Fostering trust, safety, and sustainability
The potential of blockchain applied to agri-food systems and ecosystems.
Globally, there is a widening distance between fields and tables, between producers and consumers. It is a dangerous gap, distancing the land from processed food, preventing citizens from knowing the agricultural practices used, and fragmenting nutrition between the agricultural methods and the different stages of the supply chain.
To talk about food safety today, on World Food Safety Day, is to value the foundations of the agrifood system, because as the FAO reminds us, “if food is not safe, it is not food.”
Every year, some 600 million people fall ill after eating contaminated food and 40 percent of children under the age of 5 contract foodborne illnesses, according to the World Health Organization. It is not only viruses, bacteria, and parasites, but also chemicals, heavy metals, and other environmental pollutants that are often used in the production, irrigation, harvesting, and post-harvest stages.
Having access to healthy and nutritious food is a universal right, one that rewards virtuous, regenerative forms of agriculture, attentive to the needs of the land and all forms of life directly involved (labor) or indirectly used (natural resources). Precisely for this reason, during the EU Agrifood Week that recently ended in Pollica, the topic of food safety was addressed under different lenses: soil and land health, agroecological and regenerative practices, forest management, but also in the potential that blockchain can generate in terms of transparency, trust, and safety.
Just recently in Pollica, we met Giorgio Ciardella, Chief Technology Officer of Farzati Tech, a true sleeping beauty of the Campania ecosystem, with whom we immersed ourselves in the world of the metaverse and metafood. Thanks to the technology they developed, BluDev, every food product obtains a digital fingerprint that guarantees the existence of the product and all its qualitative characteristics within a trusted network such as blockchain: the traced geographic origin of the product , the territory from which it comes, the tradition linked to that food, and the chemical matrix of the product. The Metaverse then becomes the virtual space in which to acquire reliable information from the field to the table, the first link in Farzati’s chain.
“Today, food fraud is the biggest cancer in the food sector. Giorgio has managed to transport emotions into technology, precisely because for us food is emotion. A tool that allows us to transport food into technology and validate it over time is the main tool of defense we can give to a true and quality producer.” He was introduced by Roberto Mazzei, Coldiretti’s Chestnut District Director.
This is precisely why food safety cannot be truly pursued without ecosystems suited and ready to enhance it.
Ecosystems capable of bringing together European and pan-European expertise and skills, such as EIT Food, which has 200 actors and organizations and which “seeks to integrate the triangle of knowledge: education, research and innovation, business” as Mario Roccaro shared, EIT Food’s Education Program Manager, by investing in different areas of innovation, such as sustainable agriculture, circular economy, traceability, but also by preparing talents and citizens to change mindset.
Ecosystems, such as Edible Planet Ventures, capable of unpacking the problems of innovation, because behind a food product there is never just a product, there is always a way of farming, there is energy use, there is use of natural resources such as water and soil, and there are laws that regulate certain conduct. “The idea is to unpack, but understand innovation issues and figure out how to solve them at the system level.” Sharon Cittone — Founder & CEO, Edible Planet Ventures.
Ecosystems capable of communicating the importance of innovation and providing advisory and digital services to startups and small and medium-sized agribusinesses, as TheFoodCons by Antonio Iannone is doing.
Ecosystems that encompass the entire food supply chain, from fields to transportation, from distribution to packaging, including through certified startup incubators with a vision of the entire food supply chain. “Whenever an actor touches one of the steps of the supply chain it becomes of interest to us in In Cibum Lab. It is essential to collect inside the large-scale distribution a living product, not a product stored for who knows how many days. That is why the start-ups we meet are dealing with regenerative agriculture and precision farming, but also with transportation, distribution, sustainable packaging recovery, and blockchain product traceability. The customer is becoming more and more prosumer: a little closer to the producer but very much consumer” — Deborah Morriello, Director In Cibum Lab.
After all, this is the real potential of blockchain: to guarantee real food safety through capillary traceability (of raw materials, of the resources needed, of food products), but also through direct support to those realities, often small and very small, that daily invest in the quality of ingredients and care of the territory. Thus, if the “green and digital transitions find in the world of agritech a lasting marriage,” as Valeria Fascione, Councillor for Research, Innovation and Startups of the Campania Region reminded us, at the same time digital can restore value and voice to tradition and to those who until now have remained invisible to consumers.
Because the challenge of our time is not to guarantee everyone access to food, but to guarantee everyone access to healthy food, nutritious for the body and regenerative for the Planet.
A dichotomy that, in today’s need for trust and transparency, blockchain may be able to bridge.
The Future Food Institute is an international social enterprise and the cornerstone of the Future Food Ecosystem, a collection of research labs, partnerships, initiatives, platforms, networks, entrepreneurial projects and academic programs, aiming to build a more equitable world, grounded in integral ecological regeneration, through enlightening a world-class breed of innovators, boosting entrepreneurial potential, and improving agri-food expertise and tradition.