This 2019-20 project commenced with the Soil Association Scotland-led Rural Innovation Support Service, which enabled the group to successfully apply for the Scottish Government’s Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund (KTIF).
The aim of the project was to establish whether information could be practically accumulated on farm and uploaded to a server to provide full and instant traceability at any stage in the supply chain. This would then provide a blueprint for other cereals and foods.
Technology needs to be more affordable and easier to implement on small to medium sized farms
Paul Mayfield of SAC Consulting, who coordinated the project, said it was very successful and had proved the concept works but also highlighted that that this technology needs to be easier to implement and affordable for small to medium size farms as well as the bigger commercial operations.
Watch: presentation by the group at The Innovation Game online event, March 15, 2021
“The technology is excellent and can provide instant answers to what at the moment can take a couple of weeks to investigate along a paper trail," says Mayfield, "but if we want to see it widely used, we need to make it very easy and affordable for farmers to adopt.
"We are currently seeking funding to trial using apps, sensors and API - which integrates different software farmers are already using - to minimise the effort needed to input data at farm level.”
We need farmers to help us understand the technology we need
Blockchain technology could be used not only to counter food fraud or source contamination but to evidence environmental and sustainability credentials, which may be the direction of travel for retailers and the government:
“If we can create a blueprint to accurately and openly trace the origin of foods – and potentially their carbon footprint - we can help farmers do what they may well be required to do for contracts or rural payments in the future,” says Mayfield. “What we need, though, is for farmers to help us understand the technology they need and would use on the ground so that it works for them.
"Not only can it be used as an advanced management tool to improve their business, but the data becomes a commodity they can sell. The tech is there, but we need farmers to help shape it.”
More about blockchain
Blockchain is a digital ledger into which information from different places can be entered and then linked together in a chain. A quick scan of a QR code can trace a product throughout the entire supply chain using these ‘blocks’.
Oats are gluten-free, but they can be processed in the same facilities as gluten, risking contamination and this transparency and traceability allows consumers to be confident in their buying choices.