Blockchains: Shared, Traceable, Transparent Ledgers for Recordkeeping

October 31, 2017 07:22 AM

Do you know what blockchains are? No, you don’t put them on tires to improve traction, or use them to pull your truck out of the mud. You can’t see, smell or taste blockchains, unless you’re a computer.

Simply put, blockchains are shared, traceable and transparent ledgers for record keeping. They capture information for each transaction in a supply chain to better understand what’s happening in the transactions.

It seems a little out there for most farmers, but blockchains could transform the security, safety and efficiency of the food system.

“As farmers we have not typically liked people to know, for example, where our livestock come from,” says Aidan Connolly, chief innovation officer and vice president of corporate accounts at Alltech.

“At the same time, when there is a disease outbreak we want to be able to trace it back.”

Blockchain technology can enhance security while protecting the players, he adds.

Connolly expresses the potential for blockchain technology by pointing to Walmart, who rolled out the technology in China and was impressed by its potential enough to bring it to the U.S. and other areas of the world where it does business. If Walmart is successful with the technology, other retailers will follow.

“Traceability is a fundamental part of our future. Recapturing the confidence of consumers is important, and blockchain is a technology that allows us to do so in a manner that allows us to be comfortable in knowing we are not giving all of our secrets and not trading away our margins to the food retailer,” Connolly says.

Other industries use blockchain technology, says Michael Boehlje, an economics professor at Purdue University. The diamond industry, for example, uses the technology to trace the whereabouts and authenticity of diamonds and verify the practices used to harvest the gems. “This whole issue of traceability and food safety will be the biggest impact blockchains have on the agriculture sector.”

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