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TECHNOLOGY

Blockchain is a game changer for decentralised infra
Wednesday, 04 September, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Hrishikesh Deshpande
Blockchain is the distributed database that holds value, records of events, digital data, in a way that makes it tamper proof. Blockchain stores every transaction or exchange of data that occurs in the network, potentially reducing the need for third parties and/or intermediaries by providing means by which all stakeholders in the network may share access to the same data including what is added to the data, by whom, chronologically. While many users access, inspect, or add to the data, they cannot change or alter it. The original information stays put, leaving a permanent & public information chain of transactions.

With wide spread impact on various sectors, the blockchain has already gained popularity amongst large-scale corporations worldwide.

Many organisations in food sector are exploring its potential, the opportunities & challenges of implementing this emerging technology, including business & environmental benefits, wider ecosystem & governance considerations to fulfil range of needs by delivering enormous business value.

Blockchain technology is considered to be a game changer for decentralising infrastructure & building a trust layer for business logic. It is envisioned to be a technology that could propel us into next industrial revolution with new paradigms for doing business in every aspect of supply chain (safe, sustainable, ethical) by recording, tracking & verifying trades of virtually anything that holds value.

Blockchain is not the only technology changing the way things are done when it comes to food or agricultural supply chain. Combining blockchain with other technologies like IoT (Internet of Things), AI (Artificial Intelligence) makes the initiative impactful.

In agriculture, farm to fork supply chain, it presents an opportunity to drastically improve the operations.

Companies that buy or invest in agricultural products have inherent interest in having information about the product that they commit to buy.

The data collected from sensors, spreadsheet, manual surveys, & other sources along the supply chain can give detailed information about the product attributes to the commercial buyer.

Blockchain backed with traceability can improve customer confidence about the authenticity of food products, the environment in which the product has been prepared/transported, the value that has been added by the third-party actors along the chain. It allows us more securely & transparently track all types of transactions.

When implemented effectively, it can connect & enable efficiency, transparency & accountability among the stakeholders. Better and reliable data can aid optimise business decisions and reach higher standards for production, efficiency & sustainability.

Every time a product changes hands, the transaction could be documented, creating a permanent history of the product from inception to sales. This could dramatically reduce the time delays, added cost, human error, frauds, reduce waste, product recalls.

Challenges
Although, there are enormous benefits for achieving competitive advantage, there are significant challenges in implementing the blockchain:
1. Coordinating process & digital transformation across distributed supply chain
2. Lack of connectivity, most importantly in rural areas
3. Onerous & costly data reconciliation process
4. Ineffective solutions for handling large amount of data
5. Sharing the data between different stakeholders to foster cooperation & collaboration across the value chain in transparent & secure way.

Having said this, today the technologies required for blockchain and IoT are in constant evolution & they need to mature in order to support the challenges. However, this evolution will not happen without overall agreement between the stakeholders to adopt these technologies. In addition, the regulatory environment will need to evolve to support the implementation of these technologies. All in all, these technologies are revolutionising the way the different stakeholders in value chain capture, communicate, access information on a transparent, secured and shared platform.

(The author is director at  Techbridge Engineering Solutions.  He is executive committee  member, Association of Food  Scientists & Technologists, Mumbai)
 
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