The agriculture industry is one of the latest industries to start using blockchain technology. Existing processes in the industry are long and arduous, involve several parties and even different jurisdictions, so it’s surprising that the industry is only recently beginning to innovate with new technologies.
Agriculture’s outdated tracking and supply chain management systems have been at the centre of several food scandals over the years, notably the melamine-spiked milk that killed six babies and left hundreds of thousands of others sick in China in 2008, the horsemeat scandal of 2013 in the UK, and the latest honey scandal in Australia in 2018.
Blockchain technology is now being trialed across the industry to resolve these issues by streamlining processes and providing a secure ledger to store all information in relation to the source of our food.
Preventing fraudulent and counterfeit food items
Blockchain can increase accountability and transparency among the multiple suppliers, middlemen and retailers. When something goes wrong, the point in the chain can immediately be identified and verified.
This is particularly important in the case of fraudulent or counterfeited items, which is an enormous problem within the global food system.
According to the United Nations, food fraud costs the global economy an estimated US$40 billion per year due to illegal trades.
The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) announced the Blockchain Supply Chain Traceability Project in January 2018, which focused on using the technology to help put an end to illegal tuna fishing.
Other scandals could have been avoided if correct track and trace technology was in place. The honey scandal in Australia found that almost one in five honey samples sourced from supermarkets and markets had at least one additional ingredient not cited.
Track and trace technology could prevent scandals and build consumer confidence
A new technology developed by Security Matters (ASX:SMX) could prevent future food scandals from occurring.
Security Matters’ technology enables any solid, liquid or gas to be invisibly and irrevocably “marked” using a chemical-based barcode. This is then read using a proprietary reader which matches the information received with the details stored on the blockchain.
If the honey and its packaging had been marked, suppliers could use the readers to verify the products they were buying.
Provenance is another issue that Security Matters’ technology could solve. For instance, by marking the produce at the source, consumers could be confident that their wagyu beef is from Japan.
It could also be implemented in the supply chain to ensure that neither child labour nor trafficked workers were involved in the production process.
For blockchain to succeed, changes need to be made throughout the supply chain. Produce needs to be correctly labelled so it can then be tracked. Novel solutions like Security Matters’ technology, which marks the actual products with an invisible tracking code – in addition to the packaging – are emerging as viable solutions.
With this technology there is no question whether the packaging has been tampered with as each individual piece of produce is marked, whether it is a grain of animal feed, a coffee bean, or a cow.
Larger corporations are also getting on board with integrating blockchain into agriculture too. Some of the largest food retailers globally are collaborating with IBM on a blockchain protocol designed to increase consumer confidence in their products.
This kind of industry uptake is very encouraging for the future of the agriculture industry, and ultimately the food on our plates. Importantly for consumers, it allows them to track the source of their food and can help food retailers build consumer confidence.
This content is produced by Star Investing in commercial partnership with Security Matters. This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.
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