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Blockchain at the Forefront of Food Traceability

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As the demand for blockchain solutions increases, the food industry is not behind in exploring the potential of the technology to enable a transparent food network in terms of traceability and accountability.

Moreover, there is an increase in concern among consumers who demand knowledge on the source of the product’s ingredients for health and ethical reasons. With this comes the need to create a transparent supply chain with end-to-end visibility to uphold safety measures while keeping a check on product spoilage.

Major Issues

Fraud

There have been several cases of fraud and food tampering which has breached consumer trust. These carry grave risks which result in food-borne illnesses. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consulted Walmart about product traceability with the rise in food-borne illnesses, such as an E. coli outbreak that occurred affected 200 people who had to be hospitalized. The CDC estimated that about 3,000 Americans alone die each year due to food-borne diseases.

As blockchain helps in logging every step of the food production process, the chances of fraud becomes very small.

For example, a halal food marketplace, OneAgrix, announced its blockchain-based traceability tool for “transforming the world of halal supply chains”. The platform along with the traceability feature will endorse authentication of halal certificates to combat food fraudulence. The decentralized data sharing will help keep a check on fake halal products to underpin the trust of consumers and halal stakeholders.

Minimizing waste

The biggest challenge faced by the industry is to minimize wastage while maintaining a fresh supply of the food as it is transmitted through the various participants of the network such as the farmers, processors, distributors, retailers and the consumers. Wastage occurs due to poor management, spoilage and oversupply to stores. This is a vital step to sustain the needs of the ever-growing population.

As reported by The New York Times, about one-third of food produced globally is wasted every year. Although this statistic includes wastage by consumers too, a major portion of poor countries battles this due to the lack of proper inspection and perhaps the technology to manage the complex networks. About 5% of global food does not reach intended markets, as it gets spoilt completely during transit and storage.

With traditional methods, product records are prone to manipulation, whether intentional or unintentional. To confront this problem, IoT sensors along with DLT are being utilized for tracking the humidity and temperature of the product. This, in turn, warns the suppliers and the consumers about the potential spoilage of food. It also keeps a check on oversupply as grocery stores can track the quantity required for supply based on the current supply levels.

Product recall

Food recall indicates the removal of items from sales/distribution if they prove to be hazardous. Government agencies can request recalls for examination. However, food recalls cost the industry a fortune including loss in sales and reputation damage. Recognizing the serious impact, supply chains tend to increase end-to-end visibility. This ensures isolation of issues at the very step and rectification of the same. Therefore, validation occurs conveniently without having to pay hefty amounts.

Illicit produce

Illegal produce brings along great dangers such as health risks and ecological impacts. This problem affects the fishing sector the most. In 2017, a pilot Blockchain project in Fiji was undertaken by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to battle illegal fishing and preserve the endangered species.

Processing payments

Currently, smallholders seeking to invest in farming face several challenges pertaining to the liquidity constraints. Most of the times, they end up selling the product to the buyers at very low costs. With blockchain, there is a transparent fiscal processing paradigm. With transparency comes the liberty to eliminate the centralized intermediaries, leading to improved margins for the producers.

Adoption of blockchain models by food companies

From poultry to fisheries to bee keepers, blockchain technology is being considered as the game-changer by various food companies to optimize product supply from farm-to-fork in an unprecedented manner. As traditional paper-pen methods get outdated, the technology is being eyed to sustain the indispensable need for tracking. Blockchain along with IoT will perhaps serve as a bridge between the physical and digital world of the industry. Reaping the benefits of the same, the industry can address the several challenges.

In 2017, the world’s largest food suppliers including Walmart, Nestlé, Unilever and Kroger partnered with IBM Food Trust to roll out a platform based on the Nestlé, Unilever. This was aimed at providing quality products which would, in turn, spur the growth of the overall profits.

