Benefits Of Smart Sensors & Blockchain In The Food Supply Chain (Part 1: Product Integrity & Safety)

22 March 2019   |   Readtime: 5 Min.

This year alone, 48 million people will get sick with a food-borne illness — of which 128,000 will be hospitalized, and 3,000 will die in the United States alone. But food safety isn't the only issue in the supply chain. Food waste and loss, from the production to post-consumption, accounts for approximately 4.4 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 equivalent) every year — making it the third largest emitter in the world right after China and the United States.

But as the management expert Peter Drucker said, “You can't manage what you can't measure”. To counteract the enormous amount of food loss, spoilage, waste, theft and even fraud in the food supply chain, we need to be able to measure, trace and track before we can manage.

Why Add A Smart Sensor To Your Blockchain?

There are several amazing food supply chain blockchain solutions on the market, such as the IMB Food Trust or SAP's Cloud Platform Blockchain service. But most solutions focus on the blockchain part. Products are tracked by scanning a sticker, and this tracking relies on people to scan the products.

By implementing blockchain with Internet of Things-enabled smart sensors, you gather temperature, moisture, shock, and other data that might damage or spoil your goods. You gain spacial awareness and the ability to physically track a product. And you are getting live alerts should anything go wrong. This results in lots of different benefits, for example:

Part 1: Product Integrity & Safety (this article)

  1. Full Visibility Across The Entire Food Supply Chain
  2. Instant Updates About Temperature Discrepancies
  3. Notifications If Goods Move Outside Of Predefined Zones Or Experience Shocks
  4. Pinpoint Spoilage Potential Right Away
  5. Ensure Food Safety, Integrity & Quality
  6. Food Safety Compliance & Audit Trail
  7. Identify & Trace Back Contaminated Goods In Seconds

Part 2: Return on Investment & Sustainability

  1. Reduces labor across the entire food supply chain
  2. Allows you to execute smart contracts automatically
  3. Enables you to trace food safety incidents fast and efficiently
  4. Reduces food waste
  5. Enhances your brand's sustainability
  6. Satisfies your customers' demands for traceability
  7. Improves your brand integrity and reliability
  8. Rapidly generates a positive Return-on-Investment

Today, I want to explore with you the benefits around product integrity and food safety. So let's jump right in:

1) Full Visibility Across The Entire Food Supply Chain

The food supply chain is incredibly complex. Between harvesting a head of romaine lettuce and the store shelf can be anywhere between 15-20 hand-off points — each with its own contamination potential and spoilage-causing conditions. For example, what if pallets of romaine lettuce were in a cool house that was working at sub-optimal temperatures overnight? Or the delivery truck broke down and the leafy greens took hours longer to deliver? Even if these events have been recorded on food safety checklists, the paper trail often makes it only as far as the drawer or bin!

In today's complex and fast-moving world with massive liabilities, we need to increase visibility, which blockchain can provide, across the entire food supply chain for all participants. If the food production, processing, packaging, distribution, and transportation companies as well as the retailer can track and trace their goods along the entire way, everyone wins.

MapTraveling

2) Instant Updates About Temperature Discrepancies

As you know, spoilage is a process that depends on many factors — one of the biggest ones being temperature. The FDA recommends chilling perishable food within 2 hours if the temperature is below 90 degrees Fahrenheit and within one hour if it is above. Therefore, if the temperature goes above the normal cooling range on the long way from farm to table, it increases the risk of spoilage drastically. On the other hand, if the temperature gets colder than acceptable, the product might become damaged due to freezing.

By loading products onto a blockchain-enabled platform featuring IoT smart sensors (like the Chainvu platform), the platform identifies the products, creates an inventory, and monitors what could possibly cause spoilage or damage.

If your goods get too warm or too cold, every supply chain member receives an instant alert. This allows the party currently in control of the products to take action right away and remediate the problem. It also enables other supply chain members to know what happened after the product left their control (e.g., a meat producer knows that his chickens got to the store without an incident) or before it arrived (e.g., a retailer can confidently accept a shipment of romaine lettuce knowing it most likely won't be spoiled).

