When thinking of the benefits blockchain technology brings to various industries, the finance sector or industrial products are likely to profit the most from this innovation. However other industries, such as agriculture, that rely more on human service can still gain advantages from the increased transparency blockchain networks enhance.
In fact, last year IBM partnered with Nestle, Unilever, Tyson Foods and Walmart to utilize blockchain technology to increase traceability and tracking of certain products. As reported by the United Nations, the software company also works with Barilla where the two collaborate on tracking the pesto production cycle. Through a QR code, the customer can access all the details of its manufacturing. Another important development happened earlier this year. Walmart implemented a new policy that now requires its suppliers of lettuce, spinach and other green farms to join food tracking blockchain network.
There is a real opportunity for governments and insurance companies to utilize blockchain technology where it assists in land contracts. For example, in the Asia-Pacific region smart contracts on a blockchain network can automate and simplify insurance payouts. This would help farmers more easily facilitate payouts for natural disasters. In addition, these contracts would update continuously as reliable data entered on weather and soil yields. Blockchain technology would provide governments of an incorruptible ledger of land records which is especially useful in rural and poor areas. In fact, the Swedish government already started experimenting with this in a recent policy under their land-ownership authority, Lantmäteriet, believing the technology provides a secure way to have digital originals and reduce government expenses.
Similar to the Swedish government, other intergovernmental organizations also use this technology to streamline efficiency. The most prominent example of blockchain increasing transparency is with the United Nations Development Programme where they use the machinery for fertilizer subsidy disbursements to farmers. Right now the UN is operating in a small city, Panchkula, which is in the state of Haryana, India. The nation would serve as a good testing point since it is estimated that $700 million is being paid in bribes across land registrars, and the industry as a whole is filled with corruption. However, the UN hopes this project can be scaled to an even larger scale where the technology is used to help farmers in developing nations reclaim their property after national disasters.
The fisheries sector is another area where blockchain technology can improve resource management. One of the greatest threats to the marine ecosystem is unregulated and illegal fishing. Environmentalists and sustainable agriculturalists see a future where this automation tracks illegal fishing practices across a region. Already New Zealand partnered with the World WildLife fund in starting a pilot project to eliminate human rights abuse and unlawful fishing in the Pacific Islands’ tuna industry. As of right now, WWF-New Zealand, WWF-Australia and WWF-Fiji all teamed up with Consensys, a global blockchain venture studios, and other organizations to bring the project to Fiji. The fish will be tracked from vessel to market, and similar to the IBM partnership with Barilla, customers have access to all the details of the product through a QR code.
While the large corporations and government organizations in the agriculture industry look towards technology as a way to improve their best practices, there is no guarantee that this introduction will fix anything. There are some who believe the problem of food outbreaks is unsolvable without blockchain technology. This is because the problem lies with the people in organizations. One of these critics is Sarah Taber, a crop scientist from Fayateville, North Carolina. Taber’s main occupation is an auditor for vegetable and fruit growers and explains the problem, “In agriculture, there’s kind of a big fuzzy zone between bad record keeping and outright fraud.”
The farm workers are the most capable of spotting outbreaks and reporting them. However, due to the immigration raids, most farmers are worry about the consequences. Taber, who was a farm worker before becoming a crop scientist, illustrates the dilemma well when she says, “They’re clearly telling us ‘we’re dysfunctional’ [but]what everybody’s hearing is ‘oh we need better tools. ’”