Foodchain: how blockchain conquers the real world

Foodchain: how blockchain conquers the real world

A lot of food giants explore how to apply blockchain technology to their food supply chains.

Some people use blockchain just as a PR tool or some sort of fashion statement showing that they’re keeping up with the hottest trends in technology, whereas others actually utilize the developments taking place with this technology. But is it really necessary for the food industry? What would they even use it for? Let's try to figure it out.

Real Blockchain

Retail and food giants, such as Unilever, Nestlé, Dole, and Coca-Cola, are aiming to use blockchain to maintain secure digital records and improve the traceability of their foodstuffs.

These companies see distributed ledger technology as an opportunity to revamp their data management processes across a complex network that includes farmers, brokers, distributors, processors, retailers, regulators, and consumers.

Walmart has already run two blockchain experiments in partnership with IBM. One involved tracking Chinese pork with the other involving tracking Mexican mangoes.

For these trials, Walmart used Hyperledger Fabric, a blockchain originally built by IBM and now housed under the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger group. This is the preferred blockchain of IBM, which has been marshaling clients to try the tech across industries as varied as private equity, banking, government, and healthcare.

Those discussions proved to be fruitful. The industry group includes members such as Kroger, McCormick &Company, McLane Company, Driscoll’s, Tyson Foods, and Golden State Foods.

Coca-Cola is one of the latest companies to announce that they too are going to utilize blockchain technology. However, the way they are planning to use it is kind of surprising. They are looking to implement blockchain technology in an effort to fight forced labor, and have already teamed up with the U.S State Department and a trio of crypto organizations (Bitfury Group, Blockchain Trust Accelerator, and Emercoin) to launch a pilot project.

Advantages for consumers

The usage of blockchain in retail can make a real difference for consumers. By simply scanning a QR-code with a smartphone, customers can learn important information such as data about the animals’ birth, use of antibiotics or vaccinations and the location where the livestock was raised, as well as to make sure that the product is not fraudulent. This will also challenge food producers to provide food at a much higher quality.

One more potential benefit: blockchain brings supply chain transparency to an all-new level and empowers the entire chain to be more responsive to any food safety disasters.

Blockchain & PR

This past weekend, the Internet exploded with the news that Starbucks began to accept payment in crypto.

Starbucks, along with other companies, is a participant in the Bakkt project, but participation in a blockchain-related project does not necessarily imply that the company has now decided to start accepting Bitcoins to pay for your soy pumpkin spice latte. Might this be a well-thought-out PR-move on Starbucks’ side so everyone would start talking about them? Who knows. But one thing’s for sure: up to today, they were in the headlines.

And Starbucks is not the only one in the headlines. McDonald's announced that it intends to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Big Mac by doing something a bit different. They announced their plans to release its own “MacCoin”. MacCoins are shiny, physical souvenir coins that will be given out when people buy Big Macs starting August 2. From August 3 onward, consumers can trade in these coins for Big Macs.  Basically, it’s a nice little souvenir that’ll get you a free burger whenever you want. Even though this isn’t a cryptocurrency, we can see how this multi-billion dollar corporation’s marketing ploy uses public knowledge of cryptocurrencies to their advantage as a way to try to stay on the edge and keep its marketing relevant.

Instead of a conclusion

Food giants like the idea of simplifying their supply chains by implementing the  automatic tracking of important information, such as the temperature and quality of goods, shipment and delivery dates, and safety certifications of facilities. Meanwhile, IBM is keen on selling subscriptions to blockchain-related services that integrate with its cloud business.

Businesses are applying blockchain in a variety of industries, including cargo shipping, poultry, and diamonds. The new way in which the food industry is using blockchain is set to bring the technology one step closer to production.

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