Before you pick up that cherry tomato or prep the chicken, do you really know what you’re about to eat? How often do you think about the actual processes and activities that go on behind the scenes in food supply chains? Produce is grown. Meats are raised. Dairy foods are processed. Others are prepared in advance and flash-frozen for distribution. When you think about it, there are ample opportunities for contamination. 2017 and 2018 were some of the worst years for food-borne illness outbreak in history, making it abundantly clear to us that yes, it is important to know and we want to know. Thankfully, advances in technology mean that we no longer have to live in uncertainty. The introduction of connected sensors to track product information and other emerging technologies such as blockchain are poised to revolutionize food supply chains. Blockchain became popular through Bitcoin for its ability to protect data, but its applications go far beyond cryptocurrency. When added to food supply chains, it will increase visibility, leading to the quick identification of potential issues and more accountability throughout activities from farming to table.

Benefits of Blockchain in the Food Chain

Over the past few years, the food industry has been taking steps towards implementing improved-visibility initiatives. Farm-to-table and foraged foods trends are forcing food supply chains to evolve. There is a growing demand to know exactly where our food is sourced, and with good reason. Still, more than 75% of consumers do not trust the accuracy of food labels. So, what can food supply chains do differently? This is where blockchain in the food supply chain makes a difference. For example, a food label’s accuracy is limited by the printer and user. Even automatic systems go back to a human-touch at some point, and information can be altered after the fact to meet business needs. However, blockchain can provide a tamper-proof history of each product, thereby increasing transparency. Businesses then pass along this information through consumer-facing platforms, further boosting visibility. Ultimately, this capability, while developed and often deployed for business-to-business transparency, can be used to give consumers peace of mind. Walmart is looking to take advantage of blockchain’s potential with mandated blockchain use in fresh produce. They are doing so in the hopes that this will minimize the risk of bacterial contamination, thereby preventing any of their produce being recalled.

Blockchain generates real benefits for today’s supply chains, as explained by Work Design Group Some of the most notable include:

  • Increased visibility into all product motions from grower or farmer through resale, giving people the ability to verify sustainable practices and history of such products.
  • Fast identification of issues by giving a complete, end-to-end picture and history of a product.
  • Improved accountability that leads to cost savings through risk reductions and high-quality data, which are useful in creating product demand forecasts, replenishment plans and more.

How Blockchain Adds Value through Insights

While blockchain gives companies access to new visibility-driven benefits, it will also have a profound impact on essential functions. For example, Forbes reports that using blockchain eliminates much of the hassle in maintaining the chain of custody of cold-storage items.

As a result, companies can spend less time worrying about where products came from and the accuracy of product information, and more time working with consumers to increase overall experience. This will naturally improve the collaboration and sense of trust among supply chain partners. It is essential to understand that blockchain alone does not guarantee data accuracy. If someone enters data incorrectly, all subsequent applications of data and access to the blockchain would be effectively useless. However, automating the process and using wireless sensors and devices connected to the Internet of Things will reduce and ultimately eliminate this uncertainty. Fortunately, the use of such technologies is in the best interest of companies as they add to visibility, reduce manual work, and optimize supply chain processes.

Impact of Blockchain To Consumers Today and in the Future

The impact of blockchain in the food supply chain will be felt on several fronts. Blockchain will provide peace of mind by identifying potential sources of contamination. In fact, with the traceability of blockchain, a product can be scanned and traced it back to the source with precision in seconds instead of days or weeks. The prevalence of blockchain will reduce food-borne illness outbreaks and mitigate the number of individuals affected. In the future, a customer could scan a bag of salad and see if it’s involved in a recall or not, all thanks to blockchain.

Blockchain will accomplish all of this while also allowing a degree of anonymity. Ultimately, the blockchain builds on itself and creates a perpetual cycle of confidence and security of foods, says IFT.org.

What Does It Mean to Today’s Food Supply Chains and Existing Operations?

Existing food supply chains should begin the processes of implementing blockchain-based initiatives now. Failure to do so will result in a ban from major retailers, including big players like Walmart, and soon, Amazon Pantry. The opportunities for blockchain in food supply chains are clear, and if you want to discuss further get in contact with us. We need end-to-end visibility in order to finally answer the question: before you eat that, do you really know where it came from?