Brigid McDermott, the Vice President of Blockchain Business at IBM said:

“A blockchain food safety program is tremendously good because it provides transparency into the food system, which means that in the event that there is a problem like a recall, you’re able to quickly, effectively, surgically deal with that problem.”

Csilla Zsigri, senior blockchain analyst, said that to track a package of mangoes using the traditional paper-based method, Walmart requires an excruciating seven-days period. However, when this was replaced with blockchain, the same tracking could be done in merely 2.2 seconds. These figures speak for themselves as to how the technology has made supply chain tracking more convenient than ever.

Walmart has been very active in reinforcing decentralized ledger technology. The US multinational corporation has pushed forward numerous patents to promote the technology while giving a fair warning to about 100 food suppliers to implement blockchain technology by September 2019 to ensure fresh produce fortified with intact nutritional benefits.

As reported in 2018, French multinational retailer Carrefour introduced a blockchain-based traceability program to grant consumers a detailed production history of their purchase. Initially, the program was designed to trace the production of chickens only but eventually, was implemented to extend data sharing facilities for other products such as eggs, cheese, milk, oranges, tomatoes, salmon and hamburgers.

Earlier this month, the world’s largest food and beverage conglomerate, Nestlé, announced its new blockchain project in collaboration with OpenSC to facilitate food tracking. The company claimed that this will set new standards for transparency and global production. Magdi Batato, the Executive Vice President, said:

“We want our consumers to make an informed decision on their choice of products – to choose products produced responsibly. Open blockchain technology might allow us to share reliable information with consumers in an accessible way.”

Less than a week ago, Oracle joined hands with the World Bee Project (WBP) to incorporate blockchain in the honey supply network. The idea was to introduce a “BeeMark” label to ensure authentic produce from sustainable sources.  Oracle has already been using blockchain to identify fake honey and counterfeits.

Disclosing food supply chains has become a necessity to win consumer trust in this world of adulteration. This also helps to boost shelf life while ensuring food safety and quality control. In May 2019, research by Gartner, Inc indicated the major shift of global grocers towards blockchain. The research claimed that 10% of the top global food conglomerates would adopt blockchain for food traceability by 2025.

 

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Blockchain Boosts Major French Supermarket’s Sales

French supermarket chain Carrefour has revealed that blockchain tracking is boosting sales of some its products namely meat, milk and fruit.

As reported by Bitcoin News in 2018, US retail giant Walmart and French supermarket chain Carrefour have continued to be drivers of the move towards blockchain for supply chains and are setting standards for other companies to employ and further develop moving forward. Two other major grocery chains such as Unilever and Nestlé, are also using the technology to trace food contamination.

In 2018, Carrefour extended its trials in French supermarkets from initially packaging poultry products to further inform customers on products using blockchain to tracking 20 out of its 300 Carrefour-branded products across the supply chain, with 40 more products planned this year. The company has also extended its poultry tracking to some of its Spanish supermarkets.

Carrefour blockchain project manager Emmanuel Delerm commented on the extension of its current blockchain project, “You are building a halo effect – ‘If I can trust Carrefour with this chicken, I can also trust Carrefour for their apples or cheese, and suggests that many of the companies customers are millennials who are often more concerned about health than price’.”

Things are moving more rapidly due to blockchain, Delerm argues, particular items like grapefruits which can now be scanned using a phone which immediately reveals the date and location of harvest, the owner of the farm, when it was packed, how long it took to transport to Europe and tips on how to prepare it.

Carrefour is now looking at non-food lines such as clothing items now it is satisfied that the blockchain project is boosting sales.

 

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Blockchain Impact on Grocery Supply Chains Continues to Increase

The latest Gartner research has indicated that the move by major grocery chains towards using blockchain technology is continuing to gain ground.

Gartner, officially known as Gartner, Inc. is a global research and advisory firm providing insights, advice, and tools for leaders in IT, Finance, HR, Customer Service and Support, Legal and Compliance, Marketing, Sales, and Supply Chain functions across the world.

