Using blockchain technology to record transactions is far more reliable than using ordinary digital transactions. With blockchain, each transaction is permanently recorded on a ‘ledger’ as the latest link in a long ‘chain’ engrained into every node in the network in question. This means that if one is changed, someone will know foul play has taken place.
While it is often used for cryptocurrency, this also makes blockchain the perfect technology for ensuring that a food product’s supply chain is traceable.
TE-Food, a Hungarian tech company, uses blockchain technology to help consumers, food companies and governments trace supply chains gather knowledge about how they work.
TE-Food’s blockchain ledger, like all blockchain ledgers, is decentralised. This ledger, which it calls the ‘TrustChain,’ tracks transactions using TE-Food’s technology, and can be accessed by the public, making it transparent.
During different stages of food products’ supply chains, TE-Food’s traceability data is sent to the company’s framework, which is recorded on its blockchain ledger. This data then appears on consumer landing pages. Consumers can access said information by scanning a QR code which appears on traced goods. The QR codes help consumers find out more about their product, but also help businesses collect data about said consumers.
The purpose of this technology is threefold: to help consumers keep track of the supply chains of products they’re buying, to help private companies keep track of their own supply chains, and to help governments get a good idea of the supply chains of the whole food system of their respective countries. In fact, TE-Foods has several projects with governments, for example helping them mitigate an African Swine Fever outbreak in 2019.
The technology provides traceability data from a wide range of locations, from smallholder farms to giant corporations.
The purpose of undertaking these traceability measures varies depending on the client. “The governmental traceability projects are usually on food safety and security,” Gergely Köves, Lead Project Manager on International Traceability Projects, told FoodNavigator.
“The private, retail chain or supplier driven solutions are focusing on quality assurance or marketing communication. There are partners who are also communicating on animal welfare, fair trade and their local projects, non-GMO.
“Currently most applications are in super-fresh supply chains: vegetables, fruits and meat. But there are examples of processed and packaged products as well.”
The main challenges, Köves suggested, are twofold: firstly, “winning the supply chain members to take part in the traceability administration,” and secondly printing, labelling and engraving unique QR codes on a wide range of products.