Photo by Vindemia Winery

Blockchain has long been used for supply chain management, however, it has only begun to make its mark on the food industry recently. Soon we could see blockchain implemented to combat some of the biggest challenges facing food supply chains today.

Why use blockchain to track food supply chains?

Blockchain technology provides traceability, security and decentralisation when dealing with data around food.

Blockchain has the feature of immutability. Transactions cannot be altered or hidden as every change is tracked, recorded, and displayed to the entire network of people who have access to the information.

It also stores data in a decentralised manner. This means that there is no single server where information is kept. Instead, multiple copies of the data are saved to different nodes (computers) where all members can access and view it. Blockchain creates such a radically transparent environment that the need for trust is removed completely and no central authority is needed to mediate between parties.

The unique functions of blockchain technology are particularly helpful with:

  • Deterring food tampering, fraud and false advertising
  • Aiding in mass recalls of contaminated items
  • Identifying wastage in food supply chains
  • Decreasing chances of food spoiling
  • Allowing companies to certify organic or fair-trade origins of products

Who is using blockchain?

As people are beginning to see the real-world benefits of having radical transparency in their food supply chains, there has been a steep increase in companies adopting the technology.

Walmart has been using blockchain technology to digitise their supply chain and reduce the time it takes to track the source of food contamination. In 2020, an E. coli outbreak that spanned 19 states and hospitalised 20 people was traced back to leafy greens in the US. The industry spent millions of dollars notifying the public as well as tracing and removing the contaminated vegetables from the market. Walmart now requires all suppliers of leafy green vegetables to upload data onto a blockchain that tracks produce right back to the farm it came from. In the event of batch contamination, Walmart is able to trace contaminated food within in seconds, versus the weeks-long manual process. This is invaluable during times of product recall.

Frank Yiannas, VP of Food Safety at Walmart said:

“With a blockchain traceability solution you could scan a product and trace that product back with precision and accuracy to source in seconds – not days or weeks… in the future a customer could potentially scan a bag of salad and know with certainty whether its been involved in a recall”.

Nestlé uses a blockchain to trace the growing origins of its Rainforest Alliance certified coffee brand, Zoégas. To enhance trust and transparency around the product, The Rainforest Alliance provides its own certification information, guaranteeing the origins and sustainability practises of the coffee growing. By scanning a QR code on the packaging, customers can view information on farmers, time of harvest, the roasting period and even the transaction certificate for their coffee’s specific shipment.

Bumble Bee Foods records its yellowfin tuna operations on a blockchain to improve traceability and deter fraud. The system traces the movement of the fish through the supply chain, from the moment it’s caught to when it’s sold in the shops. Like Nestle’s initiative, customers can view information on where the tuna originated, the fishing community that caught it and the size of the catch. Fair-trade data is also displayed, giving customers peace of mind that their money is not being used to fund unethical practises like slave and child labour.

By leveraging blockchain technology, we have the opportunity to bring transparency, accountability and trust to food supply chains.

Blockchain Technologies is empowering companies with blockchain-backed solutions like STAMP Supply, a platform that enhances transparency, auditability, and performance of supply chains.

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