Using blockchain to optimize food supplies & consumption
There couldn’t be a more uncomfortable reality than this – rapid technological advancements and hunger coexist among us. Every day, we read about how digital transformation is elevating underprivileged people such as in the Middle East. There’s an extensive bank of use cases hailing the arrival of ‘digital’ and that we could be marching closer to the ‘perfect world’. And yet, the World Food Program finds that nearly 820 million people go to bed empty stomachs. 820 million! How scary is that?
What’s scarier is the finding from the UN that suggests there’s no shortage of food. The world’s vast lands are producing enough of it. But, the opaque (and corrupt) food supply chain is not bridging the gaps to the extent it could. As per the UN, 14% of all food is lost between the harvest and the stores.
So there’s one part of the world that produces more than required food supplies while on the other, there are a billion people left to starve. In between, we have an inefficient supply chain that has to undergo total revamping. While we are at it, blockchain is a solution that not only digitizes the food supply chain but also enables 100% automation and transparency of all the stakeholders involved. The distributed ledger enables peer-to-peer exchange of data & value based on the rules governed by smart contracts.
Among actual services, there’s IBM’s Hyperledger blockchain that is built around resolving issues of food loss and fraud. There’s also Consensys, whose supply chain solution over Ethereum blockchain enables the provenance of consumer goods including food supplies. Now, all these solutions focus on the farm-to-store supply chain. That’s great but not the optimal implementation of blockchain. The beauty of a DLT lies with its power to store immutable records and Owen Miller, founder of the Non-Human Party wants to put it to greater use.
“Every human body is different from another and the impact of different food items and even different farms could be different on different bodies. That’s what we are trying to understand”.
From Farms to Mind & Strength: Total Transparency of Food Data
Blockchains, along with smart contracts, could automate the entire life cycle of food from farms to the belly. Since the operational logic of a Dapp is written in an immutable contract, it brings transparency. Everyone on the network has access to the proceedings while no one has the authority to make changes in the ledger unless the entire governing community agrees to it. Besides making the entire process efficient, food supply over blockchain assures the following:
- Food Freshness: Ensure freshness by continuously evaluating the shelf life.
- Food Fraud: Immutable data ledger makes all changes transparent.
- Sustainability: Helps in ensuring the expected quality for a longer period of time.
- Avoid Wastage: Identify hotspots of food wastage.
Now, food & agriculture are a complex industrial landscape including multiple stakeholders. Supply Chain & logistics, farmer procurement contractors, builders, finance, etc. are all tied together to drive one of the world’s largest sectors. As we all know, it is difficult to avoid falling prey to opaque processing, fraud, unforeseen costing and climate damage beyond all bounds. When such an ecosystem is deployed over a decentralized network (such as a blockchain) then most of these issues are resolved to a larger extent.
Miller, who is preparing to contest the upcoming state election in New South Wales (Australia) in 2023, believes that the prevalence of unfit societies can be blamed on the opacity of the food supply chain.
He believes that blockchain could be put to greater use for tracing the journey of food supplies from the farm-to-retail shelf. With data health metric insights as captured by ubiquitous wearable sensors, the impact of a specific farm produce on a specific human body would provide insightful personalized nutrition plans.
Through the idea of nationality-as-a-service, the party is working towards building a community of citizens who are fitter, smarter and generally healthier than other people.
Other impressive use cases in this direction
Cardano’s smart contracting insurance solution is protecting farmers from damage losses due to extreme weather conditions. So the smart contract deployed over a blockchain has predefined conditions about the payment to be released to the farmers in different scenarios. In events of extreme climatic conditions such as a drought or floods, when the readings breach a certain level, the insurance module over the smart contract automatically releases payments to the farmers.
World Food Programme (WFP) used blockchain in Azraq Camp (Jordan) to help 10,000 refugees pay for their food. The blockchain platform records all assets & entitlements of the refugees.
Working Towards a Fitter & Smarter Society
As discussed so far, hunger is just one big aftermath of inefficient food supplies. But there are other concerns that deserve our attention. We have to build futuristic solutions that are more than just connected digital platforms. While there are a number of technologies, blockchain is what ties it together. It’s time to actualize its true potential.