Blockchain is the technology behind cryptocurrency, the elusive realm that powers the cryptocurrency markets. Whilst the blockchain was built for the purpose of replacing banks and the ‘middleman’ in financial transactions, the technology powering the blockchain has incredible implications elsewhere. From logistics and healthcare, to marketing and in this research, food.
On the surface, the blockchain aims to reinvent the way a supply chain is monitored and recorded. Foodstuffs are a global export and thus, foods grown in one area of the planet are now available worldwide, thanks to advancements in transport technology. This in turn means that traceability is more important than ever. Both suppliers and consumers alike want to know exactly where their food has come from, who has handled it and how it has been treated, all in the pursuit for ensuring they have access to the best quality produce possible.
In partnership with Walmart, tech firm IBM completed some research into this area back in 2016. We wish to revisit the research because, as it stands, this sort of information is now more relevant than ever before. You can see the full report by IBM for yourself, here- https://www.ibm.com/blogs/think/2016/10/blockchain-food-safety/
According to IBM:
“A recent IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) study on blockchain in the supply chain found by digitally tracking the provenance and movement of food throughout the entire supply chain, purveyors have instant quality assurance that the products they receive and serve customers are safe. With blockchain, this information flow can be widely shared to enhance decisions at all levels of the supply chain. For example, “ready to eat” foods – such as frozen lasagna – top the list for recalled food products by a wide margin because they involve a large supply chain with multiple parties. Ready-to-eat food, once processed, typically requires a third party such as a logistics provider to transport the food to distribution warehouses.”
“Sometimes another supply chain partner provides this service and then often another intermediary provider will deliver the food from the warehouse to the store. That’s not only expensive, but maintaining the quality standards set by regulators by the USDA to keep perishable products safe is also a challenge, particularly when the product contains frozen meat, vegetables or milk products. Putting this transaction record on the blockchain can create significant savings in time, cost and transparency. Blockchain can transparently track the provenance of goods as they are passed from one organization to the next, building awareness and trust.”
The research time have put together a handy infographic through which we can explore some of the team’s findings:
Image Sourced from: https://www.research.ibm.com/blockchain/images/infographic.jpg
Within this research, we can see on the surface just how the blockchain can revolutionise the food industry, just through ensuring transparency. Some implications for this include; tracing contaminations, ensuring foods that contain allergens are packaged and transported in specific ways, producing more effective use by and expiry dates and of course, ensuring that at each level of the chain, each producer and worker is paid correctly and fairly for the work they do.
As mentioned, this is old research, but the findings still reign true today. Within two years, if anything the technology behind blockchain has only grown, therefore should IBM choose to repeat this research, they will no doubt improve massively on these already very relevant findings.
You can find out more from other similar IBM blockchain research projects here- https://www.research.ibm.com/blockchain/
Go explore, there’s a lot to learn about this technology, by applying it to real world research scenarios, IBM are going a long way to help us all understand it better.