Blockchain in agriculture: Enhancing efficiency in the food supply chain | Unicsoft

Blockchain in agriculture: Enhancing efficiency in the food supply chain

by Marina Ozhohanych

The world’s population is increasing, and the standards of living are rising, while climate change is not doing any favors to agricultural yields. Acquiring a more efficient yield is more vital than ever – future demand for agricultural products will only rise. Failure to incorporate computer science and technology in agriculture means significant yields in agriculture may not be reached. Agritech companies are investing more in yield improvement innovations, product innovation, and food efficiencies. Novel new measures are transforming every step of the food supply chain, from seed to fork.

End-customers are getting more demanding and expect greater transparency; they want to learn where the food they eat comes from, how it was transported, the conditions of storage. Consumers want to make sure that food is fresh and safe to eat. The trend in healthy eating only supports the idea for transparency and visibility of the entire food supply chain. 

Among the ways to solve the transparency challenge would be the use of blockchain in agriculture. It is revolutionizing the food supply chain, particularly traceability technologies. Blockchain technology is continually evolving, and more opportunities are on the horizon. It is predicted that by 2025, over 20% of the world’s top grocers will be utilizing blockchain for food safety, traceability and to establish visibility, quality, production, and freshness. 

Blockchain-based applications

Blockchain is an incredibly promising technology which provides new and exciting possibilities for agricultural developments. Here are some blockchain-based applications in food and agricultural supply chains worth paying attention to:

Traceability, food safety, and transactions costs

A major use of blockchain in the food supply chain is enhancing traceability. The increasing appetite for food safety is driving demand for such technologies. Integrating the supply chain with blockchain ensures the accuracy of data on the status of products and their tracking in real time. The goal of all these applications dedicated to the food supply chain is to establish the food origin, when the food was processed, and who the producers are. This enables companies to track unsafe food products back to their origin and know where else they may have been distributed. Blockchain enhances trust since recorded data is irreplaceable and cannot be altered or forged in the future. 

Actually, if all of the details of the blockchain food supply chain for the product you are marketing are recorded to guarantee quality, even in terms of quantity, it is possible to reduce costs significantly. For instance, it can help a brand gain customers’ trust, resulting in reduced promotion and marketing costs.   

In this context, food giant Walmart has partnered with IBM to create Food Trust Solution software to make the blockchain food supply chain more traceable, transparent and secure. There are also other medium-sized companies investing in blockchain technology to enhance food safety, traceability and streamline processes. They include Origin Trail, which has created a protocol used in product travel and food safety. Others include ripe.io, which is transforming the trajectory of the food supply chain through the use of IoT and blockchain technology to prevent false labeling, redundant intermediaries and food fraud. 

Logistics and commodity management

Agricultural commodities are a huge business, and commodity managers have always been troubled by payment lags and data management challenges. Blockchain helps in storing all financial and logistical information, documents and transactions – for transparency of a more secure and optimized management. The entire history of transactions, movements and documents is genuine since the data is irreplaceable. 

AgriDigital, an Australian company, offers cloud-based commodity management services registered onto a blockchain. The company has run project pilots for blockchain food supply chain provenance, food traceability, supply chain finance, digital escrow, and real-time payments. 

Marketplace creation

Commercial food companies face a major challenge in sourcing quality ingredients, in sufficient quantity. Farmers might not know what the end-customers want or who the big customers are. Historically, intermediaries have controlled significant profits. Blockchain has enabled the creation of digital marketplaces where farmers and buyers can connect directly. This improves the profits going to farmers, while investors are able to invest directly into farms producing agricultural commodities and then trade on their investment. 

Software company Unicsoft is helping agritech companies in selecting, building and deploying the right ledger technology to add transparency, efficiency, and automation in the blockchain food supply chain.  An example of a notable food supply chain blockchain project includes a blockchain-based crops trading platform that eliminates middlemen. There was a need to make the interaction between all market players swifter, more transparent and more cost-effective. The goal of the blockchain platform is to ensure fair play, eliminate entry barriers, simplify transactions and help players to more effectively hedge against price volatility. All involved parties including farmers, processors, traders, banks, investors, insurance companies and retailers can access critical information in real time. In this case, blockchain helps to achieve consensus among participants who do not know each other and who are subject to substantial trading risk. 

Why use blockchain in agriculture?

Blockchain is able to transform agricultural commerce. The impact it has had so far is immense and can only get bigger in the future. Benefits of blockchain in agriculture include the following:

  • Improved visibility for food supply chains – consumers are becoming more interested in the origin and contents of their food. Blockchain has enabled the innovation of traceability technologies to address this evolution in consumers’ tastes. 
  • Trust & Transparency – lack of transparency in the food supply chain, particularly for medium-sized companies, has always been a challenge. Blockchain ensures real-time tracking and monitoring information is genuine, which increases trust between parties.
  • Efficiency and optimization – real-time recording of transactions and provision of up-to-the-minute supply and demand information to participants. Blockchain ensures the data provided is authentic and cannot be altered. 

Blockchain startups to watch

Blockchain innovations are already disrupting the agricultural sector. Here are some of the most innovative use cases:

  • AgriLedger – a social enterprise project that helps farmers access financing easily, trace food origins, and store transaction data.
  • Agrichain – a digital marketplace which cuts out intermediaries.
  • Ripe – a blockchain food supply chain to harness food data quality. 
  • AgriDigital – an integrated agricultural commodity management solution based on blockchain.
  • Worldcover – a blockchain-based solution that offers crop insurance to guard against yield loss. It uses satellites to monitor rainfall and triggers payments automatically. 

Tips for startups 

Here are some things you need to consider to run a successful blockchain startup:

  1. Select the right blockchain technology – think of technical requirements for your project and all use cases. What about scalability and the number of transactions-per-second required? If you need help to select a correct blockchain platform, please drop us a message and we will advise. 
  2. Build a strong team – don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you don’t need a product manager, or project manager, or marketing manager. You can save some money today but will lose to competition in the long-run. Think carefully about what roles have to be in-house and what tasks you can outsource to save resources. In most cases, it is better to outsource software development and other experts should be working full-time within your company. 
  3. Create a business plan and a roadmap  – running a successful blockchain startup requires more than technologies and utilization to address business problems: you also need to have a strategy for project monetization.

Believe in your successful blockchain startup, identify a real pain in the market that you can resolve, select the right team, build interactive and user-friendly technology solution. There are so many examples of successful startups. Get inspired by them and start your own innovation project. 

Blockchain and other technologies like IoT and remote sensing offer many opportunities and ideas to transform the agricultural sector. If you have any questions regarding blockchain in agriculture, get in touch with us – we will be glad to advise and guide you accordingly. Drive your ideas and we’ll take care of the technology.

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