What is a Blockchain?
Blockchain technology is a way of storing and sharing information across a network of users in an open virtual space. It allows users to look at all transactions simultaneously and in real-time.
The World Economic Forum defines blockchain as a “shared, programmable, cryptographically secure and therefore trusted ledger which no single user controls and which can be inspected by anyone”.
In the olive oil supply chain, information is digitally connected to a bottle and entered into the blockchain at every step of its journey.
This includes farm-origination details, batch numbers, processing data, factory information, harvest dates, storage temperatures, shipping details, retailers and quality certification.
The information is captured in each step, which is assigned a digital certificate. This then becomes a permanent record that — and this is the important bit — cannot be altered.
Benefits of the Blockchain for Olive Oil Traceability
One of the biggest benefits of blockchain is its public nature.
Blockchain technology provides provenance, traceability and transparency of information.
For example, in olive oil supply chain, all of the transactions for one item can be seen and validated at any point in time. This will allow every party in the supply chain to have a better picture of the oil’s journey, all in the form of a digital ledger provided in the blockchain.
Blockchain provides a permanent record of transactions, which are then grouped in blocks that cannot be altered or tampered with, making fraud impossible. At the same time, consumers are reassured that olive oil brands cannot change the information in a bid to hide the true origin and movement of the product through the supply chain.
Blockchain provides a neutral open platform. No third party is needed to authorise transactions; rather, there’s a set of rules that all participants — both users and the operators of the system — must abide by.
This is highly valuable in complex supply chains were trust is low and compliance is difficult to gauge.
In fact, The Economist has dubbed blockchain “The Trust Machine”.
Because blockchain technology operates on a distributed (rather than centralised) platform, each participant has access to exactly the same ledger records. When information is updated, it’s updated for everyone in the network at the same time.
This empowers the whole supply chain to be more responsive to any fraud threats or food safety disasters.