Posted on

From South Korea to IBM Food Trust – How Blockchain Is Used in the Food Industry

How blockchain is feeding an appetite for transparent food supplies.

2018 has witnessed a steady increase in the number of food manufacturers and retailers using blockchains to enhance their operations. From tracking the quality of food to facilitating international trades in grain, blockchain technology has been turning up repeatedly in recent months; and while many deployments of such tech have been conducted on a trial basis, a growing number have been implemented permanently.

However, as much as it now seems that blockchains are becoming a familiar feature of the food industry, they aren’t an infallible solution to every problem it faces. Even though many blockchains will provide an ‘immutable’ and ‘trustless’ record of the distribution of certain foods, this doesn’t mean we don’t have to trust the parties that first registered these foods on them. And similarly, even though such multinationals as Carrefour are using solutions offered by the IBM Food Trust, they don’t use blockchains in the original sense of the term.

Tracking and transparency

In the vast majority of cases, blockchain tech is used by the food industry for tracking purposes, so that customers can be assured that a particular item is what it’s claimed to be. Most recently, France-based multinational Auchan revealed that it would permanently implement blockchain-based food tracking in five of the countries it operates in: France, Italy, Senegal, Spain, and Portugal. This announcement followed a successful 18-month trial in its Vietnam branch, which has been using the tracking system in conjunction with some 6,000 companies.

Auchan’s system works by registering an item’s information at each stage in its distribution. When, say, an organic carrot is pulled from the ground and readied to be transported from its farm, it’s recorded on TE-FOOD’s blockchain, and when it’s sent to a distribution plant, it can be quickly checked against the info already recorded on that blockchain, which is immutable.

Tracking and transparency

Auchan’s press office manager, François Cathalifaud, tells Cointelegraph that such blockchain tech will enable it to make participants in its supply chains more responsible for the data they enter.

“This is a key point of the blockchain in a sector where data is a valuable resource. As [a] retailer, we cannot ask a producer or a supplier to give us the information without return.”

“Blockchain-based technologies solved that major issue,” he explains, since TE-FOOD’s blockchain works by requiring supermarkets, for example, to transfer tokens whenever they want their suppliers to disclose relevant supply-chain information. This incentivizes suppliers to not only produce such info, but to remain honest, since they would lose out on an additional stream of revenue otherwise.

“Another point is also to avoid data corruption that can occur during a food scandal (transparence+security),” Cathalifaud adds. “Well, at last, if a consumer is asking traceability information we can provide them with traceability information in seconds instead of days with such technology.”

Such credibility is important because according to recent research, consumers are becoming increasingly suspicious of the food industry and turning to more ethical food producers and distributors. In a September study conducted by the Virginia-based Food Marketing Institute, it was found that 75 percent of shoppers would “switch to a brand that provides more in-depth product information, beyond what’s provided on the physical label.” Distributed ledgers are a prime source of such information, and in age becoming more concerned with where our food is coming from, more companies are looking to adopt blockchain-based tracking systems.

In November, multinational retailer Carrefour announced that it would be using the IBM Food Trust blockchain to track free-range chickens in Spain, while in Switzerland, Gustav Gerig AG revealed that it would be using the Ethereum blockchain to track tuna. And in the same month, the South Korean government announced that it would begin tracking beef in January, while United States salad chain Sweetgreen said it had raised $200 million in funding to develop a blockchain-based tracking system for its ingredients.

Tracking and transparency

These announcements were all made within a single month, testifying to how quickly the momentum is growing behind blockchain as a means of bringing greater transparency to food distribution. And prior to November, other organizations have outlined plans this year for blockchain-based tracking include the Dairy Farmers of America, Albert Heijn, the Netherlands‘ largest supermarket chain, the Australian government, the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency, Walmart and Chinese retail giant JD.com.

A growing number of organizations are looking for ways to strengthen their claims that they are responsibly sourcing their products. In other words, food is becoming a more ethically and morally charged issue by the day, which is why the added transparency and the irreversibility offered by the blockchain holds such strong appeal.

This would explain why blockchain is now being used by such major NGOs as Oxfam, which announced in November that it had launched a blockchain to track the supply of rice in Cambodia, where local farmers often lack the information to bargain properly over prices.

