Bit­coin tech­nol­ogy could work for the agri-food sec­tor

Irish Examiner - Farming - - TECHNOLOGY FOCUS - Stephen Cado­gan

Blockchain is well-known to dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy ex­perts as a way of record­ing trans­ac­tions in a tam­per and re­vi­sion-proof way.

It is the tech­nol­ogy be­hind the Bit­coin dig­i­tal cur­rency, but may also be of in­ter­est to the agri-food sec­tor as a way to a u t h e n t i c at e fo o d s u p p l y chain track­ing.

It can pro­vide end- to- end trace­abil­ity, and can thus be used to track farm orig­i­na­tion de­tails of pro­ducer, batch num­bers, fac­tory and pro­cess­ing data, ex­pi­ra­tion dates, stor­age tem­per­a­tures and ship­ping de­tails.

I BM has re­cently an­nounced a col­lab­o­ra­tion with food gi­ants Nestlé, Unilever, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc, to ad­dress these chal­lenges us­ing blockchain tech­nol­ogy. Wi t h t h e Wo rl d H e a l t h Or­gan­i­sa­tion say­ing al­most one in 10 peo­ple in the world are sick­ened an­nu­ally by con­tam­i­nated food, and 420,000 dy­ing as a re­sult, it’s an agri­food is­sue need­ing ur­gent at­ten­tion, es­pe­cially after the lat­est fipronil scare in eggs. Many is­sues re­lated to food safety, such as con­tam­i­na­tion, food-borne dis­eases and food re­calls, are ex­ac­er­bated by a lack of ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion and poor trace­abil­ity. Ul­ti­mately, a com­bi­na­tion of the In­ter­net of Things and blockchain tech­nol­ogy may al­low cus­tomers us­ing mo­bile apps to ver­ify a food prod­uct’s ori­gins, and claims such as “or­ganic” or “GMO-free”. Ac­cord­ing to Gil­lian Byrne of Bord Bia, Ire­land’s agri­food in­dus­try is well po­si­tioned to gain value from this new tech­nol­ogy, to strengthen our al­ready strong cre­den­tials in sus­tain­abil­ity and food safety, by of­fer­ing con­sumers at re­tail l e ve l bet­ter in­for­ma­tion on au­then­tic­ity and pro­duc­tion prac­tices.

Blockchain, the dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy ex­perts be­hind the Bit­coin, may be used to guar­an­tee food safety.

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