This article throws light upon the challenges faced by the Agri-food businesses around the globe especially in the developing and underdeveloped economies and how Blockchain technology is the road ahead for overcoming challenges of the industry from farm to fork.
Originally, the processing of raw materials and the storing of perishable commodities used for food preparation was carried on a family or artisan scale. However, it was only after the industrial revolution when agri-food came into existence. Today, the agri-food industry is situated at the center of a very important economic complex that we call the “food system”, the purpose of which is to feed populations, mostly through a system of market relationships (Source: Rastoin and Ghersi, 2010).
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It is one of the most crucial sectors for global economic growth ,accounting for one third of the global GDP and employing about 30% of the global workforce
With the change in consumer preferences and increasing health and safety consciousness, the current demands of the agri-food industry is increasing. World agriculture is facing numerous challenges and the agri-food industry must:
- Improve efficiency by reducing supply chain costs.
- Adjust to the ever-changing needs of consumers from cereal-based to animal, fruit and vegetable products.
- Raise farmers’ income and thereby preventing their exploitation.
- Adopt and promote sustainable agricultural practices.
- Meet high-quality food and farming standards.
Challenges of Agri-food Supply Chain
The food industry is highly adulterated and millions of lives are lost every year.
When it comes to its supply chain connectivity and transparency, it is far from being perfect. It is estimated that the cost of the operating supply chain, makes up two-thirds of the final cost of goods, while 7% of the global value of trade is absorbed by the costs of documents alone (Niforos 2017). Agriculture supply chains have substantial inefficiencies and every player suffers a lot, starting from the farmers to the consumers.
The agriculture supply chain is complex, opaque and dogged by many challenges:
- It incurs a lot of risk because it depends on difficult-to-control factors(weather, pests and diseases).
- It lacks traceability of produce because of technological backwardness and unorganized nature.
- The settlement of transaction is very slow and often labor-intensive.
- Involvement of many middlemen or intermediaries leads to exploitation of the farmers.
- Increased food adulteration which leads to deaths and diseases.
The Way Ahead
Both private and public sectors are looking for ways to improve efficiency and reducing the high cost of moving goods along their supply chain. The use of IoT, AI and cloud computing are making the supply chain digitized. However, The Decentralized ledger technology (DLT) or Blockchain Technology has the greatest potential to make the agri-food supply chain completely transparent thereby improving efficiency and providing operational excellence by saving billions of dollars.
In a majority of countries, the agri-food industry is primarily the largest subsection of the manufacturing industries, representing 10% to 30% of this sector.
Blockchain ensures improved efficiency and increased customer loyalty by helping in the following ways:
- Providing Traceability and Transparency:
The decentralized technology provides perfect real-time tracking of the produce from farm to fork -with the help of IoT. This provides legal accountability of the counterfeit products or any fraudulent behavior in any of the processes along the agri-food supply chain. The tracking of the authenticity of the products ensures customer loyalty and trust.
QR codes, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips, NFC sensors, crypto-anchors are the most promising devices which are used for tracking of the produce.
2. Ensuring Food Safety
Since immutable data is available across the supply chain, the companies are bound to meet the prescribed safety and quality standards. Data on the Quality (freshness, protection, geographical indications), safety (health, risk management) and sustainability (organic, fair trade) are available. Blockchain helps agencies and the government easily, confidentially issue export certifications which otherwise takes months. In case of an outbreak of an animal or plant disease, contaminated agri-food products or food fraud, Blockchain enables businesses and regulators to trace or pinpoint contaminated or fraudulent products more quickly and less wastefully.
3. Improving the efficiency of trade finance
The current method of trade finance is labor-intensive and the slow and costly processes of the financial institutions accounts for a lot of inefficiencies. Transactions include multiple copies of agreements between the shipper’s banks and receiver’s banks, as well as agreements on the value of the shipment and its loading procedures.
The lengthy intervals of price settlements delays the delivery and lock up billions of dollars. Blockchain era uses smart contracts to auto-execute the agreement of bills in real-time, by first valuing the transport, then verifying the consumer has sufficient funds and ultimately securing the budget in the customer’s pending delivery. Once the physical shipping is made, ownership for the grain is transferred to the buyer as the payment is concurrently settled from the reserved funds(Source: Fintech Australia, 2016). This eliminates the counterparty risk and frees up the working capital.
4.Driving agriculture insurance:
Talk about the most complex insurance, Agriculture insurance is the first in the list — because of illiteracy and its dependence on the natural factors.
In most of the countries, most of the farmers do not have access to the insurance policies and the farmers which already have the access, the policies are paper-intensive, rely on the manual labor to verify the claims which ultimately increases the cost and takes a lot of time to get the sum assured. Blockchain along with IoT can completely digitize the insurance process and make it easier and faster.
At the right time, some international players in the food industry upgrade their standards and increasing trust with consumers, have adopted blockchain technology. There are so many names like Neogen Corporation, which is a $3.75 B company have taken this technology to scale businesses, and there are so many development companies that can provide you a solution to your business. QuillTrace offers a full packed supply chain management platform backed by blockchain, helps you to increase your business revenue and build customer loyalty.
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