How blockchain technology is changing the agriculture industry

Megan Ray Nichols
May 28th 2018

Blockchain is useful for more than cryptocurrency. It’s revolutionizing industry after industry. Next, it may change the way we get our food.

The agriculture industry is complex. The process of getting an item to the consumer involves a huge number of parties from farmers to shippers to processors to retailers. This complexity makes it difficult to track and manage, but blockchain has started to change that.

Increased Food Safety

When a food-borne illness outbreak occurs, stores need to quickly remove items from the shelf to stop it from spreading. Identifying contaminated items is difficult, though, when food passes through so many hands. One item might also contain ingredients from various farms around the country.

In the end, to stay on the safe side, most stores end up throwing away more than they needed to. This costs businesses and consumers lots of money.

With blockchain, however, they would have a detailed record of an item’s origins. Every point in the supply chain from farm to processor to store would log information in the blockchain about the item, enabling the store to more easily track down the affected items.

Reduced Food Fraud

This capability would also prove useful for verifying the origins of food products. It’s difficult to know whether labels like organic, grass-fed, cage-free and fair trade are really accurate when food moves through such a complex supply chain. One player in this chain rarely has the full story.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General even recently warned that fake organic produce could make its way into U.S. stores.

With blockchain in the picture, though, it’d be much easier to trace this food back to its origins to verify its labeling. Consumers could even potentially use a smartphone app to check the original individual products in the store.

Improve Payment Assurance

Blockchain could also help correct issues regarding payments to farmers. It’s difficult for farmers to know if they receive a fair price for their crops, especially when buyers and processors falsify reporting.

Small farmers around the world also struggle with buyers who don’t keep price contracts when prices change. Those that do keep contracts, sometimes delay payments, which can cause financial catastrophe for a small farming operation.

Since through the use of blockchain, every party sees the same information, farmers could have confidence that they receive a fair price. Consumers, too, could verify this when buying products.

Do you know where the food on your table really came from? Chances are you don’t, but that won’t be the case anymore if the agriculture industry widely adopts the use of blockchain. Doing so would improve food safety, transparency and efficiency in agriculture.

Image via Unlock Blockchain.

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