The research shows that 10% of the top 10 global grocers will use blockchain for food safety and traceability by 2025. Joanne Joilet, Gartner’s Senior Research Director commented:

“Blockchain can help deliver confidence to their customers, and build and retain trust and loyalty,” adding “Grocery retailers are trialing and looking to adopt the technology to provide transparency for their products. Additionally, understanding and pinpointing the product source quickly may be used internally, for example, to identify products included in a recall.”

As reported by BitcoinNews in 2018, US retail giant Walmart and French Supermarket Chain Carrefour have continued to be drivers of the move towards blockchain for supply chains and are setting standards for other companies to employ and further develop moving forward. Two other major grocery chains such as Unilever and Nestlé, are also using the technology to trace food contamination.

Carrefour extended its trials in French supermarkets from initially packaging poultry products to further inform customers on products using blockchain to tracking 20 out of its 300 Carrefour-branded products across the supply chain, with 40 more products planned this year.

With the grocery industry expected to set higher standards of visibility and traceability using technology,  Joliet sees blockchain as moving far beyond its limited application within the grocery sector to “all areas of retail.”

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Macron’s Got Problems but Blockchain Ain’t One

Macron's Got Problems but Blockchain Ain't One

French President Emmanuel Macron is seeing his popularity wane by the day due to his planned reforms for business and industry but new technologies appear to be flourishing under the current government, regardless of current discontentment.

Blockchain, in particular, has been earmarked and the latest news of IBM’s new initiatives and investments which should bring 1,800 jobs to France won’t hurt either. Nor will IBM’s new French project with P-TECH to support the disadvantages in finding work. In fact, France is on the crest of a blockchain wave currently, despite Macron’s reforms being soundly rejected. With overturned cars burning in Paris streets it seems hard to imagine that French politicians have got anything right under the current regime.

Perhaps a hint of this shifting focus towards new technologies by a Macron government was the dabbling with taxation this year, with the government finally settling on dropping the tax on cryptocurrency to 17%… for the time being. Clearly, the government doesn’t want to stifle an industry which it is now openly promoting, suggesting that it should now benefit from an EUR 500 million  state handout.

Member of the National Assembly, Laure de La Raudière, is one of those calling for the money, who sees efficiency as an end product arguing that government should follow private industry’s lead using DLT. She says: “I draw the alarm: it’s time to invest. There are not yet established positions in the world.”

She also cited the certification of diplomas or administrative documents as potential use cases. France’s Prime Minister Édouard Philippe is another sold on blockchain although taking some criticism on the subject of allowing Bitcoin to be dispersed in tabacs around France via a ticketing system. In other areas, he’s on safer ground:

“Take the example of agribusiness. To have an interesting blockchain in terms of traceability and food security, it is necessary to bring together distributors, producers, logisticians, the industrialists… And do not let only one actor manage the network as Carrefour or Casino can do today.”

Carrefour was the first to set the blockchain clock ticking with its produce monitoring program being introduced into some of its supermarkets earlier this year, a move recently followed in Spain.

The multi-party suggestion that France should receive massive financial banking to promote blockchain has occurred according to De la Raudière because she believes that she is not alone in wanting to see France as a leader rather than a follower in Europe. She argues, “France must have a conquering philosophy on the subject with the State in the first place, both as a user and federator of projects.”

Other suggestions coming from the recent parliamentary report highlight a call for the opening of bank accounts for blockchain-centered businesses which must register with the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF), the French stock market regulator.

 

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Australian Farmers Can Look to France for Blockchain Advice

Australian Farmers Can Look to France for Blockchain Advice

As the Australian food industry passes through a rough period in 2018, blockchain endorsements in the French supply chain industry might offer some routes to recovery.

Perhaps the most significant impact of DLT has been on supply chain networks as companies discover a new took for offering customer satisfaction through a transparent and accountable transfer of goods across borders.

