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You would have read a lot of articles regarding cryptocurrencies and blockchains. Even while talking to your friends, you would have heard these terminologies, as it has become a hot topic. Blockchains and cryptocurrencies have been around us for quite some time. Also, people think that blockchains and cryptocurrencies are only useful for the finance industry.
However, they are quite useful in numerous industries such as food, healthcare, and pharmaceutical, which stand to gain a lot from blockchains. Golden State Foods, Dole, Driscoll’s, McLane, Kroger, Tyson, McCormick, Unilever, Nestle, and Walmart have partnered with IBM so that they can use blockchains in their respective supply chains. When companies that account for over five hundred billion dollars worth of global sales every year want to invest in blockchains, you can see that it has a lot of potential in the food industry.
The problems with food industry’s current systems
The food chain is extremely complex, as it brings together farmers, grocers, distributors, packers, processors, traders, and restaurants. As all these entities use different parties, you will need varying methods of keeping records, all the way from printouts and emails to excel sheets.
The problem with this system is that it isn’t precise and it’s inefficient. For example, if you buy fruits from a local grocery store, the business may not know which farms are responsible for growing them. As a result of this, if something were to go wrong, brands, even the most popular ones will find it extremely difficult to get to the source of the problem.
Let’s say some of the food products are contaminated, because of various reasons. If a company had to track down the exact reason for the problem, but its records are neither reliable nor up-to-date, it will take them at least a couple of days to find the issue. By the time the company recalls those products, the damage would be unavoidable.
Also, with food fraud due to tampering, substituting, mislabelling, and misrepresenting is on the rise, as it can happen at any stage of the food industry’s supply chain. For example, there was a scandal in the UK, where beef burgers contained a cheaper alternative, horse meat.
These are some of the many problems, the food industry faces, which one can overcome with the use of blockchains.
Advantages of blockchains for the food industry
Exchange of specific information
The food industry needs a large-scale exchange of information to keep a check on quality and other similar parameters. However, companies cannot afford to share their recipes, measures, methods, and other types of sensitive data publically. As a result of this, it becomes hard to test the food products to check if they meet the standards while keeping the trade secrets.
Blockchain will play an important role in the exchange of specific information, thanks to smart contracts. For example, if a vegan restaurant wants to check whether the buns it wants to order meets with its specific requirements, a smart contract can do so, without the need of a third party. If the buns meet the standards set by the smart contract, the vegan restaurant can order them, without asking the baking company to provide the exact details for producing them.
The marketplace becomes smart, due to the availability of smart libraries and contracts. Smart contracts contain specific instructions that will evaluate and post the results within the blockchain. For example, if a shop wants to sell meat products that don’t have any hormones in them, it can make a smart contract to check the items given by the provider. By checking the items list of ingredients, the smart contract can accept or reject the products. Similarly, smart libraries can be used and shared privately or publically, to all the agents and participants in the blockchain. Rather than depending on trust or making sure that everyone sticks to the standards, smart contracts can verify all products that exist in the blockchain.
The biggest problem with the current systems in the food industry is traceability. As discussed earlier, to get to the root of the problem, traceability is an extremely important factor. However, blockchains make it easier to track all food products, as they move along the network. Each participant in the network can share all their evaluations, evidence and assertions accordingly. As the food reaches the end of the supply chain, it is an accumulation of all the data. If any problems were to crop up, it becomes easy to go the source. As a result of this, everyone in the blockchain will have to adhere to the highest standards.
Blockchains have a lot to offer when it comes to the food industry. With all the advantages that blockchains come with, the food industry will see better transparency and accountability!
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