Can Blockchain Technology Really Improve the Food Supply Chain?

Today, some bullish tech prospectors believe that blockchain technology has the power to transform the entire food industry by increasing efficiency, transparency and collaboration. They say that a consumer could be able to trace the source of their lettuce in mere seconds, a shipper could see if a truck is full before scheduling a delivery, while the grocery store could verify if a carton of eggs is actually cage-free.

However, as blockchain technology gets closer to making its marketplace debut in the food system, it’s essential to scrutinize just how this technology will actually operate.

Seeing as Asgardia could be implementing blockchain technology to back their own cryptocurrency, SOLAR, the space nation has an interest in the fair and unbiased analysis of this technology.

Blockchain began as part of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, yet the technology in the cryptocurrency context is different from how it’s being used in the food space. When it comes to blockchain for Bitcoin the tech is an immutable digital ledger that works via a consensus of computer systems.

To gain a unit of cryptocurrency computers on the Bitcoin blockchain are basically racing to correctly solve a calculation. Once the calculation is solved the unit of cryptocurrency and a block of data is added to the chain. However, the massive numbers of computer systems on the Bitcoin blockchain result in a tremendous energy cost, a feature that would be detrimental in the agriculture space, where farmers need to grow more and use less.

If you’ve been following the news you may have heard about the Walmart-IBM blockchain. This system is far more limited in scale and it’s only open to those in Walmart’s leafy green food supply chain. Therefore, this should equate to hundreds of users, not tens of thousands. Thus, there will be fewer digital additions to the data chain, which means fewer verification nodes and, most significantly, far less energy expended overall. What’s more, the IBM system isn’t trustless since its members are known to each other in the supply chain.

In short, blockchain is a digital ledger, which is simply a digitized record of whatever data is added by its members, with no way to verify the accuracy of the underlying data itself since the truth of that data isn’t actually evaluated. This means there’s no aspect of blockchain technology that can make sure that the cage-free egg is really cage-free or that the lettuce is actually free from contamination.

However, this technology still has advantages for Walmart. The blockchain will be used to let stakeholders know that a particular head of lettuce came from a certain harvest on a specific farm, so if a consumer gets sick, government investigators will be able to investigate faster, instead of chasing a paper trail for days. The investigators can get to the source of a contaminated head of lettuce within seconds, which should mean less wasted produce, fewer sick people and more trust in the food system.

When it comes to transforming the food industry. Blockchain alone might not be the best answer. However, this technology starts to reach its full potential when it’s used in combination with other technologies and systems. For example, blockchain can be implemented for food traceability, while producers put other systems into places such as enhanced water testing mechanisms or increasing buffer zones between leafy green growers and livestock operations.

When used in conjunction with sensors and precision delivery systems for pesticide and water, which are all connected to a network, as with the Internet of Things, then blockchain can be used to collect a host of data and use it in the field.

Are you intrigued by the potential of blockchain technology? Do you think the future of technology will bring us closer to living in space? Then join Asgardia today and connect with other like-minded people.

When preparing news, materials from the following publications were used:


Image Credit: LuckyStep / Shutterstock


Become a Citizen