WEF: Where Food Safety & Supply Chain Management Are Going

21 August 2019   |   Readtime: 4 Min.

About a month ago, I had the great honor and pleasure to be invited to join the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of the New Champions — the leading global summit on innovation and entrepreneurship.

As the CEO of Chainvu, I was selected as one of 50 startups leaders around the world with the potential to make a difference within the context of the WEFs goals and projects. After taking a few weeks to follow up with everyone and to digest all my impressions and everything I learned, I now want to take a moment to share all this with you.

WEF - Day 1-8


The Purpose Of The World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting Of The New Champions

As you might know, the World Economic Forum strives to improve the state of the world we live in through 3 key focus areas:

  1. Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is expected to completely transform the way we produce, distribute, and consume,
  2. Solving the problems of the Global Commons to enable better public-private cooperation to achieve global consensus on important issues, and
  3. Addressing global security issues as the world deals with the worst refugee crisis since WWII, an increase in terrorism, and the consequential rise in extremist geo-strategic competition, antagonists, and regionalism.

This year's Annual Meeting of the New Champions focused on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, sometimes also referred to as Industry 4.0. Over four days, we met to discuss how we could improve lives in every country with better food security, more robust economic conditions, and universal participation so everyone worldwide could benefit in the new global economy as things change.

To achieve this goal, the WEF has created the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which has a number of focused initiatives such as:

  • Shaping the future of food,
  • Shaping the future of international trade, and
  • Shaping the future of health and healthcare.

Each of those categories holds multiple projects that drive the overall initiative, e.g., Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and blockchain as technology is included in several of those themes, especially for personal identification, low cost personal finance, global trade and food security.

Participating In The Forum

As the CEO of Chainvu and a "big dreamer", this meeting was, on a personal level, inspiring, informative, and confidence-building.

When you are building a cutting-edge technology solution that one day is meant to have a global impact on how we manage supply chains, things can get a little lonely sometimes. Often, you wonder if you are going in the right direction or if the leap of faith you took was just a little too big, especially when the world around you says it cannot be done.

It was inspiring and reassuring to see the focus and resources the World Economic Forum dedicates to achieving the above mentioned goals, and to meet and interact with other, similarly passionate individuals and senior executives from major global corporations with the resources, drive, and passion to make a difference.

We are not alone in this fight for a greater good. Many others are fighting right alongside us — from banks and industrial organizations to some of the world’s largest food producers and leading logistics companies, as well as government officials such as Ministers of Food, Banking and Innovation. All 1,500 of us were there to share our insights and challenges, and to find ways to collaborate to make things happen better. At the Forum, we were all peers interacting openly.

It was confidence-building on a few levels:

  1. As a citizen of the world, it was reassuring to know that the WEF is actually moving things to make the world better — by using science to frame the problems, as well as by using insight, organization, focus and engagement to make things happen.
  2. As a company looking for evolving global business processes that will enable Chainvu to play well, contribute, and grow rapidly as a financially sustainable business, it was reassuring to see governments and corporations — from the largest in the world, to well-financed companies already underway, to startups — all intent on making things happen and applying the resources that each has.
  3. As Chainvu, it was inspiring to gain acceptance from all parties on the value of what we are out to achieve, and to see genuine interest in collaborating, investing, etc.

On The Topic Of Blockchain In Food Safety And Traceability

Blockchain, and its potential impact on the world, was a key element in several Forum topics. And even where it was not a formally-announced part of the agenda, it came up.

Especially since the meeting was hosted in Asia, international trade and logistics are key areas for the WEF and forum attendees, particularly with a focus on improving efficiencies and keeping food fresher and more secure. To make these improvements, a core interest of the WEF and its members is the rapid adoption of blockchain — as a global open body including the development of standards, open software and services. This would lead to a more rapid adoption while avoiding “monopoly rents”.

But this isn't just talk! There is a lot of work underway to make this vision a reality sooner rather than later. Some of the projects are owned by the WEF's Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and some are a collaboration with global logistics and software services.

One of the key challenges in realizing all the promised benefits of blockchain is that the key missing element is an Internet of Things solution to automate the actual monitoring of goods — to reduce errors and fraud, to reduce labor, and to reduce costs not only in the physical world of handling products but also in the financial and commercial process worlds that blockchain will achieve. This was openly acknowledged and discussed.

Practical Key Takeaways

One of the key takeaways for me is that this market is about to explode. For example, for food, there soon will be hundreds of services that provide consumers with provenance information. The producer puts a QR code on the package which then can be scanned by the consumer which leads them to the producer's website. Within the confines of the credibility of the producer, the consumer can know where the product came from, how it was raised, etc. However, the consumer has no idea what happened or what the conditions were in the actual logistics chain because the vast majority of blockchain solutions do not integrate smart sensors, Internet of Things, or Artificial Intelligence.

Secondly, many of the World Economic Forum participants are interested in using blockchain to reduce commercial transaction overhead, and financial floats and burdens. But neither actually addresses the shipping and condition of the goods.

This is where Chainvu comes in. With Chainvu's Internet-of-Things-enabled Smart Sensors in combination with blockchain technology, we monitor the goods across the entire supply chain, can prove traceability along the route, provide end-to-end food safety reports, and send live notifications to parties to actually prevent food spoilage as it happens — not just data to the cloud for audit later.

Our upcoming interaction with global "Blockchain Customs and Business Processed" will let us do this for each step of the way, making the entire process more automated, more tamper- and fraud-proof, more secure, and less costly.  

For me, this insight was a key “Aha!" moment at the World Economic Forum. We are going down the right path, we are indeed several steps ahead of the competition, and we are therefore able to provide our customers with a significantly bigger competitive advantage than what regular blockchain solutions for the supply chain can provide today.

Download the Ultimate Guide to Blockchain in the Food Supply Chain




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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