Trading and loyalty

There is, then, an increasingly strong sense that food tracking is one area where blockchain and crypto hold genuine appeal to businesses (and consumers). But while the tracing of products will almost certainly be the main area in which blockchain tech contributes to the $5.6 trillion food and beverage industry, such tech looks set to play a slightly more limited role in other areas.

This October the world’s four biggest agricultural producers — Archer Daniels Midland Co., Bunge Ltd., Cargill Inc., and Louis Dreyfus Co. — formed a partnership through which they’ll use blockchain technology to automate the grain-trading process. As the press release states “Eliminating inefficiencies would lead to shorter document-processing times, reduced wait times and better end-to-end contracting visibility.”

Not trustless?

However, while there is plenty of demand from food distributors and producers for blockchains that trace the supply of food, it doesn’t imply that blockchains offer a fail-proof means of proving that, say, an ‘organic chicken’ is really organic, and that they would create entirely trustless food supply networks.

Not trustless?

Initial records can be misled, the only way to stop someone from falsely registering a freshly farmed mango or chicken as organic is to have another trust-providing system or mechanism in place beside a distributed ledger. Big companies such as Carrefour, Auchan, and Walmart do have such systems in place, having worked for years with known farmers and suppliers with which they’ve built a mutually trusting relationship.

Also, even if a blockchain can’t guarantee the initial veracity of information entered into it, it can prevent anything untoward from happening further down the line, such as the addition of, say, non-organic ingredients to a supposedly organic product.

Indeed, as the U.K.-based National Farmers’ Union highlighted in a study which found that food fraud costs Britain around 12 billion pounds a year.

“Food fraud means the deliberate and intentional substitution, addition, tampering with or misrepresentation of food, ingredients, or packaging at some stage of the product’s distribution cycle. It also means false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain.”

Judging by the report, food fraud regularly occurs beyond the initial registering of a product. And the transparency and immutability provided by the blockchain could play a significant role in reducing its high cost, even if it won’t be a miracle cure.

Posted on

Church’s Chicken Starts Accepting Dash in Venezuela After KFC Confusion

U.S. fast food chain Church’s Chicken has started accepting Dash payments at its locations in Venezuela.

American fast food chain Church’s Chicken has started accepting payments in cryptocurrency Dash (DASH) at its locations in Venezuela, according to an official Facebook announcement on Dec. 12.

According to Dash News, the cryptocurrency is accepted in all 10 restaurant locations. Dash has also completed ts first transaction in Church’s Chicken and uploaded a video of the event on its official YouTube channel. The restaurant claims to be the first global fast food chain to accept payments in crypto.

The announcement from Church’s chicken follows some confusion regarding the acceptance of Dash at major fast food vendors in Venezuela. On Dec. 7, PR and media director at DashNews Mark Mason posted a tweet stating that KFC Venezuela would start accepting Dash payments the following week.

Later KFC Venezuela denied the news, stating that processing payments with Dash “is not a fact, nor has the publication of any news about it been authorized.”

Shortly after Dash Merchant Venezuela posted a public apology on its Twitter account. It said that the statement was premature and reflected optimism rather than the current stage of discussions with KFC Venezuela. However, both Dash and KFC confirmed that they are in negotiations regarding the possibility of crypto payments.

In January 2018, KFC Canada introduced a PR stunt, in which it offered a “Bitcoin Bucket” of fried chicken, which could only be purchased with Bitcoin (BTC). KFC announced the promotion in a tweet stating:

“Sure, we don’t know exactly what Bitcoins are, or how they work, but that shouldn’t come between you and some finger lickin’ good chicken.”

As Cointelegraph reported in August, CEO of Dash Core Group Ryan Taylor said that Venezuela had become the second largest market for Dash, with almost one hundred merchants accepting the cryptocurrency each week.

Posted on

Australia: National Transport Insurance Partners on Blockchain for Food Safety Trial

Australia’s National Transport Insurance has announced it will trial a blockchain system to improve supply chain integrity for beef exports abroad.

Australia’s National Transport Insurance (NTI) has announced it will trial a blockchain system to improve supply chain integrity for beef exports abroad, local transport industry magazine Fully Loaded ATN reports Dec. 10.

