Blockchain for the food industry—Wishful thinking or disruptive investment?

Omnichain Solutions in the News: In the past few months, Walmart, Bentonville, Ark., has shared plans to use blockchain to manage the traceability of mangos, spinach and lettuce. The Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), Kansas City, Mo., announced its own blockchain pilot aimed at connecting farmer-owners with customers. And, Alibaba Group, San Mateo, Calif., confirmed a new partnership with Chinese authorities focused on monitoring rice quality and brand authenticity.

While the hype surrounding blockchain continues to grow in the food and beverage industry, why is the industry only seeing a handful of implementations?

In fact, a survey of 600 executives conducted by PwC, UK, found that 84% of respondents are actively engaging with blockchain. But, only 15% have actually gone live with a project, with 52% still in research and development stages. What’s the hold-up? Unfortunately, mistrust often comes with any new, hyped technology.

Here’s why blockchain is more than just wishful thinking.

Rundown on blockchain

Bitcoin inventor and cryptocurrency pioneer Satoshi Nakamoto developed blockchain in 2009 as a way to track the exchange of Bitcoins. Each transaction is saved in cryptographic blocks on a public, distributed ledger within the network. No one can change the record of a transaction without changing all of the subsequent blocks, establishing trust and transparency between all connected parties. The secure and transparent design of blockchain makes it an ideal solution for industries challenged with managing multiple movements of commodities between widespread individuals or organizations.

Connecting the many pieces of the supply chain puzzle

Today’s food and beverage supply chain stretches from ingredient suppliers and farmers, manufacturing plants and distribution centers, to transportation providers, retail channel partners and back. It is a very complicated puzzle with many pieces. More often than not, each piece uses its own system to manage its respective role. For instance, production sites tend to use their own enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, which run independently from the ERP systems on the retail end. This makes it hard to work cohesively on many aspects of the food business.

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