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The HQ
Insights into agriculture politics and trends

December 11, 2019

The food blockchain: transforming food safety and traceability

By Laura Bardot

As consumers become increasingly disconnected from farming, they are seeking an entirely new experience with the food they eat. Annual research from the Centre for Food Integrity indicates that while consumers are weary about offering their trust to larger corporations, they do trust farmers and producers. That’s why more and more food products are claiming to be from a “family farm” or “locally-grown,” “certified humane” and “all-natural”. But what if there was a label telling the entire story of their food, documenting every step of the way from pasture to plate? Blockchain can do just that.

Making the connection

Blockchain is basically a digital database that uses cryptography to link data points. Each data point, or block, is encoded with data from the previous block and then adds on more data to the chain. It is designed to be smarter and safer than most modern databases. The end result is a digital ledger that captures every point along the life cycle of a product, whether that’s corn, wheat or eggs.

And how does this tie into food and agriculture? Major companies and food brands are embracing this technology to track food from farm to fork. In 2018, Walmart announced more than 100 farms will use IBM Food Trust to track its leafy green supply. The focus is on leafy greens because of foodborne illnesses often linked to spinach and lettuce. By adding in this extra tracking, the retailer will be able to know exactly which field and farm the implicated produce came from, which washing and cutting facilities it came through and what warehouse it was stored in before coming to the store.

IBM says their blockchain technology will help simplify supply chain efficiencies by decreasing bottlenecking, increasing brand trust with consumers, and helping ensure food’s regulatory compliance. It sounds like a win-win for consumers and farmers alike, and adoption of precision agriculture platforms that support this digital X-ray view of the farm operation have been growing steadily.

Gaining trust

Through blockchain technology and traceability, growers are better able to “show” what they do in order to increase consumers’ trust in their food. Establishing that foundation of exactly where food comes from, including how it is grown and harvested, allows farmers and ranchers to gain credibility in the eyes of customers. At the same time, the ability to more immediately pinpoint issues along the supply chain will only continue to increase safety, quality and yes, trust.

For more information on how farmers are putting blockchain to work for them, check out this story by AdFarm’s Chris Forrest.

Laura Bardot is a PR and Content Specialist for AdFarm. She is a fifth-generation farm kid with a profound enthusiasm for the Midwest, cattle and Texas Red Dirt music.