NutriSafe - Blockchain Technology in Food Supply Chains

Kid with pineapple in supermarket

How can blockchain technology be used to make food production and logistics both safer and more resilient? Since 2019, the project “Security in Food Production and Logistics with Distributed Ledger Technology - NutriSafe” has been exploring precisely this question. At the NutriSafe Symposium on May 19, 2021, Prof. Hanno Friedrich and Ph.D. candidate Sarah Joseph presented their findings.

One potential area of application for blockchain technology in food supply chains involves tracing food products that e.g. cause illness. Together with Tim Schlaich and Dr. Abigail Horn, Prof. Hanno Friedrich developed a model for tracing the routes of contaminated foods with the aid of computer simulations. “We go back to the level of the individual consumer, who in the worst case falls ill. By examining the retailers and distributors, we can identify the original source, the producer,” Friedrich explains.

Blockchain can enhance model quality

In terms of making the model as precise as possible, consumers’ shopping mobility is an important aspect to consider. After all: many people don’t shop in the communities where they live, but in neighboring ones. If someone gets sick in a given community, the actual starting point in seeking the source of the problem isn’t where the person in question lives, but the neighboring community where they shop. “We’ve developed a gravitation model that can be used to estimate how many people shop in other regions,” Friedrich relates. To do so, they drew on data from a nationwide survey on Germans’ mobility-based behavior. “But in reality, this is essentially a makeshift substitute. If blockchain data were available, the entire model could far more accurately reflect the reality, from consumer to producer.”

Watch: NutriSafe Project at KLU

What drives sales when it comes to organic foods?

In contrast, KLU Ph.D. candidate Sarah Joseph’s study focuses on the sale of organic foods. What drives sales when it comes to these foods? Over the past 20 years, both sales and demand have steadily grown worldwide. In this regard, Joseph employed a spatial panel data analysis to investigate how the spatial relations between the sales of organic foods, the local neighborhood and the residents of said neighborhood changed over the last 20 years.

What she found: especially residents’ voting behavior and age determine the sales of organic foods. “The population’s voting behavior, that is, their views, are what have the greatest impact,” Joseph claims. “Here, once again blockchain comes into play: if it were used, more transparency could be achieved regarding, say, the sustainability of certain foods. In turn, this ‘extra’ information could change the population’s general attitude – and mean, for instance, more sales in the case of organic foods.”

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