NTI will reportedly be partnering with BeefLedger, an Australian “integrated provenance, blockchain security and payments platform,” which combines blockchain with Internet of Things (IoT) technology to bolster product credentials across the supply chain.

NTI and Beefledger’s pilot will use the system to track the provenance and production of Australian beef exports to Shanghai, from their rearing on South Australia’s Limestone Coast to a processing facility at Casino in New South Wales, and on to China. As ATN reports, Australia is the third largest beef exporter globally, with some 45,000 cattle producers forming the backbone of the industry.  

The use of blockchain to provide an immutable record of the provenance, safety and integrity of beef products is expected to bolster the confidence of suppliers, exporters and consumers alike. BeefLedger chairman Warwick Powell has explained the choice of the Australia-China route for the blockchain pilot, outlining that in the context of burgeoning demand for beef imports, there is an “increased risk of counterfeiting and poor safety standards.” He noted that:

“Research shows us that ethical standards and concerns for animal welfare, along with authenticity and proof of product origin, are amongst the top priorities for Chinese consumers. It’s also what’s driving consumer interest in Australian products.”

As previously reported, tech giant IBM has partnered with major U.S. retailer Walmart on the development of “The Food Trust” blockchain, which aims to track food provenance globally and allow companies to easily identify issues involved with food recalls, such as tracing contamination more quickly to limit customer risk.

This summer, the government of the South Indian state of Kerala announced it would begin using blockchain for food supply and distribution, also in combination with IoT technology.

Posted on

Global Retail Giant Auchan Expands Blockchain Tracking Solution to Five More Countries

French retail giant Auchan has expanded its blockchain products’ traceability solution after successful a 18-month pilot in Vietnam.

Global retail giant Auchan is expanding TE-FOOD’s blockchain solution to improve the transparency of products’ history, U.S.-based news agency Cision PRWeb reports today, Dec. 4.

The French retail group, which is reportedly the 13th largest food retailer globally with operations in 17 countries, has extended TE-FOOD’s FoodChain solution to five more countries.

FoodChain is the international traceability information ledger by TE-FOOD, first applied by Auchan in its Vietnam branch. After a 18-month test of TE-FOOD’s blockchain tool in Vietnam, Auchan has now decided to deploy the products’ traceability solution in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Senegal.

The blockchain-powered retail monitoring system provides tracking for selected product categories from farm-to-table, as well as recording food quality data and related logistics information. Auchan consumers are able to check products’ history via their smartphones by scanning the products’ QR codes and getting access to authentic data recorded on FoodChain.

According to the article, TE-FOOD’s blockchain solution implemented by Auchan is reportedly the world’s largest farm-to-table food traceability program in Vietnam, with over 6,000 clients including major global food giants such as AEON, CP Group, Lotte Mart, and others.

In mid-November, another French retail giant Carrefour revealed it was implementing a blockchain-enabled food tracking platform powered by Hyperledger for tracing poultry in Spain.

Earlier in September, U.S. retail giant Walmart and its division Sam’s Club, a membership-only retail warehouse club, also announced that they will require suppliers of leafy greens to deploy farm-to-store tracking system based on blockchain.

In late November, a fintech expert predicted that market value of blockchain in global retail will see a 29-fold increase in value in the next 10 years.

Posted on

Blockchain Used to Trace Deadly Chemical Linked to $289 Mln Monsanto Cancer Lawsuit

Food safety firm ZEGO is using blockchain to test products for residue of a deadly chemical tied to a recent $289 million Monsanto lawsuit, according to a press release published August 16.

Earlier this month, Monsanto was fined $289 million in damages after a court ruled in favor of a plaintiff’s claims that the company’s use of a herbicide containing glyphosate had caused his cancer.

ZEGO reportedly has a patent-pending blockchain system that would allow companies to test foodstuffs for glyphosate. The company says it had initially developed the solution to enable consumers to make better informed choices about the presence of allergens and gluten in various goods.

