Food is important to a lot of people. And so is where it comes from.
From raw material to manufacturing, the food supply chain meets difficulty wherever it turns. Companies face issues with hygiene, food safety and ethical sourcing. Then, after manufacturing and even after distribution, consumers are often met with recalls. According to IBM, blockchain could cut 80% of the cost of food recalls for companies.
The food supply chain is one of the most important. It is also one of the most expensive when something goes wrong.
People demand accountability when it comes to their food. Whether this means correct advertising (such as organic labelling), sustainable sourcing or food hygiene, it’s all important. But currently, we don’t have a reliable way of tracking, and reporting, what happens, where it comes from and when.
So, how do we know for sure that food production by companies is transparent?
Right now, we don’t. But with blockchain, we could soon make sure that food supply chains are visible and reliable.
Blockchain for food tracking
The lack of transparency in our food supply chains isn’t purely the result of secretive companies. Because of the complexities of supply chains (as we see especially in mining, like with Cobalt production), companies don’t always know for sure that their suppliers are performing correct practices.
Food production is perhaps even more opaque than the mining supply chain, especially in the case of supermarket supply chains. This could be why Walmart in the US are already using blockchain to track romaine lettuce. Food opacity is also a problem in the meat industry. Some consumers, especially in countries with less regulations, cannot confirm definitively the origin or even type of meat they consume.
A huge amount of food is also mislabelled, and this is a vital problem for consumers. In a survey done by Oceana, a monumental 44% of the grocery stores and restaurants they visited sold mislabelled seafood. This provokes considerable concern for consumers who trust that what they are being sold is legitimate.
The World Economic Forum suggest a traceability system that incorporates data elements, unique identifiers, sensor technology and distributed ledger technology (blockchain). Naturally, blockchain alone cannot revolutionise food tracking. But it can certainly help improve food and beverage tracking.
Blockchain tracking in the food industry can:
- Reduce costs when recalls occur
- Ensure that products are labelled correctly
- Allow customers to verify a product is organic or free range
- Ensure that it was not grown or harvested in poor, underpaid working conditions
Transparency in the wine supply chain
The wine industry in particular has problems with origin and authenticity of their products.
Currently, the fine wine industry functions on trust and intermediaries. Customers pay large sums of money for a bottle of wine, when in reality it could be counterfeited. The current market has no definitive way to establish that a bottle of wine is what it advertises itself to be.
This is why blockchain is important.
Blockchain allows wine companies to track their supply chains by recording transactions within it. So, one day you might receive a digital certificate that verifies your wine’s origin, age and quality, with evidence.
Blockchain merely provides a means of evidence beyond word-of-mouth, so that people can confidently know a product’s origin.
Could this work on a global scale?
The simple answer? Yes. In fact, companies are already doing it.
It will take implementation and effort from suppliers and companies, but it’s certainly feasible. And the more people that adopt blockchain as a method of food traceability, the easier it will become for businesses to implement.
It will be necessary for companies globally to adopt a blockchain food and beverage system, though, as supply chains are almost always global. In most cases, people’s concern comes when their food is sourced from other countries, with different food guidelines.
At Blockhead Technologies, we are introducing our platform STAMP to supply chains with the goal of bringing transparency throughout all industries, with a focus on the mining sector. STAMP uses blockchain technology to trace a supply chain from beginning to end, so you can have confidence in your product’s origin.
Click here to find out more about STAMP.