Blockchain is well-known to digital technology experts as a way of recording transactions in a tamper and revision-proof way.
It is the technology behind the Bitcoin digital currency, but may also be of interest to the agri-food sector as a way to authenticate food supply chain tracking.
It can provide end-to-end traceability, and can thus be used to track farm origination details of producer, batch numbers, factory and processing data, expiration dates, storage temperatures and shipping details.
IBM has recently announced a collaboration with food giants Nestlé, Unilever, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc, to address these challenges using blockchain technology.
With the World Health Organisation saying almost one in 10 people in the world are sickened annually by contaminated food, and 420,000 dying as a result, it’s an agri-food issue needing urgent attention, especially after the latest fipronil scare in eggs.
Many issues related to food safety, such as contamination, food-borne diseases and food recalls, are exacerbated by a lack of access to information and poor traceability.
Ultimately, a combination of the Internet of Things and blockchain technology may allow customers using mobile apps to verify a food product’s origins, and claims such as “organic” or “GMO-free”.
According to Gillian Byrne of Bord Bia, Ireland’s agri-food industry is well positioned to gain value from this new technology, to strengthen our already strong credentials in sustainability and food safety, by offering consumers at retail level better information on authenticity and production practices.