With more awareness being brought to the quality of our food in terms of health and diet, issues such as food supply, safety, and sustainability should also be considered. Blockchain technology may be the solution to some our most pressing food supply issues, as well as a means to improve commerce and the overall quality of our health.
Transparency in the Supply Chain
Foodborne diseases are a major global health concern; according to the World Health Organization, 1 in 10 people fall ill every day from foodborne illnesses, and over 33 million lives are lost to these kinds of diseases.
These diseases are preventable, but due to the lack of accessibility to trace transactions within the food supply chain, products are susceptible to being contaminated and unregulated. The blockchain can be used to help resolve these issues by bringing transparency to the complicated food supply chain by establishing an open environment where transactions can be monitored, and information on the food products can be shared by farmers, consumers, and all other parties in between. This brings an optimistic view to the future of our food’s lifecycle, as contaminated or hazardous products can be detected, traced to its source, and removed relatively quickly, thus avoiding the ill-desired public scares and product recalls.
One of the more serious issues within the food industry is the issue of sustainability. How can we sustain our food production practices in an environmentally friendly way to keep up with the increasing amount of consumers on this planet? Several blockchain-based projects have come up with innovative solutions to this question.
Swiss company, Ambrosus, is working with the United Nations on their 10YFP Sustainable Food Systems programme to revolutionize the food industry for more sustainability. Their solution provides P2P marketplace where blockchain verification and sensor systems allow consumers to learn about their food source from verified reports. This enables consumers to make choices based on the quality of the food product, and with escrow mechanisms and reputation points in place, other parties are kept accountable with incentives to improve their service.
For environmental issues such as overfishing, blockchain company Viant and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature have created a new certification system that allows for the tracking of fish via a QR code, where consumers can verify if their fish comes from as a sustainable source.
In India, where smaller farmers are responsible for most of the country’s food supply, the issue that they face is the lack of access to technology, education, and quality raw materials, while their crops are dependant on erratic weather patterns, pollution, and climate change. A company called Farm2Kitchen has developed a systematic network of small and marginal farmers across India via their Farm2K blockchain platform. This platform allows the empowerment of these small and marginal farmers as it heightens their involvement in the food industry and provides them access to data that they can use to improve their crop planning and thus increase their revenue.
Reducing Food Fraud
With the global food supply struggling to keep up with the growing population, a door has opened for low ethics to creep in where food is produced for quantity and profit at the expense of quality and safety. Food fraud is not uncommon and can be anything from the fake honey on your grocery shelves–to counterfeit brands and the use of substandard ingredients.
By making supply chains open to the public via an open, distributed ledger, consumers will be gifted with the valuable insight into their food source. The use of smart contract can hold parties accountable and the data obtained from these processes can be harnessed to improve production methods, thus avoiding the need for cheaper substandard options. This also means that the industry for counterfeit or adulterated foods can be eliminated, creating more honesty, value, and an increased competitive edge with the provision of high-quality products. In China where food tampering and counterfeiting is a common occurrence, efforts towards quality regulation via blockchain technology have begun, with Walmart partnering up with IBM to build a project that will help track and share food information from farm to table. A new level of trust can be established by all parties involved in the food production and distribution, whilst consumers can have peace of mind with the knowledge of where their food comes from and be assured of its quality and authenticity.
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Image credits: Clem Onojeghuo (Unsplash), Ironight (Pixabay)
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