Anyone who bought cryptocurrencies towards the end of last year would probably not have done so. In December, bitcoin peaked at £ 14,600 (US $ 19,400), but in recent weeks the most popular cryptocurrency was trading around £ 5,000 ($ 6,400).
In particular, the blockchain has been adopted as a way to provide data on supply chains that can be considered reliable by companies and individuals that can be geographically distant and often in competition with each other.
Perhaps the most intriguing option for blockchain systems concerns food and drink. This sector includes some of the most difficult-to-manage supply chains, which handle huge amounts of relatively cheap but unique items that vary enormously in quality – and where poor quality can hurt or even kill.
Blockchain for tuna
supply chains also raise ethical and environmental concerns. This explains why the charitable organization World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is committed to establishing a blockchain system to trace the tuna shortly after a fish is fished for consumption – or more quickly, from the bait to the dish.
Bubba Cook, head of WWF's Western and Central Tuna Program, says the system should help those who want to support legal, sustainable and ethical fishing.
"With the participation of other industry players in this technology and the participation of valid and transparent actors, it will slowly begin to squeeze out illegal operators, the bad guys who benefit from obscuration in the supply chain"
The Pacific Islands Forum's Fisheries Agency study of 2016 estimated that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing results in losses of US $ 616 million, equivalent to 12% of tuna catches in the US zona
Currently, over 90% of world fishing activities are completely or over-exploited. "Any additional value that will be assured by fishing activities must be as efficiency or quality improvement," says Cook.
Showing exactly where fish are caught should enable consumers to be sure of buying from sustainable fisheries and boats that work to minimize the by-catches (unnecessary killings) of seabirds and sharks, giving them a commercial advantage compared to those who do not.
"It will have a huge impact in promoting those regions towards the transparency and traceability offered by technology," says Cook.
WWF is working in Fiji with TraSeable Solutions, a local ICT provider and Brett Haywood, owner of Sea Quest, a tuna fishing and tuna company that uses sustainable methods.
things that were very tempting for [Haywood] about this particular technology were his ability to identify where his fish ended, "says Cook, allowing Haywood to sell more effectively, cut out publishers and guarantee better prices.
The project foresees the fixing of an RFID tag under the gills of each tuna when it is captured, which is used to trace it in the processing, beyond which the QR codes take over. processing is important because fraud often occurs
"If you have a 40 kg fish that enters a processing plant, you should not see more than four 10-pound pieces coming out of it," says Cook. 19659006] But why does the system need to use blockchain? "If the world were perfect and integrated, you could do it with traditional databases. But it's not just reality, "says Viant co-founder Tyler Mulvihill, who provides the blockchain system for the project.
" At the moment, you're trusting that every person does not tamper with their database. There is an economic incentive to change data if it is advantageous for the party. "
In addition to trust, a single blockchain system provides a source of data." The current solution is phone calls, e-mails and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets back and forth, "says Mulvihill.
Blockchain could make cheaper to manage transactions, potentially allowing smaller and frequent payments to suppliers, as the operator of a boat could receive 10% of the value of each fish at the time of landing, 40% when the resulting products are shipped and the remaining 50% when they are sold.
Viant uses the same software used for the cryptocurrency of Ethereum, with this latter only managing about 15 transactions per second.
Mulvihill emphasizes that the software is The only thing that the system has in common with the cryptocurrency: no mining (or creation) of currency is needed, since the tokens & ethers in the system do not have financial value and are already been extracted. Moreover, as a system open only to a relatively small number of trusted users, it can work much faster.
Mulvihill sees fresh food as another area with potential blockchain, with Americans suffering from spinach and romaine lettuce in recent years. The food withdrawal process could become much more efficient with a single source of data.
Adds that such systems can also be used to inform individual consumers. "It's about helping people understand exactly where their food or drink comes from, and telling the story of fish, fishermen, their families and their crew," he says, with the likes of breweries that trade heavily on such stories.
This also applies to products that support conservation work. Dutch food importer The Wild Bunch specializes in sustainably produced goods from Indonesian forests, with the goal of preventing deforestation by providing local farmers with a viable alternative income. As a consequence, it must demonstrate both traceability and a significant percentage, ideally 20% -30%, of the retail price to reach the producer.
