18 October 2019 - Article
This blog is a two-part series that looks at the new food tech movement across Europe and how technology like blockchain can play a role in making the food supply safer.
There’s a lack of desire by mainstream food manufacturing for change. Grow it cheap, sell it high which drives cheaper and cheaper food. But that isn’t how the world works anymore. People have woken up to many global issues that are top of their minds from the environmental impact farming makes on the earth, climate change from methane gasses to waste, recycling and the security of the food chain.
Tesco’s tainted meat scandal in 2013 was a line in the sand for consumers and for companies that now have to tow a new line of accountability of the food they carry. Consumers have demanded something else from the food industry — food origin, food security alongside the reduction in waste, environmental damage and emissions.
Within a year of the Tesco scandal, there was an upswing in consumers wanting to know where their food came from. Tesco’s had a complete change in marketing and became suddenly aware they had to change now how they marketed their food products.
Out of this scandal, came a move towards authenticity.
A London-based non-profit, Project Provenance created a platform that uses blockchain to build an authenticated food chain with information gathered collaboratively from suppliers all along the supply chain. The platform substantiates product claims with reliable, real-time data. They have a licensing model so stores like Waitrose or Tesco could license it. And the consumer can use the app to see where the meat came from and its progress to Waitrose along every step of the process.
This gives Waitrose absolute clarity of where the food comes from, is that made from horse, or is it beef? It shows the provenance of food.
And this is where blockchain becomes so exciting, rather than become something consumers can’t understand or see, or just relegated to crypto, in the case of food security, it becomes a part of the marketing budget.
The accepted test bed for blockchain has been aligned with crypto, but food provenance is a market that affects everyone from the farmer to the slaughterhouse or the processing facility to packing and delivery. Blockchain can show everyone in the value chain where the food originated.
But blockchain can also be applied to any industry where there are a lot of raw materials that end up in the consumer’s hands. If we look at the fashion industry, the chain of manufacturing back to the sourcing of materials, whether it is Chanel or Primark, no one knows every step in that chain. Using blockchain will take the consumer through the whole process, field to store — the location of the field, growth data, who’s picking the cotton, the and weaving process all the way to sewing, packaging and distribution of the product into the stores and in the consumer’s closet.