How Blockchain Technology Can Reduce Food Waste and Address Global Hunger
The UN estimates that around one-third of all food gets lost or wasted because it spent too much time in transit, was stored incorrectly, or does not comply with country legislations around hygiene.
In developed countries, only around 70% of food reaches the table, due to retail regulations and consumer preferences for the perfect look and shape of produce.
Year-round demand for variety also means that produce routinely spends up to six weeks in transit and is discarded at every stage of the journey.
New-age food fads are amplifying the problem as the demand for avocados, acai berries, quinoa, among other ‘superfoods’ put enormous pressures on food ecosystems.
When this food is lost or wasted, all the resources that were used to produce it go to waste. It also negatively impacts food security and food availability, and contributes to increasing the cost of food.
One of the SDGs outlined by the UN is ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns to sustain the livelihoods of current and future generations. It will be critical to address this to put an end to global hunger.
Smarter capacity management can play a major role in eliminating losses and unnecessary delays in food transportation.
Efficient logistics in the food sector can also make a significant contribution to a sustainable global economy. In fact, adding just two to three days to food’s shelf life can contribute to the reduction of food waste.
Rise of blockchain in food supply chains
Many global companies are experimenting with blockchain technologies to build resilience in food supply chains. According to a report by DHL and Accenture, blockchain technology has the potential to save the global logistics industry US$1 trillion in operating costs per year by 2025.
As a decentralized database structure that records transactions or information flows completely transparently, blockchain offers an unprecedented level of transparency in food logistics, with crucial data such as temperature, production date and ingredients, all of which can be used to increase shelf life and reduce food waste.
For example, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba launched the encrypted Food Trust Framework platform to track food delivery, and Walmart’s Eden app can determine a product’s freshness from farm to shelf.
This means that almost ripe fruit and vegetables headed for a store 500 km can be easily diverted to a closer one, successfully eliminating potential waste. Walmart hopes that this will help it reach its goal of cutting waste worth US$2 billion over the next five years.
In the UAE, Farm To Plate, a supply chain solution uses blockchain to track the movement of food in real-time and ease regulatory compliance.
Because blockchain allows essential documents, such as landing bills and manifests, etc. to be stored on the ledger, it ensures efficient movement of food through the supply chain. It also reduces unnecessary delays by identifying issues before they escalate.
Building resilience and food security
Blockchain also eliminates demand-supply mismatch. For example, a corn farmer can use blockchain to track and monitor each shipment of corn – including when it was harvested, how it was stored and what preservation methods were used.
Because the record cannot be tampered with, the farmer can easily detect false storage claims and any freshness manipulations. This means that the corn farmer is assured of his food quality – and can ensure that he delivers what was promised to a large grocery chain.
Unfortunately, many supply chains remain stubbornly traditional, with siloed processes that may be linked electronically but aren’t truly integrated. Such supply chains are prone to interruptions.
However, harnessing blockchain can accelerate automated data exchange and improve monitoring processes. By collecting and managing all data to run the system under one roof, the food industry can expect fewer disruptions, less food wastage, and greater transparency and resilience in the future.