What does blockchain mean for fresh produce?

 

Blockchain offers a range of benefits for the fresh produce industry. It promises greater transparency and traceability in supply chains; implicating improved productivity and greater food safety. By providing logistical insight, and increased control over produce; blockchain could help fresh produce businesses reduce costs, scale production, and invest in focused growth.

 

What is blockchain in fresh produce?

In short, blockchain is a digital platform that records transactions in a verifiable, and permanent way. As a transaction occurs it is recorded on a shared ledger. The shared ledger is distributed across the entire ‘chain’ (of users), meaning the data is distributed and stored instantaneously across the network. This means that a transaction can be trusted as its details are verified by the network at large.

With blockchain, the movement of fresh produce is recorded at each hand-off. If, for example, a container of avocados are loaded for transit, the handler will log key data; such as location, time and provenance. As every handler will enter this data, every item will have a full, traceable history with records at every point of its journey from farm to store. This data can be shared to designated participants in the blockchain, and helps build consensus. 

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How will blockchain impact fresh produce businesses?

Blockchain will benefit growers, pickers, and packers by making them more efficient. For fresh produce businesses, this could mean speedier, more reliable supply chains - helping them to improve customer loyalty and maximise sales.

“Fresh produce can spend 50% of its life in transit.”
- Logistics Bureau  

The longer fresh produce spends in transit, the greater the risk of defects such as discolouration and food-browning. Blockchain could provide an answer.

 

Traceability

With access to data charting the journey of fresh produce, growers can utilise data stored on the blockchain to identify slow-moving items or produce that lays dormant before collection. Moreover, being able to map supply lines could open the door to potential pooling opportunities, or to previously unknown routes.

It will also allow suppliers to manage demand more effectively. The very same data could be manipulated to identify issues such as overstocking or stock-outs will help ensure resources are utilised optimally and reduce the likelihood of wasted journeys or unnecessary loads.

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The technology will also reduce admin-overheads by automating documentation. Vital information - such as bill of lading, invoices and certificates - will be shared via the blockchain. This allows for quick hand-offs and decreases the likelihood of timely mistakes.

Ultimately, greater traceability and efficiency will make for quicker, more reliable supply chains - helping suppliers to improve relationships with retailers, and maximise profits.

With blockchain, suppliers are able to improve the safety and quality of produce.

 

Smart Contracts

While time and distance certainly affect the freshness of produce, variable conditions are another potential problem. Fresh goods are sensitive to temperature fluctuations and highly susceptible to contamination.

With blockchain, suppliers are able to implement smart contracts, which helps maximise freshness. A smart contract digitally facilitates, verifies, or enforces contract terms via the blockchain. Users can personalise a smart contract to suit their needs; a fresh food supplier might, for example, ascribe a temperature limit to fresh produce containers.

With an RFID sensor suppliers are able to track the temperature and humidity of conditions at each link in the supply chain. This gives suppliers access to historical data relaying conditions from an origin, through warehouses and carriers, all the way to the store.

With an RFID sensor, suppliers will be able to tell if a smart contract has been broken instantly. If, for example, the temperature of a container arrives in store above a prescribed temperature limit, suppliers will know and might penalise the previous carrier. This way, the root cause of defects can be identified and resolved quickly. This will help reduce the loss of produce as it moves through the supply chain.

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The RFID sensor will make each handler accountable to the next, and an attached smart contract will ensure handlers comply with the requirements stipulated by growers. This helps decrease waste without any need for a costly enforcement strategy. The ability to maintain produce as it moves along the supply chain will improve the quality of goods, meaning suppliers generate more value and increase profits.

Blockchain will allow for greater logistical and operational capacity; enabling suppliers to build efficiency, trust, and reliability into the foundation of their business. With the fundamentals covered, fresh produce businesses can scale-up and maximise gains.

 

LINKFRESH and Blockchain

For many years LINKFRESH has supported grower-to-retailer traceability, including GTIN adoption and PTI compliance. Blockchain represents a leap forward enabling LINKFRESH users to securely share their traceability data throughout the fresh produce supply chain.

Blockchain means our customers now have a secure and indelible way of publishing their traceability data to those that need it, such as retailers and other supply chain parties.

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