Discover how blockchain technology is revolutionizing the food industry, enhancing traceability, transparency, and safety. Explore its potential to empower small-scale producers, build consumer trust, ensure regulatory compliance, combat food fraud, and streamline supply chain efficiency, paving the way for a safer, sustainable food ecosystem.
By Lalit Choudhary, Director – Marketing, Dhiway
The food industry is not immune to challenges like food fraud, supply chain inefficiencies, and foodborne illnesses. In recent years, numerous implementations of blockchain technology have emerged as a potential game-changer, promising to address these issues and transform the food industry as we know it. Some recent reports have stated that the global market for blockchain technology in the agriculture and food supply chain is expected to grow to 1.9 billion USD in 2027 at a CAGR of 47.1%. The supply chain for agricultural and food products is staggeringly complex and distributed. The sector is grappling with numerous challenges around data security, traceability, and transparency. The supply chain’s complexity is why it is challenging to implement good tooling around product tracing, order tracking, logistics tracking, and managing the input from the multiple stakeholders at various staging points of the supply chain. The emerging regulatory requirements around food safety and traceability have led to some prominent brands looking at blockchain technology to address the requirements of record-keeping, traceability, and enhancing the level of information available to consumers.
The Capability of Blockchain Technology
Blockchain is a distributed digital ledger that records transactions across multiple computers securely and transparently. Unlike traditional centralized systems, where a single entity controls the data, blockchain’s distributed nature ensures that information is accessible to all participants while maintaining high security and integrity.
Distributed ledger technology and blockchain is an implementation originated in Bitcoin – a cryptocurrency. The technology capabilities enabled through blockchain for cryptocurrency were soon found helpful in many business use cases. The ability to have records of transactions anchored immutably to a distributed ledger which is then available for reading/viewing to all stakeholders, is an approach which increases operational efficiency. Blockchain technology has been identified as an excellent alternative to traditional data stores when multiple stakeholders need to update the data stream linked with orders. The different business process management systems draw from the data stream to build analytics.
The tamper-resistant transaction records in a blockchain have contributed to addressing the challenges around transparency and traceability. In a supply chain, transparency builds on data availability and disclosure. The updates to the data stream from various sources must be uniquely and correctly identified to build data provenance. The data governance approach which establishes this requirement contributes to the capability of traceability of products moving through the supply chain. In short, blockchain technology enables better ESG reporting, product recalls in case of contamination, and data falsification. The ability to create near-perfect data streams that can be authenticated and have provenance addresses one essential concern in the global food supply chain – the trust deficit.
Food Industry and Blockchain Technology
The four essential areas where blockchain technology is showing excellent business value and alignment with strategy are improved product visibility, disintermediation of the data governance in the food supply chain, enhanced data governance and data security posture and bringing about efficiency between stakeholders using event-trigger systems like smart contracts. The availability of high-quality data streams with real-time end-to-end visibility to stakeholders has the advantage of the relying parties now having better trust and acceptance of such data for further processing and actions.
Existing applications and supply chain information systems can be integrated with block chain technology, beginning as pilot projects and eventually moving into production. This enables a business to decide among the following domains to focus on and measure the success of the adoption.
Empowering Small-Scale Producers and Fair Trade
Consumers are conscious of fair trade practices and ethical sources of food and are interested in how the brands they align with are contributing to sustainability goals. Those who prioritize these requirements can now have better access to information for their purchase decisions. In turn, this could elevate the profile of small-scale producers by enabling access to global markets.
Building Consumer Trust and Brand Loyalty
Information transparency is a bedrock for building brand loyalty among customers through fostering trust over longer transactions. The idea that the origin of products and ingredients can now be tracked to sources provides a sense of reassurance to consumers who prefer to be more informed about these topics.
Improving Regulatory Compliance Around Food Safety and Recall Management
A critical risk in the food supply chain is the need for more information, resulting in better product traceability, especially in food safety issues. The complex global food supply chain with multiple intermediaries makes tracking the origin and journey of food products difficult. Consequently, food safety issues around illnesses often become topics of global health. Identifying the sources of contamination is crucial to the measures required to be implemented to prevent outbreaks and safeguard public health. Regulatory requirements require the producers to act swiftly, precisely and have robust plans to handle contingencies. The traceability capabilities of blockchain-based systems can significantly improve the topic of food safety, allowing for quick identification and planned response.
Reducing Food Fraud and Ensuring Authenticity
Food fraud, where products are intentionally mislabelled or adulterated, is a significant concern for the food industry. It is more common than is usually perceived by consumers, and thus it is an item of significant risk. By providing an unalterable record of each step in the supply chain, blockchain helps combat food fraud and ensures the authenticity of food products.
Enhancing Efficiency and Reducing Waste
Blockchain facilitates real-time communication and data sharing among all parties involved in the food supply chain. This leads to streamlined inventory management and demand forecasting processes, reduced paperwork, and fewer disputes. Smart contracts, self-executing contracts with predefined conditions, can automate various tasks, such as payment processing and quality inspections, improving overall supply chain efficiency.
With several blockchain implementations as public and private blockchains now available, it is easier to reimagine the future of digital trust in food supply chains to include persistent unique digital identifiers anchored on the blockchain. As with every other component of IT strategy, businesses in this sector planning to adopt blockchain need to identify the risks around data governance, data integrity and data security before creating policies that meet the requirements and comply with the regulations. Blockchains significantly benefit the food industry by providing enhanced traceability, supply chain transparency, and increased food safety. As consumers become more conscious of their food choices, blockchain’s ability to provide detailed information about products’ origins and ethical practices will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the food industry, ultimately creating a safer, more transparent, and more sustainable food ecosystem for all.