Blockchain in the Food Supply Chain
ScienceSoft applies 10-year experience in building supply chain management software and proficiency in blockchain development to create robust blockchain solutions for the food supply chain.
Blockchain in the Food Supply Chain: The Essence
When used in the food supply chain, blockchain improves traceability of the food-related data and transactions, enables backtracking the food provenance in seconds rather than days, facilitates food safety and quality compliance verification, enhances protection of sensitive food supply chain data.
The global blockchain market for the food supply chain was estimated at $128.87 million in 2020. It is expected to reach $886.18 million by 2025 at a CAGR of 47.1%. The solid growth is mainly driven by the demand across the food industry for food supply chain transparency and facilitated traceability of food provenance to assure its authenticity, safety and high quality.
A sample architecture of blockchain-based food supply chain software ScienceSoft delivers
Blockchain for the food supply chain is built around a distributed ledger that contains data on all food supply chain transactions and events. The ledger is formed by timestamped and encrypted data blocks linked in chronological order. Each block holds a batch of transactions validated based on the pre-defined consensus protocol. Food supply chain participants interact with the blockchain ledger using the role-specific web and/or mobile applications.
Main user groups:
- Raw food suppliers transact data on the food origin and movement across the supply chain.
- Food manufacturers provide information on the food product ingredients and manufacturing processes.
- Food inspectors and certification entities verify documents on the product origin and quality.
- Transportation providers upload details on the location and storage conditions of food products in transit.
- Food product distributors trace food supply chain activities to assure responsible sourcing practices, food product quality and safety.
- End consumers access details on food products’ provenance to verify their authenticity.
Main use cases
Food supply chain control
End-to-end traceability of multi-party transactions across all food supply chain levels for streamlined food supply chain control with reduced disruption risks.
Food supplier selection
Recording data on food supplier pre-qualification, essential documents (licenses, certificates, etc.), performance indicators (on-time deliveries, quality claims, etc.) in a decentralized ledger for multi-party supplier data monitoring, transparent supplier scoring and selection.
Food safety control
Recording and monitoring data on farming practices, food product ingredients and their expiration dates, food storage and transportation conditions (temperature, humidity, etc.), and more to timely identify potential points of food spoilage and contamination and prevent the distribution of unsafe food.
Food quality control
Recording and monitoring data on the food quality control procedures across food processing, manufacturing, distribution, and other stages, automated compliance checks to assure high food product quality in accordance with global and internal quality standards.
Food claim management
Providing proof of food provenance and a full history of food supply chain transactions to resolve claim disputes (e.g., on food quality or authenticity) and minimize the risk of recalls.
Recording a full history of food products’ origin, movement, and transformation to assure accurate product labeling and maintain compliance with global and region-specific food labeling regulations.
Food fraud prevention
Tracing and storing data on the food origin and chain of custody to easily verify food authenticity and prevent fraud and counterfeiting.
All transactions between the food supply chain participants and relevant food product data from the connected systems (e.g., data on food manufacturing processes and product ingredients from ERP, sensor data on food storage conditions) are automatically validated, timestamped and recorded in blockchain.
Food supply chain traceability
A distributed ledger available to all food supply chain participants provides an immutable record and real-time view of all transactions between the involved parties, including food purchase orders, transfer of ownership, transfer of responsibility, payments, recalls, and more.
Food provenance tracking
Blockchain stores a complete history of data on a food product journey from its origin through manufacturing, storage, transportation, and quality control processes to end consumers. Once recorded, food provenance data becomes immutable and can be accessed at any point.
QR code-enabled access to the blockchain data
End consumers can easily access food provenance data, certificates of origin and testing documentation stored in blockchain with their smartphones by scanning a QR code on the product package.
Real-time monitoring of food location, transportation and storage conditions
Combined with IoT technology, blockchain allows the food supply chain participants to monitor real-time location, transportation and storage conditions (temperature, humidity, vibration, etc.) for food products in transit and in the warehouse. The involved parties are automatically notified in case of non-compliant food logistics or conditions.
A full audit trail for the food supply chain documents
Blockchain records and stores data on all manipulations across the food supply chain documents, including those assuring the food supplier qualification (e.g., accreditations, licenses), food product origin and quality (e.g., certificates of origin, certificates of analysis), food product ownership transfer (e.g., bills of lading, receipts), and more.
Self-executing protocols (smart contracts) automatically enforce fixed actions, pre-agreed by the food supply chain participants, upon the pre-defined events (e.g., making a payment to the supplier upon product delivery, checking food safety compliance against required safety standards during food farming, processing, manufacturing).
The food supply chain data integrity is achieved with hashing. Each blockchain data block has an automatically generated unique cryptographic identifier (a hash value) and contains the hash value of the previous block. If data stored in one block is modified, the hash value in this and all subsequent blocks will change, which makes the data tamper-evident.
Configurable user access rules
The food supply chains mainly rely on permissioned blockchains, where the rights to transact, view or share particular data can be configured for various food supply chain participants (e.g., suppliers, manufacturers, retailers).
Consensus-based data validation
In permissioned blockchains, consensus on transactions validation and their storage in a particular order is achieved via selective endorsement, where only known and trusted food supply chain members with special rights can validate the transactions.
