Blockchain: Bringing Accountability and Transparency to the Food Supply Chain

The application of blockchain technology has transformed many businesses and the food supply chain is no exception. It is transforming the entire food industry by increasing transparency, efficiency and collaboration throughout the food tracking system. It is an incorruptible digital ledger,that stores records for every product – when it was made to when it was packed, shipped, displayed and sold making this information available to a network of users in an open virtual space. The relevance of blockchain technology to the food supply chain also stems from the idea of giving an added layer of security to ensure safety and quality of food. Organizations such as Nestle and Unilever are also considering blockchain technology for this very same reason.

Blockchain has not only brought transparency and traceability, it also brings economic benefits. It helps speed up and streamline payment processes thereby bringing in efficiencies into the system, benefitting various stakeholders. However, the biggest advantage is at the consumer level, where the consumer is able to track the source of their food in seconds. Today’s conscious consumer is highly aware and wants to know more about the company from which they are buying their purchases, company motive, is the product ethically produced, organic, sustainable, locally produced and other such things. The technology can help the consumer trace every element of the process. For example, if a customer is buying eggs, all s/he needs to do is scan the QR code to get the products origin to how it ended up at the supermarket.  

Apart from transparency, it can also help address food tampering and contamination and prevent it from escalating into a larger health issue. Identifying the contaminated batch and removing/ recalling it from the supply chain, instead of a blanket recall, will help reduce wastage and mitigate risks associated with food contamination. For example; in case of an outbreak or emergency, with the help of this technology a food giant can provide adequate information to its consumers in a matter of  seconds or expedite the food recall process because of the ease and speed by which food can be traced to its origin as well as its final destination. It is no wonder that we are witnessing a number of food retailers and suppliers like Topco Associates LLC, Carrefour, Beefchain, Smithfield, Nestlé, Walmart and Unilever, already working with IBM to apply blockchain technology to monitor their entire food supply chain. While this technology is still at a nascent stage, with time as technology becomes more affordable and accessible we will observe a wider adoption of the same.

 

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