Fairfood’s blockchain traces food “back to its genesis” for effective brand storytelling
05 May 2020 --- Dutch NGO Fairfood has launched a new blockchain-enabled transparency and traceability platform, Trace, to track food back to its origin and share product stories, tapping into the storytelling trend. Adopting a banner of “radical transparency,” the organization aims to empower farmers with its user-friendly platform. Trace is positioned as an accessible and affordable tool, allowing food businesses large and small to uncover their supply chain and, with that, possible socio-economic issues.
“Give it another ten years and all of the world’s food will be traceable and transparent,” underscores van Gils. “Blockchain simply comes in as a very handy tool to realize that. Currently we see that our food chains are splintered. Due to a lack of trust, agri-food actors are unwilling to share information with each other, leading to disconnected data silos in every step of a supply chain,” says Marten van Gils, Director Digital Innovation at Fairfood, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“Trace is a simple to use SaaS [Software as a Service] platform that allows any food brand to apply transparency on their product chains and start tracing their products – even when they don’t know their supply chain yet. They sign up and invite their suppliers consecutively until reaching the farmers at the start of the chain,” he details.
The tool is specifically made to also sign up farmers that only have access to a basic mobile phone using SMS. Once the chain is complete, users can start sending digital batches of goods to each other on a public blockchain, using our easy to use interface. “Every batch automatically generates a QR code which links to a consumer-friendly interface that displays the whole journey of the product, allowing for easy storytelling,” van Gils details.
Indeed, “Storytelling: Winning With Words” has been crowned by Innova Market Insights as the Top Trend for 2020 expected to elevate product branding. Manufacturers this year are increasingly focusing on ingredient provenance and brand storytelling platforms in order to emphasize the taste and quality of their products, as well as their uniqueness and sustainability efforts.
Blockchain can be used not only as a tool to easily synchronize and connect these data silos, but also to allow anyone to choose who gets access to which information under which conditions, giving competing food brands or supply chains partners the trust needed to cooperate on one platform.
The use of blockchain is increasingly leveraged by businesses in the agri-food sector, particularly in ensuring the transparency of trade, while expediting commerce.The technology is being leveraged by Cargill in the cross-continental trade of wheat to help address two primary industry challenges related to COVID-19 – the speed of trade and curbing the actual spread of disease.
“We already see experts around the world advocating for blockchain technology to make our supply chains more resilient and transparent in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. As consumers will also continue to demand more and more transparency, we foresee that this trend will continue until all at risk supply chains – including coffee, vanilla and cocoa – will adopt traceability solutions, most likely using blockchain technology for the reasons mentioned above,” says van Gills.
“At some point, traceability will become the new norm and companies that can’t proof themselves to be trustworthily sustainable and fair won’t be trusted any longer, he concludes.”
The ease of transparency
“Every transaction originating from a farmer can be verified by the farmers themselves using SMS. Ultimately, the price paid to the farmers can be benchmarked with a living income study by us or one of our partners. This way, the end consumer could potentially hear directly from the farmers whether they received a fair pay for their produce or not. In contrast to other platforms, Trace is not a complex ERP system with an endless amount of options and complex interfaces. It is a tool specifically designed to make blockchain enabled farmer to consumer traceability accessible for anyone, both large and small,” explains van Gils.
“The only way to reach 100 percent transparency is to make both transparency and traceability a common practice and standard in every food business,” he remarks. “We want to make smart innovations available for all.”
Ultimately, the organization underscores that technologies like blockchain will allow us to answer questions such as, “Who are the people behind our food? Are they making a decent living?”
Safe and secure traceability
Trace is a blockchain-enabled platform, which allows for a secure way of implementing transparency in any business. The system allows people to store and manage data in a safe way as the transactions are not controlled by one entity. Rather, it is a network of people or “nodes” that represent the whole chain; only after a transaction is done – and it includes a timeframe and a name – will the transaction be official and labeled.
“We do not want someone to control the network, because then you end up at the same place where you started – a tainted food system controlled by the big corporations,” says van Gils. “As the initiators of the application, we do not control the data; Trace is just the platform that creates and facilitates the initial interaction between the supply chain partners.”
The utility of Trace
Trabocca, a Dutch coffee importing company, is one of the first users of the new platform. With its mission to provide high-quality, poverty-free coffee to roasters worldwide, the company sees Trace as a handy tool. “Blockchain allows for a degree of transparency that is new to our company, making Trace an advantageous tool not only for our roasters, but also for consumers and farmers,” says Sander Reuderink, Commercial Director.
The company is going to use Trace to “give ourselves and our customers a transparent answer to the question whether our coffee farmers earn a living income. That is: do they earn enough to take care of themselves and their families.”
Ultimately, farmers also should reap the benefit of the technology used as a part of Trabocca’s sustainability roadmap. Tesfaye Bekele, coffee farmer in Ethiopia, emphasizes that “the information that becomes available, could encourage farmers to be confident in what prices are adequate for different qualities of coffee, incentivizing them to put quality over quantity.”
By Benjamin Ferrer
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