What is the future of Blockchain in the Food and Drink industry? - PKF Francis Clark
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What is the future of Blockchain in the Food and Drink industry?

We currently live in a world of digital disruption, as advances in technology change the way we interact, the way we view the world and the way we conduct business and new opportunities in different sectors.

The latest of these disruptions is blockchain technology, a distributed ledger maintained by a network of machines, storing data in the form of blocks that are cryptographically secured.

Imagine you are watching a game of rugby. During the match, the score of each team changes as witnessed by the referee, players and spectators. These combined comprise of a group of individuals able to agree upon a historical account of events and records (the score line).

Blockchain works in a similar manner. Data is recorded in blocks and peers on the network verify the data. Once group consensus is achieved, the block is sealed cryptographically and another block linked to the previous is then created. And so on, and so forth.

In order to record false data, group consensus of misinformation would need to be achieved. This is a difficult task (and altering historic blocks would require computing power that does not currently exist). As a result, information held within a blockchain is immutable.

Blockchain has huge potential for the food and drink industry. Supply chains are critical, relying on sources, agencies, control standards and labels for authenticity for anything from carbon footprint to responsible sourcing. Each participant within the supply chain is responsible for maintaining their own data and not accessible to other participants, increasing the chances of fraud in the data held.

Where this data is instead held on a blockchain, instead of central servers, it would increase trust throughout the supply chain. The data would be true and untampered, and available for public scrutiny.

Blockchain could be linked to smart devices that record method of transport, transport times, temperatures, humidity, feed and source. Any data that is currently recorded on current systems, and more, builds trust not only within the supply chain but also with consumers.

Smart contracts are computer programs stored on a blockchain designed to automatically execute, control, or document legally relevant events or actions according to the terms of a contract or agreement based on the data held within the blockchain. Smart contracts could automatically monitor expiration dates, storage conditions, batch numbers, and be linked to smart devices to control ecosystems for product quality, removing inefficiencies and costs such as food waste.

Blockchain is disrupting the approach to data storage and trust within supply chains one block at a time. Nestlé and Walmart were early adopters of the IBM Food Trust, a cloud based blockchain solution gathering momentum.

It is still early days for this new technology, and although there are numerous positive efficiencies provided by this disruptive force, there are still many barriers to overcome. Blockchain works through adoption, requiring participation from food processors, supply chain participants and regulatory bodies in order for the full effect to be received by all. Whilst in its infancy, it is still an area of innovation, where those who lead may benefit the most, leaving a trail behind for others to follow.

If you have any queries on the contents of this article, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Other articles you may be interested in:

Will revised VAT rules on mixed supplies hamper businesses?

R&D tax credits in the food and drink sector

How technology can be used to capture customer data

Ben is a business services and taxation partner in the Taunton office, supporting individuals and businesses to achieve their financial ambitions. He relocated to the South… read more
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