As a kid from primary school, this question is a no-brainer – food comes from the vegetables grown in farms or from the meat of livestock raised in ranches.
Yes, it does come from farms, but probably from farms across continents, miles away. The apples in the UK could be shipped from New Zealand and the pork in Bolivia could be from Texas. Hence, the amount of effort that goes into logistics here is no elementary task. A common challenge often faced in this process would be in pinpointing the exact source of the product. This process is usually cumbersome as it involves multiple stakeholders, each probably pointing to another in case of a blame game. Sometimes, it might just not be possible to track down the location of the origination of the product.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 49 million cases of food-borne diseases are reported every year and around 3000 people die because of the same. These diseases are caused by the contamination of food which can turn up at any phase of food production. Under normal circumstances, finding out the exact point of adulteration in the production process or during logistics can be a herculean task. It might even lead to the blame being shifted to the wrong point of contact.
This mammoth task of right identification could be reduced to a child’s play, thanks to blockchain and its ever-evolving use cases. So how can blockchain help?
Blockchain operates on the principle of distributed ledger technology (DLT) and is a public ledger. It is completely decentralized, which means that unlike the current system (the internet) where the data resides on one central server, the data is stored in each device that is present as part of the blockchain network. These devices are called nodes. The data is distributed on all the devices connected to the particular blockchain network, and hence the term DLT.
In simple terms, here each block/node will store information about the wholesale supplier, the procurer, the retailer, etc. These blocks will store information of the participants of the task and the information of the food produce as well. The data on blockchain is immutable, cryptographically secured, and is made available to everybody on the network, thereby ensuring complete transparency. Any new information that has to be added will have to be appended to the chain, as the data already present in the network cannot be modified.
The whole supply chain can be reproduced on a blockchain platform, which in turn will enable a seamless flow in the process, where each stakeholder can record their activities on the system, where it is made available to everyone else. Also, since no one party can alter the information, it cannot be modified, thereby eliminating concerns of fraud and forgery. Another feather in the cap, blockchain also enhances interoperability, thereby allowing contrasting systems to interact with each other comfortably.
This visibility will provide the means to increase the response and resolve time extensively. Further, in case of delay, the exact location of the goods can be tracked in a jiffy. A massive reformation in the food industry would be the integration of blockchain with the internet of things (IoT), which can facilitate real-time data collection.
This unique use case of blockchain in supply chain has already been put into effect by several techies. DORAE, a supply chain and logistics company has built a DLT platform dedicated to food supply chain management. Another such company is Shipchain, which has built a track and trace platform aimed at transparent tracking and platform parity.
While blockchain sure does transform food supply chain management and logistics, a lot of its key features like data transparency and immutability might lead to friction with data privacy regulations. How organizations manage to collect limited data and stay compliant with the privacy laws will sure be a pain point for them.
So, what are some of the other use cases that you think are possible with blockchain? Let us know in the comments below!