The Blockchain of Dairy
The brainchild of the financial industry, blockchain initially emerged as a way to manage enormous amounts of data transactions. Today, the technology is being widely adopted in other industries, including the food industry.
Simply put, a blockchain is an online transaction ledger where information can be stored. According to Arthur Linuma, president and co-founder of ISBX a leading blockchain development agency, these blocks of information cannot be edited, adjusted or changed. New data is added to old in blocks, which forms a data chain. Entities that wish to add data to a specific blockchain must go through a series of validation processes, reducing the chance that a hacker could alter the data.
Blockchain technology has become popular because it’s a decentralized way for many users to contribute to and access data in real time. This creates transparency, especially for those who want to see the data to validate anything that the data represents.
This has the potential for wide applications in the food industry, according to Raja Ramachandran, CEO of Ripe.io, a company at the forefront of creating blockchain technology in the food industry. Ripe.io started with a blockchain system in the tomato industry, and is working with Dairy Farmers of America to create a system in the dairy industry.
Dairy is ideal for blockchain technology because of the amount of data collected at each point of the supply chain, starting at the herd level. Data can be recorded at any point in the process from when the milk was produced on the farm all the way up to the time the milk bottle is on the store shelf, Ramachandran says.
“Blockchain could automate and sequence information by time stamp to create a full record for any item,” he says.
At the farm, data could be attached to a milk shipment, including when it was picked up and any lab work that goes with it. It’s even feasible that production practices could be attached with the data, including any animal welfare activities, environmental practices, carbon footprint impacts, antibiotic applications and so forth.
Once it leaves the dairy, each stop along the product production chain would have another set of data that could be attached with that specific load of milk.
“Once that product hits the final customer, that customer could have access to the complete ledger of data for that product,” Ramachandran says adding that how that information is used depends on the customer and what value they want to attach to the information. “Individual customer brands have to use the blockchain process to bring value back through the supply chain.”
Providing this transparency throughout the production chain also allows for enhanced food quality through better traceability, especially in the event of a food recall. Using the blockchain technology companies could get to the source of the food quality issue in a matter of hours rather than days, Ramachandran says.
This system could also help producers understand what happens to their milk once it leaves the farm, Ramachandran says, and allow them to make adjustments based on what the final customer demands that enhance the value of their product.
Some companies in Europe are already utilizing blockchain technology to trace product back to the dairy. To see a video of how a package of Greek yogurt could be traced back to the farm, click here.
If you want to learn more about blockchain technology, come to the MILK Business Conference where Raja Ramachandran will talk in detail about blockchain opportunities in the dairy industry.
Attend 2018 MILK Business Conference