Blockchain. It’s the latest buzzword in agtech; speak to any innovator or industry body, and you’ll hear it. “In the future, everything will be running on blockchain,” they say. Yet no one seems to want to explain what that actually means for farmers. We consider “blockchain” a new word for “traceability.”
Blockchain technology allows us to put an identifying serial number or code on an item — say, a piece of grain or fruit. With that blockchain-based code, the provenance of that item can be followed all the way through its lifecycle from the farm to the consumer.
Remember the old “paddock to plate” slogan that was so popular years ago? Blockchain allows that kind of traceability but at a much finer level. It’s not just a question of which farm an animal came from and how its products got to the consumer’s kitchen. With blockchain, we’ll get information at a much more detailed and insightful scale.
Imagine this: a consumer scans a QR code on an apple. Their phone shows them not just which farm grew the fruit but which paddock — and which specific tree — it came from. We’ll know that individual tree because a robot will have coded the apple as soon as it picked it. That’s great for consumer awareness of the food chain and the quality of the food they’re eating. But what about the industry?
Blockchain will also allow traceability and record-keeping enhancements on the industry side. Our apple farmer has to complete certain actions on her farm, whether it’s applying fertiliser or using certain chemicals, pruning, or other management practices. And all of this will be able to be recorded on Blockchain. The farmer can prove that this fruit was sprayed with a certain product on these dates, which were outside of the withholding periods. All that data will be recorded and easily accessible, thanks to Blockchain.
All up, this technology we hear mentioned so often is just a way of tracing and record keeping at a much finer, more technical level than the old pocket notebook. The evolution of Blockchain is really the evolution of traceability. Don’t worry: give it five years, and there’ll be another new term people will throw around as the latest new thing!