According to ZEGO, glyphosate testing can further be used as a means of verifying suppliers’ purported organic and non-GMO certifications, which it implies can often be fraudulent. As the press release notes:

“Glyphosate has been the subject of thousands of lawsuits and studies alleging correlation to cancer and celiac-like symptoms. This has prompted debates over how much exposure is safe. But the argument over safety thresholds is academic…because consumers have no idea how much they are ingesting. Most…companies do not test for glyphosate, even though numerous studies have measured surprisingly high amounts of it in some packaged [and] even organic foods.”

Last month, the UK’s Food Standard Agency (FSA) successfully completed a pilot using blockchain as a regulatory tool to ensure compliance in the food sector, noting at the time that the tech’s full potential to improve standards would only be realized if an “industry-led” initiative were to take off.

Posted on

Australian Government Awards Grant to Blockchain Project for Sustainable Sugar

The Australian government has granted A$2.25 million ($1.7 million) to the Sustainable Sugar Project, Foodnavigator-Asia reports July 30.

The Sustainable Sugar Project, led by the Queensland Cane Growers Organization, will use blockchain technology to track the provenance of sugar supplies to Australia. The initiative known as the Smart Cane Best Management Practice (BMP) is part of a sugar industry push for better sustainability and traceability. 

Blockchain technology will purportedly allow buyers to clearly see where sugarcane comes from and prove the provenance and sustainability of the farm. Canegrowers told Foodnavigator-Asia:

“Blockchain’s main attribute is that it’s a secure database in which all transactions are recorded and visible… the quality sugar produced from the sustainably-grown cane can be traced back through the chain, giving consumers confidence in what they are buying.”

For the initiative, industry experts and sugarcane farmers collaborated on best practices and industry standards based on productivity, sustainability, and profitability.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources stated that large buyers of sugar could pay more in the future for sustainable sugar, as customers increasingly demand sustainably-sourced products. Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said:

“This technology would provide assurances around the sustainability of our sugar and ensure cane farmers using sustainable practices can attract a premium for their product.”

Blockchain technology has proven to be a boon for logistics and supply chain applications, and is widely regarded as a cheaper and more efficient way to track complex supply chains globally.

Today, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia announced that it completed a successful trade of 17 tons of almonds to Europe using blockchain technology. The platform, which was part of a collaborative effort of five “supply chain leaders,” is underpinned by distributed ledger technology (DLT), Internet of Things (IoT), and smart contracts.

Earlier this month, U.S. computer technology firm Oracle released its blockchain platform focusing on transaction efficiency and supply chain authentication. Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service uses Hyperledger Fabric as its basis and launched following a series of trials with banking, business, and government clients.

Posted on

UK Food Standard Agency Completes Blockchain Pilot for Food Supply Chain

UK food regulator the Food Standard Agency (FSA) has successfully accomplished a pilot using blockchain technology according to an announcement published July 2. This was reportedly the first time blockchain has been used as a regulatory tool to ensure compliance in the food sector.

The pilot was implemented in a cattle slaughterhouse, where both the FSA and the slaughterhouse were authorized to access data in order to improve transparency in the food supply chain. In July, the agency is looking to launch another pilot, which will allow farmers to access data about animals from their farm. Sian Thomas, Head of Information Management, said:

“Our approach has been to develop data standards with industry that will make theory reality and I’m delighted that we’ve been able to show that blockchain does indeed work in this part of the food industry. I think there are great opportunities now for industry and government to work together to expand and develop this approach.”

In the future, the FSA states that they will attempt to replicate the program in other plants. The agency said that in order for blockchain to be permanently implemented, it must be an industry-led initiative, as the current data model is used only for the collection and communication of inspection results.  

Blockchain continues to gain momentum in the supply chain sector, potentially reducing inventory management and enabling greater efficiency. Recently, a group of companies including Walmart, Nestlé SA, Dole Food Co., Driscoll’s Inc., Tyson Foods Inc., and Unilever NV teamed up with IBM in order use blockchain technology for tracking food globally through its supply chain.

Last month, Microsoft partnered with supply tracking solutions provider Ardents to develop a new product tracking platform using blockchain and artificial intelligence. The system reportedly offers end-to-end traceability and visibility from the point of origin along the whole supply chain, allowing users to trace single product items within a case.

Posted on

Blockchain's Impact on Food and Farming, Explained

Is it possible to track where food comes from?

