While blockchain technology is usually associated with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, today some companies in the food industry are beginning to implement this tool to increase transparency, trust and consumer safety while reducing waste.
Many experts describe blockchain as a digital ledger. It is decentralized, meaning that no single individual or entity controls every computer on the blockchain network or the information entered onto the digital ledger. Every transaction along the supply chain is recorded on the ledger, time stamped, given a code or “hash,” and linked to the blockchain. All parties on the network — growers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers — can read the data in real time and add their own updates. And, almost without exception, the data, once entered, cannot be altered or erased.
“The information on the ledger is hashed using fairly standard encryption technologies,” says Christophe Uzureau, vice president and analyst at Gartner, a research and advisory firm in Stamford, Connecticut. Uzureau co-authored the book, “The Real Business of Blockchain,” with David Furlonger, a Gartner distinguished vice present and analyst.
“These hashes are virtually impossible to break, which helps maintain confidentiality over records,” says Uzureau, “and this is a step-up from helping to prevent [cyber] attacks that we’ve seen in other contexts such as Equifax, Yahoo, Ebay, MySpace, Target, Sony etc.”
Increasing Transparency and Trust
Traditionally, companies have relied on manual record keeping, which is susceptible to human error and even fraud. But an immutable blockchain network, combined with Internet of Things (IoT) technologies like drones, sensors, trackers and smart thermostats, can capture and collect critical data for the blockchain, giving grocers, restaurants and consumers more details about the origins of food, its freshness and authenticity.