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To Meet Ambitious Agriculture and Food Goals, Canada Needs to Adopt Blockchain Technology

The Advisory Committee on Economic Growth and Dominic Barton set an audacious goal for the country in February. To become the world’s trusted supplier of safe sustainable food for the 21st century and in doing so double our agri-food exports.

The studies reveal that food fraud is a systemic problem and demonstrates global food supply chains are too complex, involve too many players, and encompass too wide a geographic region to be fully transparent. There are major sustainability implications as well. A lack of transparency allows environmentally damaging food to be “laundered” in the market.

If Canada wants to take the Barton goal seriously they need to do better. Technology is giving tools to address this issue. The technology is called Blockhain. Blockchain is a ledger of transactions that can be used to keep track of everything from Bitcoin transfers through to the exchange of goods and services.

But a Blockchain is different than a regular spreadsheet saved on a single computer. A Blockcain ledger is saved in thousands of different places all linked together in the cloud. Every time anyone makes a change to the ledger, the history of that change is logged on all the copies. As a result, everyone can see what everyone else is doing and because there are no single authors or sole “points of entry” there is no opportunity for fraud.

Consequently, academics and thought leaders such as my colleague Sylvain Charlebois are extolling the benefits of Blockchain. And industry giants like Walmart and IBM are investing heavily in Blockchain because they see it as a core piece of architecture that will underpin all transaction in the future.

For instance, a Blockchain for agriculture might require seed companies to log the variety of seeds sold to farmers; farmers will log the pesticides they use and the number of times they drive a tractor over a field along with the field’s location.

A food processor might log the nutrient and moisture content of a product while the shipper will log all the locations and dates on a food product’s journey along with the temperature and humidity of the shipping container. Food inspection agencies would contribute border control information while a retailer would enter information about location, price and date of sale.

Many of these data will be entered autonomously. For instance, modern tractors are equipped with GPS systems that will be, very soon, continually uploading data into the cloud.


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