Several companies have launched services allowing shoppers to see a product’s journey from farm to fork, but they often depend on retailers agreeing to be transparent.

When you pop into a store to buy fresh fruit, vegetables or meat, it’s common for the packaging to reveal which country it is from. Some upmarket brands go further by offering stories about the farm and the conditions where the food was cultivated.

Tracking an item step-by-step through the manufacturing process can be hard — and, sometimes, even manufacturers and retailers themselves aren’t sure about a product’s journey.

This is part of the reason why recent food safety scares have been so widespread: it’s been difficult — nearly impossible — to track where problems begin. However, integrating blockchain into the food chain could mean issues are detected instantly.

Food safety scares! Remind me?

There have been several in recent years… how long have you got?

In 2018, a deadly E. coli outbreak was connected to romaine lettuce that was grown in Arizona. The outbreak affected 35 states across the U.S., with five people dying and a total of almost 200 cases reported.

In 2013, a horsemeat scandal gripped Europe — and products advertised as beef were actually found to contain… yep, you guessed it, horse. It made its way into some of the continent’s biggest supermarkets. They blamed their suppliers, who in turn blamed their suppliers. The furore shook confidence and left some people refusing to buy meat all together.

Blockchain could play a big role in clamping down on food fraud because every component in a finished product would become easier to identify — speeding up recalls and also allowing consumers to find information they can trust about an item, seconds after picking it up off the shelf.

How would that work? Any examples?

Smart agriculture solutions — which boost productivity and address food demand — are thriving, and it is predicted that this industry could be worth up to $26.76 billion by 2020.

Farmers who are already using blockchain describe it as a “game changer, just like the internet.” For example, one meat company says the seemingly insignificant statistics blockchain provides, such as when pigs arrive at a factory, can have a massive effect on the final product they deliver to customers. They show blockchain results in a “detailed passport” where consumers can be assured that the meat they are consuming met strict hygiene and well-being standards — with any issues arising in the production process being identified in as little as 30 seconds.

Meanwhile, the government of Kerala is planning to introduce blockchain in the grocery supply process, with the hope of ensuring that the system will be used whenever food is being delivered to stores across the country. It is hoped this will help deliver products to millions of people on a daily basis more efficiently, as well as provide a form of “crop insurance” to ensure that farmers can be compensated quickly whenever unforeseen circumstances affect their yield.

Certification of fruit and vegetables could also be enhanced through blockchain — ensuring that information isn’t lost and streamlining the manpower needed to confirm a product’s provenance. Every shipment of fruit and vegetables is accompanied by paper certificates showing where the food has come from, validating its quality and declaring it free of disease. In Belgium, work has begun to digitize some of these certificates so they are placed on a blockchain instead.

Food safety’s great, but what about food prices? They’re constantly rising.

Blockchain could eliminate paper-based processes and cut costs, with these savings passed on to you.

Getting rid of middlemen would minimize transaction fees, and decentralization would also make it easier for smaller farms to compete with larger corporations.

For example, blockchain concepts such as PavoCoin are entering the fray — giving smaller farmers access to attainable financial services, such as the ability to pre-sell crops via smart contracts, helping them to improve the quality and quantity of their harvests, and providing consumers with greater amounts of information about the food they are buying. The company says, farmers in Stockton and in Dixon, California, have recently started using the system. A third installation is planned in Merced soon.

Optimizing farming would empower farmers of all scales with the information, resources and security they need to have higher yields, more lucrative crops. This would drive prices down for the average consumer and increase accessibility to higher quality goods. Higher yields also pump more money into the agricultural ecosystem, increasing the availability of farmed goods.

But wouldn’t farmers be out of pocket from lower prices?

On the contrary, smart contracts could ensure they are paid fairly for their hard work without delay — and smaller farms would have a larger market for selling their fresh produce.

Blockchain empowerment has the potential to shift farmers, who do the hardest work, from being price takers to price setters, forcing downstream cost reductions.

Blockchain would also allow premium brands to stand out from the crowd — and justify why their free range or organic produce is worth the extra money. This is because the provenance of their goods can be easily traced, giving consumers confidence that they are getting added value from a high-end product.