Both the US and Europe have locked into this in a big way with retail giants Walmart and French supermarket chain Carrefour both finding initial positivism in blockchain and its functionality. There, even the sacred turkey now travels to the Thanksgiving table via blockchain.

On the other side of the world, Australia is beginning to look at how its supply chains can be protected with the added security that DLT is providing elsewhere. The food industry there did not have a good year, exacerbated by the news that fruit contaminated by sewing needles were found in strawberry punnets in a supermarket chain, resulting in the potential loss to the industry of AUD 130m a year. Tons of unwanted fruit have been dumped due to the sudden unpopularity of supermarket fruit as a result and one customer was hospitalized.

Apart for the obvious repercussions for sales in Australia, the country has taken a double hit as the tampered Australian strawberries then landed on New Zealand’s supermarket shelves causing two retailers to put up a ban on buying strawberries from Australia.

Unsurprising then that supermarkets are now looking to blockchain with a little more immediate interest than previously. The Australian market needs to regain the trust of the public, something which can be achieved by careful monitoring of the supply chain from farm to supermarket shelves, something that was clearly breached in these incidents down under, albeit by an extreme case of mismanagement.

The French model employed by Carrefour demonstrates that DLT can offer simple solutions for producers, manufacturers, and buyers across supply chains. This system provides customers with a blockchain-based traceability program, currently limited to some poultry in the chain’s Auvergne stores. The system offers a record of the chickens’ life from egg to supermarket. Shoppers can use a smartphone to scan in a code on the packaging to obtain details on each stage of production, including origins, earlier location, feed and where the meat was finally processed.

Around the world, growers are finding success in change. From Queensland cane growers tracking the movement of sugar around Australia, to growing and tracking organic rice in Cambodia, and cocoa in Ghana, blockchain is providing farmers with a way of tracking their products from field and farm to table.

 

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VeChain Blockchain Is Stamping Its Mark on Fashion, Trains Sight on China

VeChain, the blockchain-enabled platform designed to enhance product management in the supply chain, has a new potential client in Swedish multinational clothing-retail company H&M.

H&M’s in-house clothing brand Arket has been using VeChain for product testing its supply chain tracking solutions, with a company spokesman reporting that the test “is ongoing,” but as yet not evaluated.

With far more sophisticated tracking methods now being afforded by DLT, farmers are being brought into the accountability loop, with many products now being tracked from farm to table. From Queensland cane growers tracking the movement of sugar around Australia, to growing and tracking organic rice in Cambodia, and cocoa in  Ghana, blockchain is providing farmers with a way of tracking their products from growth to table.

Walmart and French giant Carrefour have already ‘blockchain- tracked’ items on their shelves. Whether Arket’s test is tracking its products from farm to clothing-rack, in the same way, is unclear. However, it should be possible in this case as the product in question is a woolen beanie.

The H&M POC test run allows shoppers to scan a product’s NFC chip and retrieve data on the VeChain app about an item, including the material that has been used. This includes the artist’s ID, colo, supplier, factory name and more relevant information, although what farm the wool originated from might be stretching the customer’s interests just a little, and as for the individual sheep, that might be taking things too far.

VeChain is proving to be popular with the fashion industry at the moment, as this is the second of such collaborations in just a matter of weeks. Recently, another partnership was formed with high-profile shoe artist SBTG in order to release an Adidas shoe containing NFC chips. Ingeniously, customers will be able to watch a video of their shoes being manufactured by scanning the embedded chip; all information which is stored on the VeChainThor blockchain.

VeChain is also setting its sights on China’s growing manufacturing market, hence its showcasing of the company and its blockchain solutions at China’s first International Import Expo (CIIE) which took place in Shanghai this month.

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Blockchain Birds Are Coming This Thanksgiving, Complete With ID

This Thanksgiving, 600,000 turkeys in the US are being delivered with a difference, as blockchain technology lends a hand.