Tyler Mulvihill, Viant
"We want to make the production of products from the wild forest more effective for farmers", says Managing Director Dirk-Jan Oudshoorn. "That's why we want to make it fully traceable so you can cut the broker, follow the journey and see what the costs are and where". Consumers will benefit from seeing that a fair price is paid and that their purchases contribute directly to the conservation forest.
For The Wild Bunch, the use of blockchain is incidental. "This is a means to an end," says Oudshoorn. "This could be a great way to show that we have nothing to hide". It should also reduce fraud, he adds: "Through this technology, we also hope that we can at least minimize the risk of corruption, as everything is recorded and can not be changed later."
The company ran into Provenance with headquartered in the UK, its blockchain supplier, through the hearing of a system that allowed Dutch prospectors to examine Indonesian coconuts, see exactly where they had come from and what price was paid to the farmer. The only alternative supplier has been involved in tracing palm oil, a product for which Indonesian forests are often knocked down, excluding it from an ethical point of view.
The Wild Bunch, which has only started working with Provenienza, plans to use its system for forest sugar, virgin coconut oil and illipè butter – the last of which is obtained from endangered Shorea Stenoptera nuts.
Currently, the company is not able to present Fairtrade status, often used to demonstrate ethical behavior – as this requires a certain number of suppliers in a sector, it is possible to calculate salaries and fair rates. "Fairtrade is not possible for us at the moment, as we are producing unique products," says Oudshoorn.
Another goal is that blockchain will allow consumers to see where the Wild Bunch products come from – even if they still have to decide whether this will be an area or a single farmer and who will receive their money through the supply chain. , potentially including retailers.
"Instead of investing in expensive and open-to-manipulation certificates, we would prefer to invest in making everything transparent so the consumer can decide for himself if it is a fair price and can find out how their purchase contributes to sustainable production and conservation forest, "says Oudshoorn.
The method by which consumers will get data is yet to be decided, but could involve scanning a QR code.
Food Information in Imaginative Places
Absolute Taste, a catering service for events including the Grand Prix of Great Britain and the Queen's of The Tennis Tennis Association mpionship, as well as for private jets , wants to provide a wider range of information to those who eat his food.
"It is very beneficial to the consumer," says Martin Brougham, chief operating officer at blockchain middleware supplier Omnipotence, with whom he is piloting the use of technology. "For private jet jets, an iPad could be available to scan barcodes on the menu for more information." At events and restaurants, specific information could be printed on menus and labels, taken from a blockchain system.  In addition to providing more information to consumers, a blockchain system can provide this to the companies involved, helping them become more efficient.
In the case of strawberries with two or three weeks of shelf life, all parties involved need to be put on sale as quickly as possible, and data blocked by blockchain could be used to see where delays and waste occur.  The system could also share the results of spot verification tests performed on one side, preventing others from repeating them.
"Most of the problems in the food supply chain, which are somehow based on the actual flow of items, can be solved with technology like this," says Ramesh Gopinath, vice president of blockchain solutions for IBM, whose blockchain Food Trust project involves major companies including the American retailer Walmart.
Limits to blockchain
Other applications include auditing, dispute resolution and regulatory compliance, according to JL Marechaux, head of technology for JDA Labs, the research division of the US supply chain software specialist JDA. This could include the regular recording of the temperature of products during transport, in particular those that should remain refrigerated or frozen, in case of subsequent problems.
However, JDA does not currently use blockchain within its software and as an industry specialist rather than a blockchain, Marechaux sees problems and opportunities.
"There are some cases of use that are not appropriate for the blockchain," he says. For example, such systems are designed to copy all information on all nodes, which could cause data protection and residence problems.
And performance and capacity can still cause headaches. "Blockchain was not designed to replace huge databases," says Marechaux, and may not be suitable for large amounts of data.
Adds that performance is improving and that the blockchain framework chosen to support a food supply chain is unlikely to work in the same way as one used for a crypto-currency: "But maturity is not there yet all the different paintings. "
He thinks this will change, because he will have to do it. "There's no way to get a broad adoption of blockchain if you do not have performance in a system," he says.