Success Stories of Blockchain in the Food Supply Chain
IBM Food Trust drastically reduces the time to collect food provenance data
In 2017, IBM launched IBM Food Trust, a blockchain-based food supply chain platform to facilitate food provenance traceability and safety control. The platform provides a full history of transactions related to the supplied products, streamlines the management of food provenance documents, and offers built-in food supply chain analytics.
According to early tests conducted by Walmart, one of the users of IBM Food Trust, the solution helped the company reduce the time required to backtrack goods provenance from 7 days to 2.2 seconds. By 2021, Walmart relied on IBM Food Trust to trace 25+ food product groups. The platform enables Walmart to quickly access information on food farming, storage, transportation conditions, and quality control procedures and provide governmental regulators with detailed information on the point of potential food contamination within an hour.
A food traceability startup raised $5.5 mln in 4 years
A French startup has developed Connecting Food, a blockchain-based platform for real-time monitoring of the food supply chain activities and compliance. The platform facilitates food provenance traceability, offers QR code-based access to the food product information, indicates points of the food supply chain non-compliance, prevents recalls, and reduces food wastage.
The startup raised $5.5+ million in funding from 2016 to 2020. In 2021, Connecting Food was used by 30+ large food manufacturing and selling businesses, including the global snack food producer Mondelez, the multi-national bakery giant Europastry, and the Italian retailer Coop Italia.
Technology Stack for Blockchain Implementation
To deliver reliable blockchain-based food supply chain solutions, ScienceSoft relies on a range of mature technologies, including:
Use: to speed up blockchain development while ensuring reliable application quality.
Blockchain cloud services
Use: to easily build, host, and manage the blockchain environment.
Use: to containerize blockchain components for streamlined testing, deployment, and updates.
Challenge #1: Analysis of the food supply chain data
Blockchain technology cannot provide the advanced analytics required for effective food supply chain management.
Check out the solution
ScienceSoft assists in implementing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies to extend the blockchain solution capabilities. With AI and ML, blockchain network participants can run a comprehensive analysis of stored food supply chain data to get accurate forecasts of food ingredients demand, lead time, food expiration dates, and more. The AI-powered blockchain solution can provide intelligent recommendations, e.g., on optimal raw food supply to reduce inventory carrying costs and minimize food wastage.
Challenge #2: Protection of the food supply chain information
Although the permissioned blockchain for the food supply chain provides advanced data security, it can be susceptible to certain types of cyberthreats, such as routing attacks, phishing attacks, and code exploitation.
Check out the solution
ScienceSoft augments the blockchain-based food supply chain solution with additional cybersecurity mechanisms (e.g., intelligent fraud detection algorithms) and performs periodic network vulnerability scanning to minimize cybersecurity risks. Also, we help design effective blockchain data backup protocols, thoroughly vet smart contract code for bugs before implementation, and provide the solution users with cybersecurity guides.
The cost of blockchain development varies greatly depending on:
- Blockchain network type (private, consortium, hybrid).
- The number and complexity of a solution’s functional modules, including smart contracts.
- The number and complexity of web and/or mobile applications for various user groups (e.g., farmers, manufacturers, distributors, end consumers) to interact with the blockchain solution.
- The number and complexity of integrations with relevant software (e.g., ERP, accounting software, selling platforms), which influences integration API development.
- Blockchain solution availability, performance and security requirements.
- Blockchain-to-blockchain interoperability capabilities.
- The required deliverable (PoC, MVP, a full-scale solution), which influences the duration of blockchain development.
From ScienceSoft’s experience, the development cost for an MVP of blockchain-based food supply chain software will be around $80,000–$150,000. A full-featured blockchain food supply chain solution that comprises a private network and smart contracts requires $400,000–$1,500,000+ in investments.
On average, companies see the payoff of custom blockchain development in 12–18 months.
In software development since 1989, ScienceSoft offers end-to-end blockchain development services to assist companies in building reliable blockchain solutions for the food supply chain.
Blockchain in the food supply chain consulting
- Analyzing your business needs and eliciting requirements to a blockchain solution for the food supply chain.
- Suggesting optimal blockchain network type (private, public, consortium, hybrid), architecture design, and tech stack.
- Providing a detailed feature set for the blockchain system for the food supply chain.
- Preparing an integration plan with required software (e.g., ERP, accounting software, selling platforms).
- Blockchain security consulting.
- Delivering a roadmap for blockchain system implementation, including a risk mitigation plan.
Blockchain in the food supply chain development
- Analyzing your blockchain needs for the food supply chain.
- Blockchain software conceptualization.
- Architecture design of blockchain for the food supply chain.
- Developing the blockchain solution.
- API development to expand the solution’s integration capabilities.
- Testing and quality assurance.
- Drawing up materials for end user training (optional).
- Blockchain software support and evolution (if required).
ScienceSoft is an international IT consulting and software development company headquartered in McKinney, Texas. We provide consultancy and development services to help companies design and build blockchain for improved traceability, safety and transparency of the food supply chain data and transactions. In our blockchain projects, we employ robust quality management and data security management systems backed up by ISO 9001 and ISO 27001 certificates.