By Michael Mensah
WITHIN the complex realm of food supply chains, where products navigate through an intricate network of entities and processes prior to reaching the end consumer, the cornerstones of achievement are traceability, transparency, and efficiency.
However, mismanagement, mistrust, and compromised food safety have frequently resulted from disruptions and a lack of information sharing within conventional supply chain systems.
As an effort to achieve a paradigm shift, the implementation of block chain technology is facilitating a revolution within the food supply chain by introducing unparalleled levels of traceability and transparency.
Understanding the Complexity of Supply Chains
A supply chain can be defined as an intricate network comprising interdependent entities, organisations, and procedures that are tasked with coordinating the manufacturing, distribution, and shipment of products and services from the supplier to the end user.
Every link in the food supply chain, spanning from production to consumption, necessitates the careful coordination of a multitude of decisions and actions. A cascade effect can result from any disruption or difficulty at a single stage, affecting the entire supply chain.
The intricacies of supply chain dynamics have been further compounded by globalisation and technological progress, thereby demanding the adoption of effective management systems.
Although certain organisations have made investments in automation and optimisation, a concerning 83% of companies in Ghana continue to face supply chain disruptions as a result of unsustainable security and management strategies. The agricultural industry, like many others, is adversely affected by poorly managed supply chains.
The Desynchronization Dilemma
A fundamental challenge that afflicts supply chains is the absurdity between stakeholder information sharing and operational processes. The absence of transparency within the food supply chain impedes the implementation of efficient management approaches.
The absence of transparency throughout the supply chain hinders the ability to trace food production, which in turn generates consumer scepticism regarding the origin and quality of the food. Consequently, these factors undermine sustainability, accountability, profitability, food safety, and efficiency.
Block chain: The Game Changer
Various traceability and transparency technologies have been established in recent years to improve visibility in the food supply chain. The most potential answer among these developments is block chain technology. A block chain-based food supply chain transparency system has the ability to successfully solve these concerns.
Demystifying Block chain
A distributed, decentralised digital ledger technology known as block chain is employed to document transactions or data across a network of nodes, which are computers.
By granting each node access to the complete log of network transactions, transparency is established. Each of these transactions is linked to the prior block in which it is stored in a block.
Each new block contains the cryptographic hash of the previous block, rendering the ledger virtually impervious to tampering and fraudulent activities. A transaction enters the block chain in an immutable state.
How Block Chain Transforms Supply Chains
A block chain-based food supply chain transparency system enhances the traceability and accountability of food products as they journey from their source to the end consumer. Here’s a breakdown of how it works:
- Product Identification: Each food item is assigned a unique identifier, often in the form of a QR code or RFID tag, linked to the product’s information on the block chain.
- Data Entry and Validation: Relevant information about the product, such as origin, production date, and transportation details, is recorded and validated at various supply chain stages.
- Block chain Recording: Validated data is encrypted and added to a block on the block chain, creating an immutable ledger visible to all stakeholders.
- Smart Contracts: These automate processes, such as payments upon successful delivery, enhancing efficiency.
- Access Control: Participants in the supply chain have specific access rights, ensuring data security.
- Traceability and Transparency: Consumers can trace the food product’s journey and access a comprehensive record, fostering trust.
Benefits of the System
The adoption of a block chain-based system offers numerous advantages, such as heightened operational efficiency, improved traceability, decreased fraudulent activities, enhanced product safety, and increased consumer confidence.
A Path to the Future
Collaboration, the selection of a suitable block chain platform, system design, and regulatory compliance are all required for the implementation of a block chain-based system. The success of the system is dependent on user education and adoption.
In a world where transparency and traceability are critical, block chain technology emerges as a game changer, providing a ray of hope for the food supply chain in attaining efficient, secure, and trustworthy operations. The future of food supply chains appears brighter than ever before as stakeholders embrace this transition.
. The writer is Lecturer and Coordinator for Electrical and Electronics Engineering at the Academic City University College, Accra