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In the second blog of our blockchain series, Leigh talks about the ways in which blockchain could potentially be used in agriculture, as well as whether these could actually be implemented in the UK agriculture market.

In the last blockchain blog, I outlined the basic concept of blockchain, how it differs from more traditional technologies and why people are beginning to adopt it.

In this post I’m going to talk about the potential uses of blockchain in agriculture – which I feel are limited due to the number of individual stakeholders in the industry, not to mention the need for a large initial investment in an unproven new technology.

Supply chain traceability

The most likely use of blockchain in the agriculture industry is in the supply chain: using a shared database to ensure traceability, transparency and accountability.

Last year, for example, following a contaminated lettuce scare, American store Walmart announced that they are going to start using blockchain to track vegetables from field to store. Their system aims to achieve real-time, end-to-end traceability along the supply chain to retrieve information more quickly and eliminate errors and duplicity.

Smart contracts

In Brazil, blockchain has also been used to create a business network for the aggregation of data on grains. The Brazilian Grain Exporters Network (BGEN) built a system that used blockchain smart contracts to facilitate a better flow of information between members of the network. A case study on the network concluded that the use of blockchain resulted in fewer information asymmetries and improved trust in the network.

More efficient and accurate information sharing

Downunder in Australia, their agriculture industry has the scale and capability that means they are looking to become an early adopter of blockchain. Their National Farmers’ Federation has announced that blockchain will be a key technology for the industry moving forward, and several initiatives are already underway.

One of these is Agrichain (formerly BlockGrain), a company which seeks to automate the sharing of information across the agricultural supply chain and is already being used by around 1000 Australian farmers.

While countries such as the US, Brazil and Australia have agriculture industries with the scale to look at adopting blockchain, I don’t believe that it is currently feasible in the UK. Where these larger countries are seeing big companies investing in this new, disruptive technology, the UK agriculture industry comprises of multiple smaller players, and I believe that it is unlikely that everyone will get behind this one technology.

In the third and final blog of the blockchain series, The Blockchain Challenge for Software Suppliers, I will look in more detail at why it would be so difficult to adopt blockchain across the agriculture industry in the UK.