Americans eat an estimated six billion pounds of turkey meat each year according to the US National Turkey Federation. Thanks to the Honeysuckle White Traceability Program, some of the 45 million Turkeys eaten this Thanksgiving, and a further 22 million consumed over the festive season, will be delivered as fully traceable birds from pen to oven, courtesy of DLT.

The company responsible is Cargill, one of the nation’s biggest suppliers of turkeys, based in Minnesota and founded in 1865. This year, the company has decided to go hi-tech and utilize blockchain in order to trace its birds from 70 contracted individual family turkey farms in Missouri and Texas.

The new blockchain traceability program will track around 600,000 Honeysuckle white hens which will eventually find their way into major stores such as Walmart, Kroger, Safeway, and Amazon. To promote the programme, a TV ad will explain the process of tracking the turkeys. Cargill’s Debra Bauler explained:

“Each Honeysuckle White turkey will have an identification code, which can be entered into a website that will guide the consumer to the specific farm that raised that exact turkey… And from a technology perspective, it represents the complete digitalization of the supply chain. We feel that both are long-term competitive advantages for our product.”

The idea is to link consumers to the farmers that raised the birds in an attempt to set a precedent for the future in terms of supply chain transparency and supplier product accountability. Fox Business Network commentator suggests that using blockchain solutions for supply chain management in this way may well become the industry norm:

“The average consumer of tomorrow will come to expect that they have full access to where the wheat in their bread was grown, what were the conditions of the cow that provided the milk in their ice cream, and who picked the grapes in their glass of Pinot. The Honeysuckle White traceability program is a watershed moment in the retail food industry.”

Participating farmers have been highly motivated by the programme and suggest that projects such as this will equip consumers with another way of looking at the production of the food which arrives on their tables. Participating farmer Sharon Albertson, who’s been supplying Cargill with turkeys for over 20 years, maintains, “Now, consumers can see how hard we work and all the effort and care that goes into getting that bird to the Thanksgiving Day table.”

French supermarket chain Carrefour recently introduced blockchain technology into a data system allowing shoppers in Auvergne, Southern France, to get a full detailed history of chickens on sale in their stores. The system offers a record of the chickens’ life from egg to supermarket. Shoppers can use a smartphone to scan in a code on the packaging to obtain details on each stage of production, including origins, earlier location, feed and where the meat was finally processed.

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IBM’s Food Trust Blockchain Goes Live, Carrefour Jumps in First

Multinational tech giant IBM has been leaving a significant imprint on the retail industry lately with the use of blockchain technology, and it’s doing again with the latest project, Food Trust.

IBM, not content with providing foodchain solutions for mega-retailer Walmart, has now hooked up with French supermarket giant Carrefour in order to launch blockchain based Food Trust, enabling the chain to price its products more accurately.

The recent IBM/Walmart project came up with a farm-to-store tracking system based on blockchain technology which Walmart committed 100 of its suppliers to adhere to. Both Walmart and IBM have been at the forefront of DLT since its conception and both companies are eager to promote the use of new technology in sectors including business and commerce. Walmart has become a primary mover in the industry in pushing blockchain forward with numerous patents pending.

The latest IBM deal with Carrefour, now operating in over 12,000 locations around the globe, offers three individual retailing solutions using DLT. The first of which, called “Trace” offers a sophisticated system of tracking products from source, which also factors in shipping and production costs, allowing the retailer to arrive at a fair price to pass on to customers.

Other aspects of Food Trust in its present early form focus establishes how goods fit retailers “Fair Trade” or “Organic” tags in order to be accurately listed on the blockchain, adding to buyer confidence.

Carrefour itself is no stranger to using emerging technologies in recent months and made a recent impact on the French farming sector this year with its blockchain based system which began tracking its chicken supply. This provided customers with an egg to table history by using a smartphone to scan a code on the packaging to obtain details on each stage of production, including origins, earlier location, feed and where the meat was finally processed.

