The path of food from the origin to table is increasingly long and complex. This makes it very difficult to trace its origin, detect counterfeit products or investigate incidents and outbreaks.
Blockchain technology show up in this context. Implemented for the first time in 2009, it is the main technical innovation that enabled the emergence of bitcoin, most famous virtual currency today. Blockchain consist on a structure made of data blocks containing information.
In the case of bitcoins this works as a shared public ledger, containing a record of each transaction made. In the supply chain the principle is the same, there is a record of all the links involved in the creation and distribution from the raw material to the finished product to the consumer. It is not an alternative to existing logistics mechanisms, but rather its complement.
The products are labeled with RFID sensors containing QR Codes. At each step information like location, date, quality or any other sensitive data is added. Because there is no data storare on a central server, it is spread on the computers connected to the network, there are no intermediaries to process transactions. And even better: you can add logs, but never remove or change them, what makes the network even safer.
There are many possibilities such as use of blockchain to ensure the authenticity of medicines, monitoring the distribution of agricultural products, preventing wrong labeling of organic foods, facilitating audit processes, providing reliable statistics, identifying points of failure, delays and losses of products, find the source of outbreaks and routes of certain pests and much more.
In the supply chain it ensures transparency and efficiency for the industries. There are already some startups exploring technology. The English Provenance acts tracing foods while Filament is creating intelligent farms with the blockchain allied to the IoT (internet of things). Even big companies already bet on it, Walmart is using the technology to ensure the provenance of pork meat marketed in its stores in China.
What about consumer? Consumers now have the power in their hands, to consult information whenever they want and decide what to buy based on product real value. The hard question is: will you use this knowledge to make more conscious choices even if they are not the cheapest ones or will you look the other way and pretend it’s nothing with you?
Ruganzu Bruno, while still an art student at Kyambogo University in Uganda, dreamed of being an artist like Picasso. One day he saw children playing in one of his garbage sculptures in the city. He realized then that he should shift the focus from the sculptures to playgrounds.
A team of researchers from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid in conjunction with the University of Florence has developed a robot that monitors the quality of water and moves like a real fish.