Soil Association provides shoppers access to certification database using blockchain

The UK-based Soil Association, a member of the European organic food & farming umbrella organisation IFOAM EU, has partnered up with tech start-up Provenance for a trial project on food supply chain transparency using blockchain technology.

As transparency and trust become increasingly important in the highly complex food supply chains, proof of origin and the reliability of this proof are gaining in significance. Many consumers of organic goods also demand insight into the different production processes. To meet these demands, a new tool for accessing the Soil Association’s certification database has been introduced, and is tested by shoppers in-store. Louise Forster-Smith, New Product Development Manager at the Soil Association, tells IoF2020 how the blockchain trials have been unfolding.

Over the last few months, we have developed and delivered an experimental pilot project to learn about using transparent digital supply chain software in partnership with a meat producer and processor in the UK. The aim was to explore ways of adding more credibility and consumer visibility to organic supply chains and to promote transparency and collaboration between actors in the chain. Working with tech start up Provenance, Eversfield Organic Farm and As Nature Intended store in London, we tracked (at batch level) the journey of a pig from farm to shelf using blockchain technology.

This involved mapping out the product’s supply chain with all partners and investigating each internal system of record keeping, completing organic transactions and managing communication between actors in the chain. The pilot allowed us to integrate data and create a digital profile of the product’s history and production process including information from the pig rearing farm, abattoir, processor farm, certifier and store - with photos, info, maps and links. This was made accessible to consumers by scanning a barcode on-pack or hovering a mobile phone over the NFC (Near Field Communication) powered mark to activate live information gathered throughout the products journey from farm to store.

The interactive certification was well received by shoppers in-store, who intuitively used Provenance to access information. As part of this project, Provenance developed a digital organic mark (at product level) which will link directly with our certification database. We made this available to a number of Soil Association Certification licensees as part of Organic September – our key campaign of the year. This enables shoppers to access product stories and certification data by visiting a microsite that converts what was once a static jpeg into a data-powered mark of trust. We are now looking to develop a longer-term partnership with Provenance to help us reinforce the integrity of organic certification in the digital age and to increase innovation, efficiency and shopper engagement for brands and retailers alike.

To learn more about the trial, visit Provenance’s website.

Author: Louise Forster-Smith, Soil Association

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