Food tracking on the blockchain has just received a major boost thanks to the research carried out by the University of Wyoming. A recent announcement from the university has revealed that a blockchain based application has been developed which has the capacity to potentially transform the way food is shipped and tracked all over the world.
This application was pioneered by University of Wyoming computer science student Kip DeCastro, who worked with BeefChain Philip Schlum to build a blockchain code for tracking a shipment of Wyoming beef to Taiwan back in December last year.
It is a well-known fact that the supply chain and logistics industry is interested in blockchain technology because of its ability to track data as well as its immutability and transparency characteristics. However, it appears that these same attributes are bringing the food industry into the blockchain game.
The University of Wyoming has stated that blockchain technology is viable for food traceability because the ledger system allows for safe and secure transmission of data. These benefits are valuable not only to improve trust within the industry but also to greatly enhance food safety.
BeefChain Launches Food Tracking on the Blockchain
BeefChain, a Wyoming based company, empowers ranchers by allowing them to receive top pricing for their premium beef thanks to their ability to provide their clients with unique animal identification as well as accurate beef provenance giving consumers assurance of the meat quality.
Speaking on the collaborative effort with the university, BeefChain’s founder and CEO, Rob Jennings had this to say:
“The University of Wyoming was integral in making this trial shipment a success […]. As a combined effort of the Department of Computer Science, and the colleges of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Business, this project highlighted the strengths of each department and their faculty and graduates. We look forward to working with the university as BeefChain continues to grow.”
According to Jennings, this effort was the first shipment of beef from the US to Asia tracked via blockchain technology.
How does Beef Provenance Work?
To achieve beef provenance, BeefChain utilized blockchain technology in combination with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) labels. First of all, beef raised in Murraymere Farms in Powell, Wyoming were packaged in containers tagged with RFID labels before they were transported to a five-star dining establishment in Taipei, Taiwan.
Each RFID label is equipped with a unique digital identifier that allows the beef containers to be tracked as it moves along the supply chain. By adopting this approach, food tracking on the blockchain is now possible, enabling each supply chain stakeholder to trace food items from the processing stage to the delivery to the consumers.
In addition to the collaborative work with BeefChain, researchers at the University of Wyoming partnered with Avery Dennison, a company specializing in adhesive technologies and packaging materials that provided the RFID labels.
According to Avery Dennison RFID Vice President and General Manager Francisco Melo:
“RFID is setting the foundations for blockchain integration in the food industry. Enabling farmers and businesses to guarantee the provenance of a product will mean greater improvements for food safety, product differentiation, and enhanced consumer experience.”
Blockchain and RFID: an Ideal Technology Combination
Blockchain technology is gaining traction within the food industry. Companies like IBM and Walmart are also working on similar projects for tracking different kinds of agricultural products. More innovation within this space has prompted agro-based upstarts to begin considering blockchain for a variety of use-cases. However, when it comes to food traceability, blockchain cannot do it alone.
Supplementary technologies like RFID labels which collect data on food items are necessary. RFID labels working in tandem with blockchain technology could create new and efficient systems for tracking food products as they move through global supply chains. This was confirmed by the success of the BeefChain partnership with the University of Wyoming and other similar pilot projects.
Jennings also highlighted the importance of RFID integration. According to him:
“Partnering with Avery Dennison on this pioneering shipment of Wyoming beef was crucial for BeefChain […]. Avery’s cutting-edge RFID labels guaranteed our ability to trace the product through the entire supply chain and record the data in our digital ledger.”