Kenyans will soon be able to track the origin of their food using blockchain technology according to the AI and blockchain taskforce chairman Bitange Ndemo.
In an interview with the Star, Ndemo said the taskforce is working with multinational technology company IBM on a project that will enable Kenyans to find out whether the food they purchase is organic or not and how long it has been in the market. The taskforce wants to attain this goal by the end of this year.
“Thanks to Blockchain technology, [Kenyans] will be able to scan the Quick Response code of the product and know everything about what [they] have bought through [their] smartphones,” said Ndemo.
However, the Director of crops at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation, Lusike Wasilwa, has said that inadequate data could be a prohibiting factor in the use of blockchain technology in the country.
“Blockchain technology will be as good as the information available,” he stated.
Tracking Food From Farm to Plate
The product that the taskforce will roll out will help Kenyans to scan the entire history of the food on their plate thanks to blockchain technology. The technology will facilitate the tracking of everyone involved in the supply chain from the production stage, distribution, to your local grocer.
The ability to track food from its origin will enable consumers to know that the food they are eating is healthy and that it was handled in the right manner. This is especially essential now when Kenya is grappling with mishandled sugar that was not imported according to the set guidelines. As a result, this case emphasises the importance of food safety, which if not monitored, can lead to foodborne diseases and sometimes even death.
How Blockchain Technology Trace-and-Track Could Work
The blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that enables the tracking of transactions in a transparent, secure, and fast manner. This means that at every single point of the supply chain from the farmer to the distributor, each person or company will enter the relevant data on the blockchain including the status of the food at that particular time. Therefore, if something is wrong, the problem can be traced at the exact point on the supply chain.
For instance, UK startup Provenance leverages the blockchain to ensure supply chain transparency. The process begins with a local NGO registering fishermen and having them send messages via mobile phones of their daily catches.
In Kenya, this idea could be applied by local supermarkets where the farmers that supply them with produce are registered on a blockchain-based platform. Farmers can then enter on the platform the data of their products such as the location of the farm the food was grown, the fertilisers that were used, the date of the harvest, and the storage methods that were used. Therefore, with this data, a retailer is guaranteed that its selling products that are fit for human consumption.
On the other hand, consumers can use a blockchain-based app containing all supply chain records in the country to scan the label of a product and determine its origin.
One of the companies that are benefiting from blockchain technology application in the food supply chain is multinational retailer Walmart. The company has reported significant improvements in the time it takes to track food back to its origin.
While blockchain technology improves food safety because of trust and accountability, Kenya’s AI and blockchain taskforce will have the added task of ensuring the accuracy of the supply chain data that will enable the tracking of food products.