Beefing up food security with blockchain

By on 5 December, 2017

A new Queensland University of Technology research initiative will be the first to apply blockchain technology to the Australian beef industry. 

BeefLedger, the first project of the QUT-based Food Agility CRC, will use an Ether-based token to track transactions throughout the supply chain, aiming to provide a rock-solid accountability platform for Australian beef in domestic and international markets.

“The BeefLedger Token, or BLT, is being developed as part of the design and implementation of the world’s first application of distributed ledger or blockchain technology to the entire beef supply chain,” QUT’s Professor Foth said, during a presentation at Gardens Point campus on December 4.

“The BLT will power the BeefLedger blockchain and provide users with the value-added benefits of access to credentialed provenance data, sale history, consumer feedback insights, disease prevention, streamlining payments, and heightened food security. So whether you are a farmer, a supermarket, a butcher, a restaurateur, a consumer or another interested party — you will be able to access the entire history of the meat electronically by scanning a barcode or QR Code.”

Professor Foth said BeefLedger would also return benefits to communities in regional Australia as credentialed food provenance lifts the veil between producers and consumers.

“What we hope to see is a fairer and more sustainable supply chain, which is better for everyone – including regional communities – over the long run,” he said.

Blockchain, sometimes referred to as ‘distributed ledger’ technology, is a secure form of data storage and transmission that is inherently resistant to data modification. Blockchains are strings of cryptographically secured data packages known as blocks, which contains a link to the previous block along with timestamp and transaction data. Data in a single block cannot be modified without updating all subsequent blocks. Peer-to-peer, collective verification systems for new blocks are typically employed, meaning that all entities in the network share access to the blockchain, and must all agree to verify any new transactions.

The combination of these elements essentially means that all actors in a network must agree on any changes to the record of blocks, and the system can only operate with all parties using the same chain of blocks — making blockchain-based systems incredibly difficult to manipulate.

Warwick Powell, CEO of BeefLedger Limited, joined Professor Foth at the presentation, adding that BeefLedger was designed to be a wholesale data platform for driving value growth for the supply chain as a whole, with the aim of delivering additional income to producers.

“Our aim is to empower producers to serve the growing middle class markets of Asia, in particular China, and meet the market’s increasing expectations around food provenance and safety,” Mr Powell said.

“Beef is an increasingly high-risk industry in terms of brand so it’s critical to be able to prove it is top-quality Australian beef and not a product from a country that has had an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. BeefLedger supports the strong reputation Australian beef producers already enjoy as safe, clean and green suppliers. Our research in China demonstrates consumers will pay premiums for high levels of security and the value that food provenance can add to the consumer experience.”

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