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Food and agriculture are complex industries that rely on a vast network of interconnected processes and stakeholders. To meet the challenges and opportunities of these sectors, increased transparency and data sharing are essential. Blockchain technology is emerging as a vital tool to secure the food supply chain and ensure that everyone involved benefits.
Understanding Blockchain in Agriculture
Blockchain is a decentralized ledger of records, or blocks, that are stored across a network of computers. The ledger is secured with cryptography, ensuring that once a block is written, it cannot be altered. In the context of the food and agriculture industry, blockchain can be used to manage various types of data, such as online transactions, shipping manifests, or veterinary records. Given the diverse range of items and valuable transactions involved in food production, blockchain is an ideal solution for the sector.
Enhancing Trust with Track and Trace
Transparency and trust are crucial across the entire agriculture value chain. However, the industry faces challenges when it comes to data sharing. Blockchain-based solutions can provide greater transparency and protection for data sharing upstream and downstream, addressing these concerns.
By leveraging blockchain technology, the industry can improve visibility, tracking, and collaboration among all stakeholders. This enhanced clarity enables players to meet the increasing economic, environmental, health, and commercial demands of the sector. With a deeper understanding of the actual cost of production, food valuation can become more aligned with the real costs of inputs and labor.
A notable example of blockchain-backed visibility is the De Beers Tracr platform, which assures the provenance of natural diamonds. This platform demonstrates the potential for blockchain to provide transparency and trust in the agricultural sector.
Unlocking the Potential of Data in Agriculture
According to McKinsey, the agriculture industry could realize an additional $500 billion in value by 2030 through increased use of connectivity and technology. While digitization has started to transform farming practices, the full potential of data in agriculture remains largely untapped. Data silos hinder collaboration and prevent the industry from realizing impactful insights.
Data transparency is a critical challenge that contributes to the existence of data silos. This lack of transparency leads to distrust and poses inherent risks to farming and food production. Blockchain’s transparent nature offers the food and agriculture sector an opportunity to overcome these challenges and achieve shared business benefits. By identifying and addressing vulnerabilities in the supply chain, blockchain can protect growers, input providers, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers. This optimization and increased accuracy are especially crucial as the industry faces unpredictable yields due to climate change, evolving food provenance regulations, and changing customer expectations.
Addressing Food Safety and Fraud Concerns
Recent incidents, such as the “zombie meat scandal” in China and numerous food-related risks reported by the European Union, highlight the need for increased transparency in the food supply chain. The Covid-19 pandemic has further amplified consumer awareness and the demand for high visibility across the entire food chain. Blockchain technology can significantly reduce the risks associated with fake food labeling by providing a secure and immutable record of every transaction and input.
However, for blockchain to deliver on its promises of optimization and transparency in food and agriculture, the industry must embrace data sharing. Farmers need to be willing to share their data with agribusinesses that develop digital technologies. Codes of conduct, like the EU Code of Conduct for agricultural data sharing, play a crucial role in fostering transparency and trust in data sharing practices. These codes encourage transparency about data use and help farmers understand the value of their data.
Real-World Examples of Blockchain Adoption
Blockchain technology is not merely a concept in the food and agriculture industry; it is already making a difference. Major food and retail companies, including Dole, Unilever, and Walmart, have collaborated with leading technology vendors to develop and deploy blockchain solutions. These companies recognize the potential of blockchain to enhance transparency and traceability in the food supply chain.
Dutch brewery Heineken has also taken steps towards improving sustainability and connectivity within its supply chain through its EverGreen strategy. The implementation of a blockchain solution could be the next logical step for Heineken, enabling even greater transparency and collaboration with suppliers and partners.
The food and agriculture industry is a complex ecosystem that can benefit significantly from blockchain technology. By providing transparency, security, and traceability, blockchain can drive collaboration and trust among all stakeholders in the food supply chain. Agricultural data sharing is crucial for the successful implementation of blockchain solutions, and codes of conduct can help foster transparency and build trust in the industry. As the industry embraces blockchain, it can address consumer demands for transparency, protect against fraud, and optimize operations to meet the challenges of a rapidly evolving food landscape.
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