Getting to the Top of the Food (Supply) Chain

Of all its use-cases, Blockchain may be best suited for optimizing industries with complex supply chains. With global travel in multiple modes of transportation and numerous disconnected companies and contractors all coming together to form a Frankensteinian creature, a lot can, and does, go wrong. Fraud, incompetence, shirking responsibility are all commonplace, and the current system of accountability, such that it is, was designed for a different era when the world was a much smaller place.

One industry that ticks all these boxes is food production, again earning its share of infamy for the recent salmonella outbreak brought on by tainted snack food in the USA. Not only did the recall come too late to save the victims, but as of yet, no blame has been levied on responsible parties. Brand identity has been shaken, and consumer trust may not return for years.

Companies have released the usual slew of PR damage control, but if you listen extra closely you can hear them scrambling behind the scenes, working round the clock to use technologies like blockchain to prevent this from ever happening again.

Food Safety

The most obvious application of blockchain technology is food safety. From a preventative standpoint, participants along the supply chain such as growers can analyze their products for various contaminants. If the tests fail, the smart contract needed to hand off to the next participant (e.g. processors) would fail to execute, preventing the compromised food from proceeding along the supply chain. All analysis would stream directly to the blockchain, preventing the grower from retroactively altering it to avoid accountability. While it’s impossible to prevent someone from putting fake information onto the blockchain, to begin with, this kind of behavior, once discovered, would not only carry legal penalties but an indelible black mark in the platform’s reputation system.

Even if contaminated food does make it to retailers and onto the customer’s plate, blockchain can mitigate the damage. By tracing the food’s journey through the supply chain, one can make a precise determination of when and where the trouble started. Instead of recalling the product entirely, costing the company and innocent farmers, only a specific batch can be recalled. The process can also happen within hours instead of days or weeks typical of the current system.

A bowl of rice (food)
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A journey of a thousand km begins with a single grain of rice.

You Are What You Eat

As the global food supply chain has grown in size, consumers have become more and more alienated from what they eat, leading many to demand labels such as locally-grown, farm-to-table, and sustainable. People are anxious about the environmental cost of shipping food across countries, or of unfair practices carried out by other governments. Many also believe in supporting local farmers, and that food grown locally is healthier. While there are government regulations on what constitutes ‘organic’ food, other labels may not be as trustworthy. With the help of blockchain and IoT track and trace, a customer can scan a QR code on their food and discover its entire life story. What farm did it originate from? When was it picked? How many miles did it travel to get to the grocery store?

An example of this end-to-end transparency is currently underway in Finland, where the IBM blockchain is being used to show information about fish, including the lake it was caught in, and eventually, which fishermen were responsible. In other countries, this level of granular detail is essential for those who want to boycott practices like scraping the ocean floor or catches taken from off-limits parts of the ocean.

Challenges Ahead

It will prove quite an endeavor to shift the global food supply onto the blockchain, and numerous obstacles remain. If multiple companies launch their own blockchains it could create confusion and possibly splinter the supply chain across platform lines. If one blockchain emerges to rule them all, it will defeat the decentralized purpose of the technology, as one company will be required to run it. There is simply no way that the global food supply chain can operate on anything resembling the Bitcoin or Ethereum blockchains, at least with the scaling issues they currently experience. Blockchain centralization is already underway, in fact. IBM has made partnerships with Walmart as well as ten other major food suppliers in the US.

Another issue is the threshold of technology required. Many participants in the supply chain still use pen and paper for their record keeping. This could be out of sheer luddism, but one has to accept that many parts of the world are either too remote or not technologically advanced enough to make use of the blockchain. Many farmers operate at a very narrow profit margin as well, often relying on government subsidies to make ends meet. Despite some economics that blockchain brings, many may resist the upfront cost.

Even if it’s not fully adopted in the near future, blockchain still holds enormous potential for the global food system. As the world population grows, the food supply needs to grow with it, and our descendants will thank us if we can find a way to keep everyone fed and healthy.

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Will Minor
Will is a writer-at-large for Block Telegraph. A prolific writer and futurist from New York City, he specializes in all things cutting edge. He holds a Masters in the Arts and has taught extensively abroad.

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Börse Stuttgart Unveils New ICO Platform to Help Blockchain Start-ups

Stock exchange charts

Navigating the Regulatory Minefield

Blockhain-crypto start ups are here to stay, and while most of them are eager to play by the rules, they need a helping hand or two from organizations with expertise in regulatory matters. This regularity environment must walk a tightrope of clarity, best practices, and an aversion to overzealous oversight that risk throttle the industry. We’ve seen the fruits of such a beneficial environment already in Malta, which has formed the vanguard of crypto-friendly countries in Europe, and Estonia, which has designs on a “digital republic“.

However, financial and securities regulations aren’t easy to understand. Very often, start-ups interpret their offering in one way, only to find that regulators have interpreted it rather differently. Take, for instance, the dim view the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), has taken of so-called utility tokens. Numerous start-ups believed their tokens did not fall under the definition of a security due to their ‘utility’ on the platform.

