• Alex Yarza Navarro

Blockchain and the Food Industry


Are you someone that cares about where your food comes from? Does it frustrate you that not everything is labeled correctly and that the resources that make up your meals are almost untraceable? An emerging technology can help solve those issues. Now blockchain isn’t completely new - it was first introduced in 2008. Originally only used in the tech world, especially cryptocurrency, blockchain is taking other industries by storm. The advantage of blockchain storage is, that data doesn’t get stored in one body but on different, decentralized nodes. All of the actors, suppliers and customers accessing the supply chain can retrieve all the data, which makes visibility and traceability much easier.


A big part of this are “Distributed ledger technologies” (DLTs) - the technology to replicate, share and synchronize data across several platforms, to ensure data doesn’t get lost. That is all well and good - but how can this technology be used to improve sustainability in the food industry?





How Exactly Can Blockchain Be Implemented in the Food Industry?


These technologies can be useful in a lot of different ways, for example, it can save costs among farmers, suppliers and consumers. As consumers are more conscious of where their food comes from, blockchain can also help heighten the sense of trust. As transparency and traceability is innate to the blockchain system and the IOT (internet of things), it makes it easier for consumers to trace all the resources that go into making their favourite burrito.


The end goal of these kinds of technologies is to improve traceability, which in turn leads to positive impacts on food safety, quality and sustainability. If you can track every step that each resource took on its way to your plate, you can make more educated choices. You can replace products with their qualitatively improved and more sustainable alternatives.



What Companies Are Leading the Way?


IBM


IBM is on the cutting edge of blockchain technology, as they have been with other technologies in the past. Their program IBM Food Trust is a cloud-based blockchain solution providing an open and flexible way for members to share data and connect actors along the chain. They have a network of farmers, distributors, retailers in the food industry with the goal of making the industry more efficient, transparent and sustainable. A lot of big players in the food industry are using their products.


Walmart


This might come as a surprise to many, but Walmart is at the forefront of blockchain implementation in the industry. They began using blockchain early on and have created the world’s largest blockchain-based freight-and-payment network in Canada, which makes it possible to track over 70 trucking companies delivering to over 400 retail stores. By applying blockchain to their massive corporation and working with IBM, they were able to reduce emissions and improve efficiency. For example, Walmart conducted a trace-back test on mangoes. Before blockchain, it took them almost seven full days - with blockchain it took 2.2 seconds. Another reason why Walmart invested a lot into blockchain is for safety and health reasons. For example, E. coli is a problem with leafy greens distribution - they implemented blockchain and urged all their suppliers to use it as well, to be able to trace a source as quickly as possible.


OPTEL


OPTEL is offering services with blockchain technology. Their approach is providing large amounts of traceable data with their Intelligent Supply Chain (ISP). They want to make every single transaction visible, so consumers know exactly where their food comes from. This new level of transparency, trust and traceability should please even the most curious customers. They are also a Certified B Corporation, which is always a good sign.


Ambrosus


This company focuses mainly on the food and pharmaceutical industry. They are leading the way in different sectors, for example tracking the provenance of olive oil. The olive oil industry has had a number of scandals over the past, with olive oil that was mixed with other oils or didn’t come from the country it was labeled as. These tactics are employed to trick the customer into thinking the product is high quality, which they use to up the price. This is where Ambrosus is employed - their blockchain enables every stakeholder to have a comprehensive overview of the entire supply chain of the olive oil and to have access to the full history of the oil.


WINE Blockchain (ezlab)


Ezlab does for the wine industry what Ambrosus does for the oil industry. The principle is similar. With wine, being able to trace where the grapes come from, how they were processed and how long the maturation process was, is essential to determine the quality of said wine. Backed by EY, this technology is already in place for certain wines. They come equipped with their own unique QR code. By scanning the QR code, consumers can access vineyards’ names and locations, details such as the types of fertilizers used to grow the crops and how each batch is transported for processing and delivery. So far, there are over 5000 wine labels in their system and they keep growing.




Blockchain Is Here to Stay


Blockchain is getting used more and more in the food industry and will continue to be implemented. In the future, tracing your food will be easier than ever before. Every consumer will be able to look up where exactly their food comes from, who produced it and how it was transported. For example, you could scan a product’s QR code in the supermarket and it would tell you immediately it’s whole story, from farm to supermarket. Hopefully, these technologies will provide the customer with enough information about the origin of the product to make more informed purchases.


If you want more insider information on what the future holds for the food industry, make sure to check out “2020 Food Trends: Health, Convenience, Taste, Safety and Sustainability”.



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