Farming, Fishing and Food Ethics on the Blockchain

Farming, Fishing and Food Ethics on the Blockchain

If you’re a decent person and you eat meat, you’d rather the animal was well-treated. But how can you be sure? Even if the label shows “organic” or “free range”, how can you know where it’s really been?

Free range chickens command a higher price, but also cost more to raise as they need more time and space to mature. Producers are incentivised to produce battery fowl, label them misleadingly and sell them as free range.

In China startup ZhongAn Technology has come up with a solution: Gogochicken. Each bird is tagged at the ankle then its behaviour tracked: how much exercise it’s had, when it’s been medicated, what it’s eaten, and the data recorded on a blockchain.

ZhongAn believe the tagging technology could be expanded to pigs, cows and other livestock. A duck version will need further development; it’ll have to be made waterproof.

After a series of food safety scandals, including expired meat, unhealthy animals and vegetables treated with dangerous chemicals, a 2015 survey found that for Chinese people food safety was their most important concern. The growing Chinese middle-class are prepared to pay more for produce when they know where it’s come from and China is now at the forefront of the food tracking.

Blockchain Food Safety Alliance

IBM, Walmart and ecommerce giant have joined up with Tsinghua University on the Blockchain Food Safety Alliance. An early trial with Walmart showed the potential of blockchain to revolutionise food traceability. Tracking the journey taken by a package of mangoes now took seconds, not days.

According to IBM’s vice president of food safety, Brigid McDermott, “blockchain adds the most value when you have the largest ecosystem” and that they were looking to expand the network by “collaborating with other stakeholders, including farmers, suppliers and retailers.” 

Clean Tuna

At the same time another project is playing out in the Pacific which could radically shake-up the fishing industry. 

The World Wildlife Fund for Nature has teamed up with Viant, a startup from the ConsenSys stable, to solidify supply chain records in tuna fishing.

Livia Esterhazy, New Zealand head for the WWF, explained that for years consumers had “unknowingly bought tuna from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and, even worse, from operators who use slave labour.

If records are kept at all, as tuna goes from bait-to-plate, they are kept on paper. Under the new scheme fishermen will be able to tag their fish with RFID or QR and record them to the blockchain.

According to Esterhazy customers will soon be able to access the fish’s full story, “where and when the fish was caught, by which vessel and fishing method with just a simple scan of tuna packaging using a smartphone app.

Next step in the project is to bring in retailers. Dermot O’Gorman of WWF Australia said that though there were still  “a number of technical and logistical challenges,” they were in discussions with retailers and hoped to have a joined up program in place by the end of the year.