Food fraud could be losing the food and drink industry up to £12bn annually, according to a report by NFU Mutual (2017), and high profile cases of deliberate substitution of and tampering with food has impacted consumer confidence.
A technology called blockchain, which provides a secure audit trail for transactions in the food value-chain, could be a way of proving the provenance of products, and this is the theme of our 24th April Pollinator networking event.
Marcus de Wilde is Enterprise Lead at Applied Blockchain, an application development company focused on distributed ledger technology and smart contracts. He is one of the speakers at the event and explains that blockchain technology supports trust and transparency within the agri-food industry.
“Smart supply chain technology can provide confidence on a number of levels,” Marcus says. “For example, I had a recent conversation with a client who has fisheries in his portfolio. This got me to consider the value of traceability from the point of view of ethical sustainability and tackling the issues of foodborne illnesses as well as the practical problem of how to add a fish to a blockchain!”
Blockchain technologies give users a way to create a time-stamped, tamper-proof record of all transactions or ‘data events’ that occur between participants on a network.
Marcus gives an example: “One of the applications I’m going to talk about is the use of blockchain in North American cannabis cultivation and distribution. Here blockchain is being used to meet the demands of regulators, consumers, supply chain relationships and financing outside of traditional banking systems.
“Agriculture is all about the supply chain; this touches on the work of producers, commodity traders, warehouses, financiers, insurers, logistics – and that’s before you even begin to think about the consumer.
“I’m working with a number of clients in agriculture and I think this case-study will map well to the type of problems and use cases that the industry is tackling.”
Marcus explains that blockchain is well suited to traceable products although there is still a requirement for external technological infrastructure to help achieve this.
“Blockchain creates a data source that is ‘trustless’ where, in place of a centralised authority, data is validated through the consensus of the crowd.
“There are lots of opportunities to help companies and producers in agriculture consider how to optimise their operations and consider new business models.
“At Applied Blockchain we’ve worked on individual problems across all of these and are eager for the chance to ‘join the dots’ across a single supply chain.
“There is even more that blockchain technologies are capable of and I look forward to discussing these at the event in April.”
‘Trust, Provenance and Blockchain – impacts and opportunities for agriculture’ is being held on 24 April 2018 at the Sainsbury Laboratory, Cambridge – see more about the Pollinator on our events page.
Read the NFU Mutual report on their website here.
Visit the Applied Blockchain website here.