The agricultural sector would also find it easier to figure out how much their crops are worth by comparing the money being offered by a distributor to the sums paid to their rivals in earlier purchases, giving all farmers the opportunity to earn the money they deserve.

Is there any way to get fresh food on store shelves faster?

Inefficiencies in the supply chain can often mean delays before produce is ready for sale, but automated processes through blockchain could speed things along nicely.

There could also be less chance of food going to waste because agricultural businesses and retailers would be able to gauge the demand for certain products and adjust supply accordingly. This spare capacity can then be devoted to other crops — eliminating food waste.

Blockchain’s ability to tackle food waste, and the power that smart contracts can have in ensuring farmers get paid fairly and don’t go out of business, could help the world cater to rising levels of demand — helping eradicate food safety issues, poverty and political instability.

Disclaimer. Cointelegraph does not endorse any content or product on this page. While we aim at providing you all important information that we could obtain, readers should do their own research before taking any actions related to the company and carry full responsibility for their decisions, nor this article can be considered as an investment advice.

Posted on

Walmart, IBM Blockchain Initiative Aims to Track Global Food Supply Chain

Walmart and nine other companies have partnered with IBM in order to release a blockchain for tracking food globally through its supply chain, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports June 25.

The Food Trust blockchain, which includes Nestlé SA, Dole Food Co., Driscoll’s Inc., Golden State Foods, Kroger Co., McCormick and Co., McLane Co., Tyson Foods Inc. and Unilever NV, have been collaborating with IBM on the initiative since 2016, and began conducting trials of the product in August of last year.

The WSJ states that the Food Trust’s goal is to improve the companies’ ability to identify issues involved with food recalls, such as tracing outbreaks more quickly to limit customer risk.

Walmart’s vice president of food safety, Frank Yiannas, referred to the Food Trust blockchain as the “equivalent of FedEx tracking for food,”

“You’re capturing real-time data at every point, on every single food product.”

Although the brands involved may be competitors in some cases, Chris Tyas, global head of supply chain at Nestlé said that regardless, they are “working together to ensure the trust of consumers.”

According to IBM, the Food Trust system stores the data of about 1 million items, specifically noting Nestlé canned pumpkin, Driscoll’s strawberries and Tyson chicken thighs.

The WSJ writes that the blockchain was not ready in time to help in tracking the E.coli-contaminated romaine lettuce in the US that has infected more than 197 people across five states. Yiannas notes that even if it takes years for the food industry to completely adopt blockchain, in the future “outbreaks don’t have to be this big and this long.”

In April, Walmart had announced that it was ready to use blockchain for its live food business. The company has recently been awarded a patent for blockchain chain use for medical records as well, and has filed a patent for a blockchain-based customer marketplace for reselling Walmart goods.

Posted on

South Indian State of Kerala to Use Blockchain Tech in Food Supply, Distribution

The government of the South Indian state of Kerala will use blockchain for food supply and distribution, local news outlet Business Standard reported June 17.

The new project  is headed by Keralan think-tank the Development and Innovation Strategic Council (K-DISC), and will use blockchain, as well as Internet of Things (IoT) technology, in an attempt to make the state’s supply network for dairy products, vegetables and fish more efficient.

Chairman of K-DISC, KM Abraham, told Business Standard that each component of the supply network would have a separate ID number, through which its source, production, quality, and distribution could be monitored on a blockchain.

The state will also reportedly use blockchain for its crop insurance scheme, ensuring the tamper-proof and efficient processing and settlement of claims for farmers suffering crop losses. Immutable data on the blockchain can help to judge whether the crop loss was due to natural causes or other factors, and the technology can further serve to disintermediate disputes between insurance firms and beneficiaries, eliminating the need for third party representatives.

 In April, U.S. retail giant Walmart announced it was ready to use blockchain in its live food business. Together with IBM, the company has developed a system which it says will reduce food waste, as well as improve contamination management and transparency.

 Just last week, Microsoft revealed a new partnership to develop its own blockchain-based product tracking platform to secure traceability and visibility across the supply chain.  

 Also last week, the Rotterdam Port Authority revealed it was co-developing its own blockchain system, which, similarly to K-DISC, uses a tagging system in order to gain immediate insight into the conditions of incoming cargo.