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The Blockchain Bandwagon is ready … Are you?

For those who thought that blockchain technology was just another passing fad like mood ring, eight-track tapes and Rubik's cubes, think again.

At the beginning of October of this year, blockchain technology took an important step towards becoming an integral part of the daily agricultural landscape. This is because, after 18 months of testing, IBM has given the green light to the commercial availability of the blockchain-based food security platform called the IBM Food Trust, designed for global use by farms, distributors and retailers.

[Join Steve Cubbage at the 2018 AgTech Expo as he’ll lead breakout sessions to discuss how data direct decisions and how to get ready for blockchain.]

The system literally digitizes the tracking of food along the entire supply chain by tagging each actionable event to a verifiable historical record. The use of the platform greatly increases traceability and accountability and allows supply chain management to quickly isolate certain batches and shipments when foodborne illnesses or contamination are detected.

To date, most of the Midwest's agriculture has been able to largely ignore the implications of blockchain, especially at the farmer and trade level. It was considered more as a concept than reality and more hype than practicality. It was and continues to be a technology surrounded by more questions than answers. And with the low commodity prices, the intensification of the trade war with China and the increase in interest rates, it's no wonder why the blockchain has not cracked the top 10 on the list of the things to do for most corn farmers.

However, this IBM announcement could be the turning point that could very well change all that. Although production agriculture has not fully exploited the blockchain wagon, some big names in the food chain have. The IBM Food Trust network represents the continuation of over a year of pilot testing with leading food retailers and suppliers including Golden State Foods, McCormick and Company, Nestle, Tyson Foods and Walmart. This group of companies has formed a consortium in collaboration with IBM to use its food safety blockchain to protect consumers and increase trust in the provision of food to the consumer.

Centers for disease control and prevention estimate that 48 million people fall ill, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year in the United States to get food sickness. To undermine those numbers, IBM used its blockchain pilot companies to build a solid network of members along the entire supply chain that would work in sync with each other to create end-to-end transparency.

Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president of the blockchain division of IBM Global Industries, recently said that "the currency of trust today is transparency, and realizing it in the food security sector takes place when responsibility is shared".

In order for growers and even production agriculture to achieve such transparency, it will be necessary to switch to digital technology and move quickly. An agricultural industry official heavily involved in bringing the blockchain to the market says that if you look at a clay tablet from the ancient land of Mesopotamia 4000 years ago, then you can compare it to current grain contracts in North America today. His point is that, unfortunately, grain marketing and even logging of farm-level activities are still much closer to clay tablets than they are for the Amazons or eBay, which today is the norm in selling to today's detail.

The bottom line is that in order to avoid being the weak link in the food chain's blockchain system, manufacturers and their immediate suppliers must adopt a well thought out and comprehensive digital strategy from the company level.

C & # 39; it is a vision that with the increasing use of sensors and the digitalization of processes in the farms and in the agricultural supply chain, the link through blockchain will mean less paper, more precision and faster delivery and traceability from the farm to the table. This is the vision, but the details of that vision must be communicated better at the grower level. What does a farm ready for the blockchain look like? What exactly needs to be digitized and how is it actually connected to the blockchain? Where do you start checking the boxes to make your company a favorite blockchain supplier?

These are all relevant and urgent questions that need to be answered. Unfortunately, many suppliers and players higher up the food supply chain mistakenly assume that a farmer's digital infrastructure is already present and that there is all this data and a series of digital devices just waiting to be connected. Such hypotheses and lack of education and dialogue again at the level of the farmer will continue to be an important Achilles heel in the implementation of the blockchain in agriculture until people realize that this is not the reality of the farm. Growers, however, can not continue to ignore the situation and invoke ignorance when it comes to blockchain technology.

Why? Because since October 2018, when we talk about blockchain, we no longer play the preseason games. The regular season for blockchain in agriculture has begun, and IBM and its food heavyweight team are marching along the field. This leads to questions for you. Are you still sitting on the sidelines, or are you ready to play?

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