Blockchain technology continues to gain momentum in both primary production and food processing. Blockchain systems are primarily seen as an effective way to track, trace and prove products, but they could also help develop more effective artificial intelligence farm and food systems.
Blockchain technology is a transparent record-keeping system. When information or blocks are entered into a set of records, other computers on the system are notified. Tampering with information is very difficult because changes to information are open to everyone.
“Blockchain is really just a secure electronic ledger.”
“Blockchain is really just a secure electronic ledger,” explains Peter Gredig, a technology analyst and farmer in southwestern Ontario.
Many agricultural and food processing companies are implementing digitized systems where information from all stages of the production process, from farm to transportation, retail to consumer, is captured in blockchain systems. Such a large-scale tracking system allows us to find the source of supply chain problems in seconds instead of weeks.
There are three possible uses for blockchain in the future:
1. Tracking food fraud
In addition to food safety, blockchain has the potential to reduce food fraud. Is the food really organically produced? Is that burger really just beef? With blockchain, assurance could extend from farm to fork.
2. Feed the AI
Blockchain technology could help process the vast amount of data generated by modern farms and the food sector, Gredig said.
For example, as farms begin to incorporate more sensors into their fields and equipment, blockchain systems can help categorize and highlight good and useful information, such as the types and amounts of inputs used, rate settings, etc. increase.
“Our ability to collect data is limitless,” says Gredig. “Artificial intelligence is the next promising technology, but it needs great data to make it work. Blockchain is just a stepping stone to better AI.”
Additionally, Gredig said blockchain could also help if further verification requirements were implemented for farms and food businesses. For example, there may come a time when fertilizer input needs to be considered relative to losses and existing soil nutrient reserves.
3. Keep up with consumer demand
New technologies can evolve rapidly and the world of big data remains in flux, making it difficult to judge the scope and depth of blockchain applications in the coming years.
Firms that are vertically integrated from farm to retail face the easiest conversion, and it becomes more complicated for those that operate through multiple contracts with independent producers.
However, with the need for immediate food traceability and consumer desire to know more about food, it is clear that digital technology platforms like blockchain are the answer to the demand.