Organic food uses blockchain technology to further supply chain transparency this Organic September

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This Organic September, Soil Association Certification has teamed up with start-up tech firm Provenance to pilot technology which tracks the journey of organic food from farm to shop shelf.  From 6 September, shoppers will be able to tap their smartphones on packets of Eversfield Organics bacon on sale in select As Nature Intended stores, and instantly retrieve the product’s complete supply chain journey.

The pilot uses Near Field Communications (NFC) technology, the same as is used to tap public transit passes like the Oyster card. This means the information of a product’s journey and exactly what it means to be certified organic is now instantaneously accessible to shoppers with NFC-enabled smart phones, no app required. With NFC available both on product packaging and on the shop shelf, together with barcode and QR code, blockchain technology is now showcasing what Soil Association Certification does at each step of the organic certification process in an interactive way.

The pilot, which is the first of its kind in the United Kingdom, taps into increasing consumer interest in provenance and where food comes from. In 2016, research identified that mistrust significantly impacts the relationship consumers have with the foods and products they buy [1] and so transparency in supply chains has become crucial to address. There is growing consciousness about food choices which has brought heightened awareness and interest in food production. In the UK, the issue of food transparency is increasingly in the spotlight, with 70% of respondents in a recent Morrison’s survey objecting to fake farm labels and eight out of ten respondents to a QA Research study expressing their desire to know which farm system has been used to produce their meat and dairy products [2].

Liz Bowles, head of farming at Soil Association, said: “With more shoppers wanting to know where their food is coming from, this initiative offers a fantastic solution to communicate provenance in an interactive and simple way. This technology will enable consumers to have much higher levels of trust in the food they buy as they can literally see where it has come from. For organic farmers it will enable them to be visible to their customers and offer them opportunities to develop their businesses using this technology to communicate more directly with consumers.”

With organic certification currently the only legally required, fully inspected and audited certification, blockchain technology is bringing the story of what certification means to the point of sale. Linking Provenance’s blockchain design with Soil Association Certification’s databases, a product’s journey enters the blockchain in real-time. Shoppers are able to see information including the certification’s validity, the organic criteria met by the product, a map of its journey, and even photographs from the farm.

Anna Bury, sales and marketing director of Eversfield Organic Farm, says: “We are honoured to be part of this new programme. This is a huge step towards a future for all shoppers to choose authentic products with a positive impact on our planet. It’s long been our dream to produce the best quality organic meat, from the happiest of animals, making it available to everyone. Now retailers can share the journey of our animals every step of the way with their customers.”

The Provenance initiative is helping Soil Association Certification bring its organic symbol into the digital age as organic continues to be at the forefront of a broader movement for quality and sustainability. Soil Association Certified organic always means fewer pesticides, no artificial colours & preservatives, always free range, no routine use of antibiotics, and no GM ingredients. The pilot of Eversfield Organics Roam & Relish bacon will continue until supplies of the specially tagged products run out. Following these initial trials, Soil Association Certification plans to continue exploring batch tracking with producers and to promote the new interactive digital certification to brands and retailers, to significantly extend the organic certification symbol’s reach.

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