Blockchain in food safety

Brewing a more traceable and sustainable beer industry with blockchain

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pouring a draftWhether you’re at Oktoberfest, a craft brewery or your local pub, the beer in your glass typically begins with four key ingredients: grain, water, yeast and hops.

The variety comes from mixing those ingredients in different proportions and adding others to create distinct flavors. The beer itself tells a story of how those ingredients were combined and how farmers, brewers, shippers and more worked together to bring you the bottle in your hands.

Earlier this year, Ängöl Brewery, a popular Swedish microbrewer, released Helt Spårat, traced by IBM Food Trust and Sweden’s first blockchain-traceable beer. Helt Spårat’s story is one of sustainability; the beer was made using only locally and sustainably produced ingredients. The farm where the grain was grown runs on solar power and fuels its tractors with renewable diesel gasoline. Unlike most Swedish beers, Helt Spårat’s hops are actually grown in Sweden, not imported, which limits transportation-related emissions. Additionally, the water used in the brewing process comes from small lakes in the nearby Småland highlands, while residual products are used as feed for a local farm’s dairy cows that produce milk for cheeses served at Ängöl’s beer tastings.

Join the IBM Food Trust ecosystem for a smarter, safer, more sustainable food system

Stories like Helt Spårat’s often go untold, unappreciated and unvalidated, because sharing them is normally limited to the tiny, overlooked text on a bottle’s label. However, with blockchain technology, this information can be made available to consumers, who can scan a QR code on the bottle and learn what’s unique about a beer and how it was made.

Tracing Helt Spårat from plants to pints

Helt Spårat is traced using IBM Food Trust, a blockchain-based solution that enables a safer, smarter and more sustainable food ecosystem by increasing transparency across supply chains. Blockchain technology provides new levels of trust and transparency as well as the assurance that products stay true to their claims of sustainability. As the beer is made, users record data about the ingredients on an unchangeable digital ledger that’s shared among participants, who can collaborate more effectively, and with end consumers, who are now connected to the entire lifecycle of a beer.

The blockchain-traced story of Helt Spårat spans roughly two years and takes consumers on a tour of Sweden in the form of interactions throughout the supply chain. Consumers have a complete view of production, which began on April 22, 2019 when farmer Wilhelm Aschan sowed the grain at his farm Ullälva, all the way through to when the beer was bottled on March 13, 2021 at the brewery, a three-hour drive away.

In addition to the farms’ various sustainability initiatives, consumers can also view key milestones, like when the hops were harvested at Korngården AB, Sweden’s only organic commercial hop farm, in September of 2020. They also can see how, as the grain moved from the farm to the brewery, transactions were managed through Skira, a digital trading place for grain that helps farmers get larger profit margins from sales.

By showing how the beer was made and where the ingredients came from, this information helps bridge the gap consumers often notice when brands make claims of sustainability.

Cracking open more sustainable supply chains with blockchain

IBM wants to improve traceability in the food industry, and IBM Food Trust is the only network of its kind that connects participants across the food supply chain through a permissioned, permanent and shared record of data.

While blockchain technology offers new ways for suppliers to interact with consumers, it also can provide several other benefits. Sharing data across a supply chain can enable increased sustainability and transparency and solve different industry problems, such as minimizing waste and improving food safety and freshness.

Here are a few ways IBM Blockchain is being used to support these efforts:

  • Small-farmed coffee: Farmer Connect also helps bring farmers and end consumers closer together. Only, instead of doing so within one country, Farmer Connect links people on opposite sides of the world. With users such as Massimo Zanetti Beverage Group, Smucker 1850 and UCC Coffee, Farmer Connect’s Thank My Farmer app also helps support secured storage and sharing of business data and offers a way for consumers to donate directly to sustainability projects in the farmers’ communities
  • Precisely traced wine: VinAssure is a wine traceability network that improves collaboration across the complicated wine supply chain. Supply chain participants can view critical information about wine shipments, such as the temperature in transit, which has lasting effects on the quality of a wine. Along with being used to detect anomalies, the information tracked in VinAssure can also help identify supply chain inefficiencies and improve processes to be more resilient and sustainable.
  • Sustainable Nordic salmon: Last year, Atea, the Norwegian Seafood Association and IBM launched the Norwegian Seafood Trust, a cross-industry collaboration designed to transform Norway’s seafood industry using blockchain technology. To date, brands including Kvarøy Arctic and Nova Sea have joined the Norwegian Seafood Trust, which shares supply chain data and supports safer, better seafood to consumers worldwide. The blockchain network traces their sustainably farmed salmon, the feed the fish were raised on and the brands’ health certifications. Because the ledger cannot be tampered with, consumers can feel comfortable with their purchase decisions when they buy salmon, while companies like Kvarøy Arctic and Nova Sea are recognized for their responsible and eco-friendly practices.

All these examples show that whether you are selling beer, coffee, wine, fish or even a luxury handbag, there’s a demand among consumers to know where a product comes from. There’s also a need for each of us to do our part in safeguarding the planet through more sustainable operations, which opening lines of communication and sharing data can help support.

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Offering Manager, IBM Food Trust

Frode Langmoen

Technology Executive, ISV & Developer Relations, IBM Nordic IBM Global Markets - Ecosystem

Baan Slavens

Principal Product Manager, AI Applications - IBM Blockchain

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