Blockchain, the technology behind the most famous cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, has been thought of as a revolutionary innovation that could disrupt the financial industry. However, the applications of blockchain technology, an open and distributed ledger, surpasses far beyond financial industry with applications in distributed cloud storage, digital identity, smart contracts, and IoT. One such area of blockchain technology application, which has been largely ignored is in the food supply chain. Food contamination and foodborne diseases kill about 420,000 people worldwide each year. Consequently, governments and food safety agencies are increasingly focusing on food safety, nutrition, and food security to improve health conditions. Blockchain technology can help solve such issues by increasing transparency in the food supply chain.
Blockchain Technology in Food Supply Chain
Blockchain technology enables processing and storing of large amounts of data that is stored on a network of computers across a distributed ledger. Such records are tamper proof and are accessible by everyone on the network. Such capabilities allow suppliers and consumers to tackle issues in the food supply chain such as food frauds, illegal production, contamination, and other foodborne diseases. For instance, in the year 2008 in China, a major milk scandal by the largest milk company in the nation took place. The scandal involved adulterating milk with melamine, with 54,000 babies hospitalized due to kidney stones and kidney damage. Implementing blockchain technology provides openness, transparency, and data history that cannot be tampered. Additionally, each ingredient or chemical in the food can be traced back to its original supplier. As such information can be accessed even by the general public, the chances of fraud, adulteration, and illegal production could be easily addressed.
Companies Using Blockchain Technology
Recently, IBM announced that it is working with major retailers and food suppliers like Walmart, Nestle, and Dole to incorporate blockchain technology. In the context of food supply chain, this technology can track every single changes and event that happen to food products reducing the chances of fraud and contamination. The food industry is also looking at food supply chain traceability system for real-time food tracing based on HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points). Also, Kouvala Innovation is using pallets with RFID tags to communicate their need to get from one point to the other by a specific date. The RFID tag automatically provides a contract to the carrier that best meets a shipper’s price and service needs. Another company, Provenance, is using sensors and RFID tags to record it in a blockchain to authenticate tuna caught in Indonesia and track the fish from “hook to fork.”
Blockchain and the Future of Food Supply Chain
With the use of blockchain, digital product information like details of origin, batch number, manufacturing and expiration dates, storage temperature, factory and processing data, and shipping data are digitally connected and stored in the distributed ledger. Apart from increasing transparency and food safety, blockchain can also optimize the food supply chain. The technology enables better visibility and data management across the entire food supply chain which helps them manage food with varying shelf life and use predictive analytics to forecast demand and optimize the supply chain.
For more information on the use of blockchain technology in the food supply chain, reducing food frauds, adulteration, and illegal production, and food distribution logistics: