Tucker Overmann
Jun 1 · 4 min read

Looking for ideas for IBCOL submissions? Here’s one:

A potential problem for blockchain to solve is to verify the claim of organicity of food products.

Given that the process for the verification varies depending on the food product, we’ll explore a specific one: bubble tea.

Ostensibly organic; Definitely delicious

Executive Summary

Normal food is cost and efficiency optimized, and as a consequence of these values being prioritized, the health of the consumer can be put at risk. The environment can also suffer damage as a result of this value hierarchy. Organic food costs more because optimal prices are sacrificed for environmentally responsible and health conscious food.

Organic bubble tea commands a higher price, but anyone can write organic on their product. The added value attached with this label also comes with some problems: what is the definition of organic, and who decides what qualifies and what doesn’t?

Problem

How do we ensure all ingredients are indeed organic? There is no way for the consumer to audit the process; their only option is to trust in the label. Each country has different definitions of organic, so these varying definitions need to be accounted for. The people that certify food as organic need to be held accountable.

Solution

The solution must hold food producers accountable to their organic claims. A system that ensures authentic organic status at every stage of production is necessary. Food safety is a byproduct of such a system, as these check-ins also ensure proper handling. Other benefits include: increased consumer confidence, increased sales, and increased brand equity. Producers need to keep proprietary process information private. Regulators can audit in real time.

Blockchain Assets

Blockchain provides a shared ledger, so everyone can see the status of the tea. From farm to table, from catch to café, everyone can agree on the records. Any deviation from organic status is held accountable by this ledger. Because we want to maintain the privacy of the suppliers, we will use time capsule (commitment) proofs and put them on the blockchain. The proofs include:

1. Operators: farmers, harvesters, processors, distributors, merchants

2. Risk bearers: Regulators of organic standard, Safety regulators, auditors of both regulations, financiers of operators

3. Issuer or attestation entities that provide data to satisfy the definition of organic regulations.

Identity

Ideal chain for this solution is a publicly accessible permission chain, so that writing ability is restricted, but everyone can read it. Only members of the Bubble Chain Society can write on the chain.

A sample situation for this chain: A tea leaf farmer sells to a bubble tea company whose products are organic. The farmer’s tea leaves are periodically checked by an inspector that surveys the planting, nurturing, harvesting, processing, and transport of the leaves in order to verify their organicity. The inspector goes through a checklist that includes all the criteria that must be met in order for the tea to be organically certified, and each of these points (pass or fail) is recorded on the ledger. Every record must be signed off by notary.

But this brings another problem: How do you know if someone is a notary?

Digital identity is difficult, because creating fakes is easy. Verification is a challenge in the digital space. A solution to this issue is Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI). This ensure strongly linked authentication of the notary’s identity, maintaining the credibility of the system.

Market size

The market size for this solution is every food establishment that sells organic bubble tea. Anywhere that the value of an authentic organic label for bubble tea has value, this solution has value.

Partners

Organic certification bodies of every country involved in producing and selling bubble tea. Growing, harvest, processing, transportation, and distribution are all included. For example, tea can be grown in China, distributed in Hong Kong, shipped to Canada, sold in Toronto. Three jurisdictions, three organic definitions and three certification bodies.

Revenue model

As a certified organic label carries value, the people that gain from this added value should pay for it. The Bubble Chain Society will take a percentage of sales of all certified products.

Distribution channels

Tea growers or sugar growers or tapioca growers, or, some association that brings these together, or, regulatory bodies

Risks

Reliable organic certification may not be a high consumer concern, meaning the solution can’t fetch a high enough price to justify cost of certification.

Conclusion

Organic labels are untrustworthy, despite their value. The lack of accountability and varying definitions make for a misleading and unclear outcome, at best. At worst, the system commits fraud, stealing money from consumers, or even worse, damaging their health. With this blockchain solution, we can give organic certification the credibility it’s currently lacking.

Submit your own paper

Remember that this example and our other guidelines are just that: “guidelines” — please write what you think best demonstrates a full solution. Send a proposal write-up on ibcol.org/registration soon! You have nothing to lose except for a few hours of research and creativity!

International Blockchain Olympiad

International Blockchain Olympiad (IBCOL) is a multidisciplinary design and building competition. IBCOL 2019 invites students from around the world to solve real-world challenges through decentralised applications.

Tucker Overmann

Written by

IBCOL committee member

International Blockchain Olympiad

International Blockchain Olympiad (IBCOL) is a multidisciplinary design and building competition. IBCOL 2019 invites students from around the world to solve real-world challenges through decentralised applications.

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