RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • Fjord Trends predicts “making a difference will be a key point of differentiation” in the ethics economy. Companies often lack the right information.
  • The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation commissioned Accenture to explore the feasibility of blockchain across four commodities in the food sector.
  • Four commodities examined—beef, soy, wild-caught tuna and farmed shrimp—were selected for their market size and environmental impact.
  • This report looks at the feasibility of blockchain in commercial food supply chains and the considerations to undertake blockchain exploration.


Enabling traceability in the food industry

In general, companies do not know enough about the products that they buy and sell to navigate the many complex challenges facing today’s global supply chains (e.g., safe, sustainable and ethical). Some companies are realizing the business value of traceability for efficiency, cost savings, and achieving product premiums in the market. However, they must first overcome the mistrust associated with validating claims of product identity and traceability. Companies should prepare for every action or inaction to be closely scrutinized. More can be done to equip companies with real-time traceability of products within global food supply chains. Blockchain, a type of distributed ledger technology (DLT), has been increasingly gaining market traction in supply chains—for example, in proofing product provenance and implementing track-and-trace of products through the supply chain. While blockchain alone does not solve traceability, it can be a gamechanger. When implemented effectively, it can connect and enable efficiency, transparency and accountability among participating actors. Better and more reliable data can help optimize business decisions and reach higher standards for production, efficiency and sustainability.

"With sustainable 'green trade' valued at more than $1 trillion per year—and rapidly gaining political and economic importance—companies will need to do more to assure the origins, identity and trace-ability of their goods."

– US Council for International Business

Value levers specific to commercial food supply chain companies:

The commercial food industry is exploring the collaborative potential for enhancing workflows by using blockchain. The main supply chain challenges that businesses seek to address are:

  • Coordinating across multiple, disbursed and often disconnected supply chain actors
  • Onerous and costly data reconciliation processes
  • Lack of product traceability
  • Although relatively new, blockchain is already generating excitement among some companies in these industries. That’s because it offers many benefits that are valuable to diverse actors in a supply chain:

Profiles of the four use cases:

Four commodities were selected for their clarity in start and end points, clarity of blockchain objectives, consistent data definitions and data availability, and integration within the supply chain.

Indonesian wild caught tuna

Indonesia’s tuna landings contribute 17% of the world’s tuna supply; yet, unauthorized fishing risks resources in surrounding waters.

Thai farmed shrimp

Thailand accounts for approximately 17‒20% of total U.S. seafood imports. Shrimp is the most traded seafood globally.

Brazilian soy

A global soy leader, Brazil is the single-largest supplier to China. Soy production in Brazil is the second-largest cause of deforestation.

Brazilian processed beef

Brazil exported 1.44 million metric tons of beef in 2017. Inefficient ranch land usage drives 1 in 8 hectares of deforestation in the Amazon.

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Feasibility and value:

While blockchain traceability solutions could be created for all four commodities, this study’s findings indicate that certain use cases could be prioritized based on value provided and operational and market feasibility conditions. The design and development of the technology and technical solution are similar across use cases. Combining blockchain with existing traceability applications need not be overly complicated. The least ideal use cases had significant operational challenges that are not currently offset by sizeable business value and market feasibility to make them investment ready.

Recent blockchain trials in food traceability are promising but it is still early. Coordination is critical to stop illegal and unethical practices.

Christine Leong

Managing Director – Global Blockchain Identity Lead


Tal Viskin

Senior Manager, Lead – Accenture Development Partnerships Blockchain


Robyn Stewart

Manager – Accenture Development Partnerships

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