3) Notifications If Goods Move Outside Of Predefined Zones Or Experience Shocks

The physical movement of your products is probably the next biggest concern. As the product moves through the supply chain, there are many potential problems, such as theft, fraud, or damage through shock — just to name a few. A blockchain-based, smart sensor-enabled platform like Chainvu will recognize anything out of the ordinary and instantly send notifications to all subscribers.

In addition to detecting movements outside a predefined zone, our smart sensors can also detect shock. This is especially important if you are moving breakable food items, such as eggs, but also electronics, chemicals, or other products susceptible to shock damage.

4) Pinpoint Spoilage Potential Right Away

Being able to proactively pinpoint any possible spoilage before it hits the store shelves is as important as preemptive measures to avoid food spoiling or being wasted in the first place.

Any shipment that had an exception as part of its journey needs to be examined at the next stop and possibly stopped. This not only prevents trucking spoiled food around the country — effectively wasting a lot of money, energy, and time on something that needs to be disposed of anyway — but also keeps greenhouse gas emissions to a minimum.

Once the shipment arrives at the retailer's loading dock, only pallets with no or minimal exceptions are accepted and make it to the shelf, while goods that were exposed to conditions prone to cause spoilage can be rejected.

MicrobiologicalTesting

 

5) Ensure Food Safety, Integrity & Quality

While microbiological testing to detect the presence of pathogens at certain milestones in the food supply chain is crucial, it cannot guarantee that the food is 100% safe.

Because spoilage is a process, it is crucial to understand what happened along the entire distribution path as well. Only by closely monitoring goods along the entire food supply chain, we can vouch more confidently for its integrity, quality, and safety.

6) Food Safety Compliance & Audit Trail

By using a blockchain-based platform to track all individual shipments in a food supply chain, all data is stored in the blockchain — meaning the data is immutable. In other words, it cannot be changed without causing an exception.

This results in precise, automatic, and indisputable record keeping which makes it easy to provide a clear audit trail to satisfy any government food safety data needs as well as comply with any other policies and regulations.

7) Identify & Trace Back Contaminated Goods In Seconds

Because of this above-mentioned immutable data record trail, it is now possible to trace all goods sent this way back to their origins, resulting in a crystal clear chain of custody.

As tedious manual recording on paper, laziness, and human error are mostly eliminated, it is now possible to trace back a possibly contaminated product to its source within a few seconds, rather than spending weeks following endless paper trails.

This not only leads to products being pulled from the shelves faster, but also more efficiently as you can now confidently say that products from pallets X, Y, and Z are potentially hazardous, but all other pallets are safe and need not to be thrown out "just in case".

This way, not only the food waste, but also the economic damage (cost of throwing away the meat or produce, damage to brand reputation, potential legal costs and law suit fines, etc.) is kept to an absolute minimum. Lastly, despite yet another food safety incident, traceability and transparency maintain, if not boost, consumer trust and confidence in the product.

Conclusion

While this technology is relatively new, this will become a reality sooner rather than later. According to the World Economic Forum, 10% of global GDP will be stored in blockchain by 2027. Spending on blockchain solutions in 2019 alone is estimated to reach $2.9 billion and skyrocket at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 76.0% to amount to a total spending of $12.4 billion in 2022.

We are currently running extremely promising pilots with some select customers who are experiencing the benefits first-hand. If you are an innovative food producer or processor, distribution company or retailer who wants to try out Chainvu's platforms for a month with no strings attached, feel free to apply for a free trial here.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bob Burrows

CEO & Founder of Chainvu

As the CEO and founder of Chainvu, Bob is passionate about the safety and sustainability impact in the food and pharmaceutical supply chains. Did you know that 35% of food in North America doesn’t make it to the table? Chainvu gives the entire supply chain actionable product visibility and 100% traceability of products live at every step. Our solution is embedded and proactive, providing immediate notifications to prevent damage, reduce labour & waste, and improve product quality. Prior to Chainvu, Bob has over two decades of experience as a serial intrapreneur and entrepreneur achieving global leadership in digital networking products, and large-scale communications services. Bob holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Waterloo and an M. Sc. in Business from the Sloan School at MIT.

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