03 April 2019

"In – blockchain – veritas" – some applications of blockchain to the AgriFood sector


Jacopo Ronchi
Associate | IT

The deployment of blockchain technology (“BCT”) has come a long way since coming out first in the world of crypto-currency. Although BCT is growing rapidly, it is still hindered by uncertainty, hype and exaggeration and is a long way from being completely understood.

A potential way for BCT to undergo further development appears to be in its implementation on other fields. This includes in sectors where trust is paramount. This is because BCT is structured upon a growing list of records linked by digital cryptography one to another. Hence, the application of BCT to such fields and in pursuance of such purposes could be a way to empower the additional trust and certainty for consumer goods among the public.

A good example of such a new application could be the Agriculture and Food (“AgriFood”) field, where a certain degree of a lack of trust by the end consumers over the actual origin of the products could be addressed by the effective labelling of the production phases of such goods through BCT.

This digital certification carried out by BCT, would in the future be pivotal for dealing both with the ever-increasing demand by the end consumers of certainty over goods, as well as with the cases of misleading branding or adulteration of those consumer products.

Here are a few examples:

First, in 2017 the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality set up and funded the “blockchain for agrifood project”, This was aimed at improving the understanding o BCT and its impact on Agrifood. The project conducted a specific survey at supply chains, by building a case-study based on table grapes from South Africa monitored through an application that kept track of the status of such produce through the steps of the supply chain, which are accessible by the public through Github .

Whilst this does not provide a definitive answer to our matter, the findings of the study seem to indicate that BCT, when feasible in practical terms, can be transformative for the AgriFood sector supply chain by implying a different involvement of the relevant stakeholders, as well as an opportunity for the relevant stakeholders involved, which could find interesting for such sector to move towards a further technological refinement.

In a nutshell, BCT in AgriFood can be implemented to provide data to the relevant stakeholders (including end consumers by labelling) in order to, as stated in the Dutch Government project, “[…] keep business confidentiality, and propagate data effectively between the participants using blockchain technology […]”.

Second, and from a legislative standpoint, a further example is the ongoing growing involvement of BCT in Italy for the national Agrifood sector, notably and mostly for protecting the famous “Made in Italy” range of products and services.

On 20 February the Italian Official Gazette published Law no. 12/2019, converting Legislative Decree no. 135/2018, wherein article 8-ter clearly states that BCT, shall have the same legal value and effects as per article 41 of the EU Regulation 910/2014 (i.e. legal value as evidence in court proceedings, presumption of accuracy of the relevant indicated date and time, recognition with the same value in other EU Member States).

This measure is a part of the newly developed “National Blockchain Strategy” by the Government, for the nationwide implementation of BCT and artificial intelligence. Although it has just been kicked-off its activities, the overall future outlook looks promising in relation to establishing a national and unique means for implementing new technologies, like BCT, in different sectors of the economy of a developed State (along with tackling the relevant regulatory implications).

While public administration is slowly taking its first steps towards the wider adoption of BCT, the private AgriFood sector seems to be moving more quickly with the first applications of BCT by Italian winemakers underway.

A total of four winemakers have already decided to implement BCT for some wine labels. This will lead to QR-code labels which provide information on the production, bottling and ageing processes, along with the origin of the energy used throughout the wine-making process and the awards achieved by individuals wines.

Such BCT deployment has been provided by the “My Story” solution within the international certification platform Dnv Gl, based on the public BCT VeChainThor.

Applying BCT to AgriFood, and specifically winemaking is technically feasible and could add value to the relevant products. BCT can provide the reassurance that the wine being drunk not only tastes good but has also been produced the “right” way.

Jacopo Ronchi Associate | Milan

Category: Article