So, you are an organic shopper, and you are ready to pay twice, three or four times the actual price to get exactly what you want?Â Of course you are. And, considering all these health issues lurking around, you should be mighty proud of that. But, there’s a fundamental problem with your decision: sellers are aware of your determination to spend more money on what you think is better as well. And sellers know how to use this to their benefit. Now think about all the products you’ve bought during this month – and bought at an expensive price – once again. How can you know for sure that you weren’t manipulated into thinking they are organic? Do you really know the story of the carrots you just chopped for your afternoon salad?
The truth is, unless you’ve grown them by yourself in your own garden, there’s no way you can know the exact story of how the carrots you’re about to eat got to your plate. But, rest assured! After dealing for years with bitcoins (the news is, there’s a new sheriff in town) and devising plans how to revolutionise business communication, blockchain developers have gone back to the roots and are currently trying to use the technology to make you, the customer, feel much safer insofar the origin of the products you buy is concerned.
In layman terms: blockchain developers know how to bring to light the exact story of your carrots.
A blockchain is a kind of ledger that’s pretty hard (if not impossible) to fool. In the world of cryptocurrencies, a blockchain works by checking if a client has control over enough assets to cover any given transaction before the transaction can be sent. It’s not possible to “go into debt” by running a negative balance on your account. New assets are created by mining rigs which lend processing power to any particular blockchain network and relayed only by valid nodes on that network.
How is this connected to your carrots? In essence, the very same principle will result in a factual and untarnished record of their story.
In fact, Provenance is currently working on blockchain-based solution which may make supply chains far more transparent. CEO Jessi Baker recently told Coindesk:
“What we see is really exciting with the blockchain in that there is finally a method of perhaps gathering this data from far-flung areas where products are being produced and having that connected to an open ledger that isn’t governed by anyone. So, it can be committed there and also help people who are already gathering that information to do so in a more interoperable way from the get-go, such as certificates, for example.”
Provenance’s pilot project is already a gargantuan project: blockchaining the fishing industry. How big of an endeavour is this is evidenced by the fact that some sources estimate that as much as 1/3 of the seafood caught to be sold at the markets is undeclared. To make matters even worse, a third of the seafood items you eat regularly at your restaurants is not exactly what the label says it is. The point is, you may have paid quite a few times for a Chilean sea bass, but your taste buds might have never tasted one.
Provenance’s immediate objective is to create an app which requires Indonesian “pole and line” fishermen who catch tuna for the Japanese sashimi market to log each of their catches on the blockchain. This would assign each unit of legally caught fish a token which can subsequently be used to track its location along the supply chain. If someone attempts to deliver a shipment of fish that has never previously been logged on the blockchain, that shipment would be rejected and investigated by the appropriate personnel. Attempts to tamper with the existing records would likewise be detected and rejected by valid nodes along the supply chain or an alert blockchain specialist.
Jessi Baker hopes that Provenance’s blockchain applications will soon become more widespread, and that, in time, they will help in solving many social and environmental issues around the world. They go way beyond addressing the serious problem of depleted populations of fish due to illegal overfishing. As she told Coindesk:
“We have seen products that are still being done by slaves, environments being destroyed by the production of consumer goods.”
The main objective of a blockchain-based supply chain application is guaranteed transparency. And guaranteed transparency is usually the only thing regulatory boards need in order to separate the illegal from the authorised. Rejecting counterfeited goods or products manufactured by slaves is merely the next step. And the next step from there is creating a better world.
So, in a way, you can say that Provenance blockchaining food is anything but naÃ¯ve or isolated venture. Gradually, it may even lead to a non-violent revolution which may finally free humanity and, eventually, save the planet.
Your carrots brought us here.
Even though still under development, blockchain technology promises a much better future for everybody. Preparing for the inevitable, some corporations have already shown interest in buying and selling only ethically produced goods to their ever-alert customers. Even they, however, have been frustrated by the lack of transparency in the supply chains, a problem of which industry specialists have been aware for decades.
If all goes according to plan, blockchain technology should finally solve this problem. The clients of the future may be able to run each separate fish or carrot under a scanner equipped with a blockchain client which, in turn, will provide them with all the necessary information about its origin and history. This is not just information which will help customers make better buying decisions. It’s also information which will make sure that nobody – neither supply chains nor final users – is ever interested in buying goods produced in an unethical manner. And since blockchains are secure by design, and there’s no way that they can be tampered, it’s also information which may inevitably make the world a better place.