show through the film how Rurality helps foster collaboration between farmers and the mill, improving the lives of smallholders and increasing productivity for the mill in the process.”

In the last months, TFT has taken the film beyond Ghana. So far, farmers, plantation managers and several employees at Nestlé have seen it in various locations around the world, from Cameroon, to Switzerland and Malaysia.

The film was developed as part of Rurality’s mission to support smallholder farmers become more resilient and strengthen their position in supply chains. Often it is the case that smallholders are forgotten, despite them being the vital first link in a long chain that ends far from their farms. Rurality has been working with Benso Oil Palm Plantation’s out grower farmers in Adum Banso Estate since late 2015.

David Sigah, who grows oil palm in K 3 village, is one such farmer. “David was at his house when I visited him,” explains Boateng. “In my normal routine with him as a Rurality farmer, we discuss what he has done on the farm and if he has been able to apply our recommendations. But that day was different.”

“He was inspired,” recalls Boateng. “He told me that he would be maintaining his farm and following all Rurality’s recommendations so that one day his farm might appear in a film like it.”

At BOPP mill and plantation, Samuel Avaala, the general manager, took part in a viewing with his staff. He asked for a copy to be kept at the site to show to more workers and visitors to give them an opportunity to know BOPP’s supply chain better.

Isaac Manso, a palm oil smallholder who was featured in the video alongside his brother Yaw, was excited to see the finished product. Together Isaac and Yaw have been working with Rurality to improve their yields and farm management. He hoped that the video’s tour of his plantation would let people in other countries around the world see a positive example of how to maintain their farms.

TFT Rurality’s Virtual Reality film, produced by ImmersiveVR, was made possible with funding from our member Nestlé.

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