Blockchain, Made In Italy & the Future of the Agrifood
By Raffaella Aghemo on The Capital
The blockchain is spreading its technology in the most varied fields; this block system, in which every single passage is monitored and controlled by everyone, is proving to be a precious weapon to “certify” products and services.
It is news of the last few days that this technology is bringing the producer closer to the consumer, in the agrifood sphere, strengthening consumer confidence in the purchase of food and organic products.
The ultimate goal is to create a mechanism that can make fraud and counterfeiting impossible, both in the supply chain and in production chains.
One of the “manias” of recent times, I say “mania” in a humorous tone, but it is a diktat that takes on an important value, it is the attention to food, is it not said, “we are what we eat”?
Lately, we have been witnessing a globalization that has brought to our markets food from states where controls are almost non-existent, spreading diseases and making the knowledge of their origin more and vaguer. This not only endangers the health of the consumer, which is already very serious in itself, but also risks de-valorizing our excellence at the table, calling Prosciutto San Daniele a product that it is not, or Pecorino Romano something totally different (not surprisingly the certificates is suspended for six months).
The requirements of the “blockchain” system, traceability and transparency, become the cornerstones of a new economy and a new marketing philosophy. In the food sector, all this is possible thanks to DLT (Distributed Ledger Technologies), a blockchain Permissioned Ledger.
The blockchains are divided into two categories, Permissionless Ledger and Permissioned Ledger, where the former are public and the latter private; where in the former the consent of those who update or modify the data contained in them, is global, as in the case of bitcoins, where anyone, without permission, is validator and can contribute to the updating of data, while in the latter there are actors, called trusted, which validate the network.
In this sector, we are talking about, since tamper-proof data, that is, data that cannot be manipulated increases the confidence of the consumer, who, alone, can verify and read the entire production path of food. Surely this process, laborious and useful, requires great investments, which is why only the big industries can afford it; to date two important names such as Nestlè and Barilla, the first to authenticate and certify the Bacio Perugina, the second to strengthen the image of quality of the raw material to make sauces, in particular pesto.
This technology is making giant strides and is projecting itself into a path of trust and enhancement of one of the most important brands that we have and that we export all over the world, the “Made in Italy”!
“Supply chain operations are under pressure to adopt new business models and technologies to excel in an increasingly complex and volatile world”, says C.
Dwight Klappich, Gartner’s Vice President Analyst, adds,
“Supply chain managers must identify where to innovate and invest in new processes and technologies to help their companies remain relevant in their markets”.
Blockchain’s projects in this area, however, focused primarily on three areas: verifying authenticity, improving traceability and visibility, and improving transaction confidence., Most also remained at the pilot project stage, caught between technological immaturity, lack of standards, and an overly ambitious goal.
The Economist has defined block technology as a “trust machine”, able to combat corruption, fraud, and counterfeiting due to its physiological, decentralized and transparent configuration.
This same trust is, in some ways, a “two-faced Janus”, especially in the food sector, where that same lack of need for control and disintermediation represents the first obstacles for a “real” and “realizable” operation. The agri-food production process is long, complicated, made up of many ineluctable steps, to guarantee, at the final yield, a guarantee of product quality.
But this technology would like to be part of a process of five phases, production — transformation — distribution — sale — purchase, a process in which all the actors involved are in competition, rather than in collaboration. As rightly pointed out in the “Ruralhack” report, there is no longer a necessary prerequisite for any functional and technological upheaval in the sector: a dialogue between the digital world and the rural civilization!
Made in Italy and the food sector recorded a 16% increase in national GDP in 2018, with strong growth in the wine and fruit sector. In the next few years, a dramatic gap is expected between food needs, which are less and less able to meet the needs of the world’s population, and the sure demographic increase.
GPS, automated guidance systems in the fields, geomapping, sensors, and variable speed technology (VRT), represent only part of the new “weapons” available, of a more aware and efficient agriculture. 55% of rural businesses say they have already been using new technologies for five years.
The phenomenon of Italian Sounding, as well as the phenomenon of the sophistication of food by agri-mafia, represent two of the main plagues that undermine the “Made in Italy”, which today, in terms of entirely Italian production, is only 30%.
One of the tools to defend our values and our national resources could be the platform with distributed protocols, as a herald of traceability and food security. The tools used to date are TAG RFID, bar code readers, labeling and verification systems. Valuable data block technology could help to innovate but should apply to the rural world, which has always been jealous of its production methods. In this full atmosphere of change, the consumer himself, first only passive subject of the creation — production — distribution — consumption chain, for the first time, is clamoring to become a protagonist, and to be able to choose, consciously, what he puts on the table!
For more than a year, large companies such as Carrefour and Walmart have relied on the blockchain to give reliability and transparency, the first one also creating a project, always in collaboration with IBM, “Act for Food”, to support the food transition and a better awareness of consumption, tending more and more to the organic sector.
The initiatives in this sector do not exceed ten, including our very Italian Demeter.Life, a platform made available for direct contact between consumer and farmer, to order fresh products, with the possibility of “renting” a “micro field”, that is a piece of land, where to cultivate their products, and with transactions using their own currency crypt on the Ethereum platform, called DMT; or the Australian Agridigital, which digitizes physical goods, transforming them into tokens transferable between all participants.
The latest product, the blockchain for Prosciutto San Daniele, presented at the AICIG headquarters in Rome, deserves a special mention. A two-dimensional QRCODE, affixed to the sliced ham trays, identifies and informs about the product, redirecting the user to a web page. In the March 20th episode of Report, it emerged that, in a joint investigation by the Prosecutors’ Offices of Turin and Pordenone, in the production chain of Parma and San Daniele PDO hams, Danish pork, not allowed by the protocols of the protection consortia, would have been used; one million hams were seized and the PDO guarantee mark was revoked at 20% of production, for not respecting the CUC (Unified Certification of Conformity) certificate.
Beyond the proclamations of recent months, which have more the flavor of brand strategy than real progress, Italy today struggles to find food self-sufficiency, in the face of the abandonment of land by young people and the consequent foreign hegemony. Today the Italy Country produces only 85% of the national food needs, and according to Frantoio Italia, at the beginning of May, has exhausted the stocks of 100% Italian oil, due to the decrease in production; two-thirds of what we consume has foreign derivation. Sugar production is in such distress that today we have, in our soil, only two sugar factories, which should cover the entire national need, so much so as to promote the launch of Nostrano, the first sugar derived from beet, to diversify and encourage local production.
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Raffaella Aghemo, Lawyer