The SEC, following a principle of “Substance over form”, reviewed the aggressive marketing of these tokens and noticed the vast majority of people were buying the utility tokens with the expectation of a future profit. This classification from on high has led to a scramble among ICOs and a full scale swing to Security Tokens, which start-ups hope will avoid regulatory carpet bombing.

This is where Börse Stuttgart, Germany’s no. 2 stock exchange, enters the picture.

Gavel and law books
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ICOs need outside help to avoid the long arm of the SEC. Image credit: succo / Pixabay

 

An Integrated Platform

Börse Stuttgart is developing an integrated service offering for digital currencies, which, they hope, will remove the grey areas that often plague ICO sales. The company will allow blockchain start-ups to conduct their ICOs over their new platform in a transparent manner. The platform offers services in a centralized manner so that the start-ups can work with a single integrated service provider. Börse Stuttgart is also developing a secondary market for the ICO tokens sold over their platform. A secondary market are important for most blockchain-crypto projects, since brings in the much needed ‘network effect‘.

Börse Stuttgart is a well-established player in Germany with their floor-based stock exchange. Retail investors can trade in various products here — equities, securities derivatives, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and bonds, to name a few. Founded in 1860, and based out of Stuttgart, the company lays claim to broad expertise in various kinds of trading as well as regulation, all of which will come handy for ICO token issuers who use their new ICO platform.

The company is also developing a crypto trading app, named ‘Bison’, which they plan to release in September 2018. Their new ICO platform will follow the release of Bison. Alexander Hoptner, their CEO, is upbeat about the project which sits well with their strategy of promoting digital currencies in a transparent and regulated manner.

Börse Stuttgart isn’t the only stock exchange serious about blockchain and crypto; “SIX”, the company that owns and manages Switzerland’s stock exchange, is building “SIX Digital Exchange” (SDX), an integrated market for cryptocurrencies. Increasingly, it looks like Europe is taking the lead in blockchain and cryptocurrency technology. Time will tell if other global financial powers can keep pace.

 

 

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A New Survey Provides Insight into Blockchain Adoption in Advertising

blockchain advertising survey results

Advertiser Perceptions Reports on Survey Results

Advertiser Perceptions, an intelligence company in the advertising industry, recently reported the results of a survey commissioned by XCHNG, a blockchain based digital advertising platform. To complete the report, Advertiser Perceptions surveyed 300 advertising decision-makers. The focus of the survey was to determine how these decision-makers feel about blockchain technology, specifically media solutions related to it, including advertising.

One of the primary highlights of the survey is the finding that just 11 percent of advertising executives have bought ads utilizing blockchain technology. Considering the prevalence of blockchain, this is a particularly interesting figure. After all, this figure indicates that just over 1 out of 10 executives have utilized blockchain technology in ads. Despite the low level of execution, interest is high.

In fact, when questioned, almost half of those responsible for making decisions in advertising indicated that they see strong potential for blockchain technology. Specifically, the report found that these decision makers feel that blockchain may help them overcome issues such as inaccuracies across the supply chain and a lack of transparency. Since both of those factors currently negatively impact 70 percent of advertisers’ return on investment, according to the survey, the potential for using blockchain is there.

While the survey indicated positivity toward the potential applications of the blockchain in advertising, it also pinpointed some of the issues holding back widespread adoption. Two-thirds of the professionals surveyed by Advertiser Perceptions indicated that they are skeptical about solutions for media involving blockchain. The report found that this skepticism is the result of the mixed and negative information regarding cryptocurrency.

In addition to capturing overall sentiments regarding blockchain advertising as a whole, the survey also asked some targeted questions to those who have already discussed potential solutions with a blockchain provider. Of those who have taken this key step toward execution, the majority do plan to buy data via blockchain technology within the next two years.

xchng blockchain advertising
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Image Credit: XCHNG/xchng.io

XCHNG’s Interest in the Survey

As mentioned, XCHNG commissioned this survey and report. XCHNG is a unified and open-source blockchain-based framework that is specifically designed to work in the ecosystem for digital advertising. Kochava, whose CEO, Charles Manning, is also the XCHNG CEO, designed and deploys the XCHNG framework. With XCHNG, advertisers can target as well as activate audiences, take advantage of a next-generation record system, enhance the transparency and efficiency of advertising spending, and allow for tokenization of the framework.

As such, XCHNG has a great deal at stake based on the interest in blockchain technology used for advertising. An indication of high interest in the adoption of blockchain tech for advertising helps to show the potential of the XCHNG framework. XCHNG can use the interest levels indicated in the report to indicate its value to contributors and partners. At the same time, it can utilize the concerns mentioned in the report, such as the hesitation to adopt blockchain technology due to the occasional negativity surrounding crypto, to determine areas that it must improve upon. Simply put, the report provides XCHNG with valuable insight into the specific industry it hopes to target.

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