Can blockchain technology support frictionless trade in agri-food?

Posted on: 16/03/2018

Applications for blockchain technology are to be discussed at an Agri-Tech East event on 24 April 2018 in Cambridge.

Smart agri-food chains offer the opportunity for innovation based on a deeper understanding of customer needs. One of the enabling technologies is blockchain, which provides a secure audit trail for transactions, providing evidence of the origin of produce and its cultivation, and also de-risking international trade.

Applications for this emerging technology are to be discussed at the Agri-Tech East event “Trust, Provenance and Blockchain – impacts and opportunities for agriculture” on 24 April 2018 in Cambridge, UK.

One of the speakers is Marcus de Wilde, Enterprise Lead at Applied Blockchain. He explains that blockchain technology supports trust and transparency within the agri-food industry as it creates a time-stamped, tamper-proof record of all transactions or ‘data events’ that occur between participants on a network.

He will be using a case-study about the cultivation and distribution of cannabis in North America to illustrate how blockchain can be used to meet the demands of regulators, consumers, supply chain relationships and financing.

Photo galleries are not available for content from the previous KTN website: we apologise for this.

International commodity markets can have a major impact on the profitability of agri-producers, and blockchain – which is the technology that underpins crypto-currencies and the tokenised exchange of value – can have a role here as Patrick Spens, Director of Assurance and Transformation at PWC, explains:

“Blockchain provides an instantaneous settlement of value and so facilitates smart contracts.

“For example: if a UK wholesaler has ordered a consignment of avocados from an organic farmer in Peru that agreement is codified. If the quality and quantity matches the contract then once the produce is loaded onto the plane it will automatically trigger payment of the supplier and insurance of the goods. Upon safe arrival to the UK warehouse the logistics will be settled. The audit trail is transparent and this provides proof of provenance to the end customers, who may be prepared to pay a premium for a fair-trade product.”

For Forbes Elworthy, CEO of Map of Agriculture, smart supply chains offer the potential for agri-food innovation. His company is a pioneer in real-time predictive marketing for agriculture. The market insights are based on data from 74,953 farms, with more than 4 million observations going back to the 1994 harvest with up to 150 layers of insight against each farm.

Map of Agriculture is running a project with beef farmers in the UK, in collaboration with a large restaurant chain, to promote sustainable farming.

Elworthy explains:

‚ÄúDue to the data landscape of the beef sector we are supplementing on-farm measures with third party data, such as remote sensing data. We help the farm aggregate this to measure the economic, environmental and ethical (‘3Es’) performance of their enterprises.

“Giving farmers access to market information allows them to provide a premium product, and it enables the restaurant chain to manage supply and ensure quality and provenance.”

Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of the membership organisation Agri-Tech East, comments that smart contracts will help to improve resilience and productivity in the system:

“The breakdown of the KFC supply chain a few weeks ago underlined the complexity behind delivering perishable goods within a tight time and with cost restraints. I am sure everyone from producers to retailers would gain from a better understanding of these emerging technologies.”

The Pollinator “Trust, Provenance and Blockchain – impacts and opportunities for agriculture” is to be held on 24 April at the Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge, Bateman Street, Cambridge CB2 1LR.

For more information please click here.


If you would like to discuss other opportunities for innovation in agri-food supply chains, you can contact KTN’s Agri-Food Team.

Share this article


Connect with Innovate UK Business Connect

Join Innovate UK Business Connect's mailing list to receive updates on funding opportunities, events and to access Innovate UK Business Connect's deep expertise. Please check your email to confirm your subscription and select your area(s) of interest.