Carrefour may be the first to use the latest IBM system, but now Food Trust is live and it’s there to be used by all in the food industry moving forward.

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Farmers Worldwide Are Now Seeing Blockchain’s Real Advantages

Farmers are beginning to see the potential of new technology, including blockchain, as a solution to supply chain problems in the industry.

Although farmers are sometimes skeptical towards tech solutions coming from an industry steeped in traditional methods, more of them are taking the plunge given the obvious advantages of blockchain’s supply chain clarity and accountability.

Around the world, growers are finding success in change. From Queensland cane growers tracking the movement of sugar around Australia, to growing and tracking organic rice in Cambodia, and cocoa in Ghana, blockchain is providing farmers with a way of tracking their products from field/farm to table.

Organizations such as Olam Farming Information System offers transparency for small farmers in 21 countries around the world. With 100,000 small hold farmers now registered with OFIS across Asia, Africa, and South America, the organization has developed a system which allows easy access and information sorting for the user to get to know more about the farming communities who supply their ingredients.

In mid-2017 Af Funder calculated a potential $213 million was there to be accrued by farm management software and IoT start-ups due to rising interest within the industry. Most development in the industry has been in traceability solutions which many smaller producers have already adopted.

However, there is the potential for blockchain to operate in the farming industry on a much larger scale, such as the French supermarket giant Carrefour’s blockchain project which began tracking its chicken supply earlier this year. This provided customers with an egg to table history by using a smartphone to scan a code on the packaging to obtain details on each stage of production, including origins, earlier location, feed and where the meat was finally processed.

The potential to cut down on an illegal harvesting and shipping fraud are other advantages. A new project in Kerala in India’s deep south will now be ensuring that goods now include RFID tags and the use of IoT devices to monitor transportation and delivery, primarily of milk, vegetables, and fish. All components of the milk supply chain will be strictly monitored and recorded on the blockchain.

Projects like this are making illegal trading far more difficult; the cost of food fraud has now reached an estimated $40 billion a year according to the UN.

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C’est Magnifique, French Chickens on Blockchain

French supermarket chain Carrefour recently introduced blockchain technology into a data system allowing shoppers in Auvergne, Southern France, to get a full detailed history of their purchase: a chicken.

Carrefour’s system provides customers with a blockchain-based traceability program, currently limited to some poultry in the chain’s Auvergne stores. The system offers a record of the chickens’ life from egg to supermarket. Shoppers can use a smartphone to scan in a code on the packaging to obtain details on each stage of production, including origins, earlier location, feed and where the meat was finally processed.

Carrefour originally chose the new technology in order to trace production of chickens, but now plans to extend the data sharing program to include products such as eggs, cheese, milk, oranges, tomatoes, salmon and hamburgers by the end of the year.

The supermarket chain, which was once the world’s second-biggest retailer after US group Walmart, has said that it believes that blockchain tech applications for the food chain are effective as they allow for secure sharing between producer and consumer.

Walmart itself currently shares a blockchain platform with Nestle, Dole Food, Tyson Foods, Kroger and JD.com. Company vice-president for food safety and health, Frank Yiannas, shares Carrefour’s enthusiasm, saying that “there’s no question about it, blockchain will do for traceability what the internet did for communication”.

Yiannas claims that the new technology will considerably cut down on foodborne diseases, benefiting the economy about USD 700 million through increased productivity, thanks to fewer work days lost to sickness.

Many consumers are unaware of where their food comes from and how it’s produced. New innovators argue that blockchain provides that visibility.

Lance Koonce, partner for Davis Wright Tremaine LLP and head of the firm’s cross-practice blockchain initiative, argues that currently, the window remains open for fraud and food safety breaches, issues which would be addressed under blockchain labeling. He suggests that companies want the ability to “tell stories to their customers about honest products and provide accurate labeling”.

Carrefour announced in January a major overhaul of its business given increased competition from traditional rivals as well as online retailers.

 

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