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Blockchain to address sustainability challenges in food production

Adapting new data technologies may lead to fairer food prices for consumers and producers, by increasing transparency.

According to a recent press release by New Zealand’s University of Canterbury, an Associate Professor of Te Rāngai Umanga me te Ture | College of Business and Law is conducting theoretical research into eco-labelling schemes and voluntary environmental systems that businesses adopt to mitigate their environmental and social impacts.

Blockchain for sustainable food production

In her research, she is also exploring alternative schemes and to what extent blockchain technology helps to address sustainability challenges that arise from problems of production and consumption of goods and services.

She is exploring blockchain technology as a tool to ensure sustainable food production for everyone.

According to her, using blockchain in the future could be a way of ensuring transparency of transactions, gathering of more accurate data and eliminating the need for intermediaries.

Once present problems related to trust as well as lack of experience with blockchain technology are addressed, using the blockchain platform for future transactions could result in reduced prices for consumers and fairer returns for farmers.

For instance, Fair Trade labels have been developed to improve the livelihoods of farmers in developing countries.

In the case of coffee, the problem with this approach is that products may have gone through as many as 26 intermediaries that may have added no value to the product or service and consumers have no way of knowing if the price they have paid is fair.

The transactions are not transparent and are not direct.

Limited benefits to current labelling schemes

Eco-labels were created to address increased consumer demand for environmentally sound and ethical production processes.

It will also provide the consumer with better information about the product, allowing them to make more environmentally friendly purchases.

However, literature is inconclusive about the social, economic and environmental effectiveness of eco-labels.

Eco-labels are facing challenges in terms of measurability.

This is mostly due to a lack of data, inconsistent record-keeping and confidentiality issues, with the result that it is not possible to assess the entire programme’s economic, environmental and social impact.

Blockchain benefits

This is where blockchain technology promises improvements.

It provides a novel way of recording data and confidence in peer-to-peer trading transactions. It keeps records of digital asset transactions in a decentralised manner, based on mathematical algorithms and financial incentives.

The Associate Professor had first discovered blockchain during a short visit to Vienna in 2017. She is returning there in 2019 to join a team of colleagues from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences to set up a system for monitoring and remediating the labour conditions of its suppliers.

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