Blockchain technology to enhance industry integrity
Blockchain* technology has the potential to better support the integrity of the beef industry and revolutionise the relationship farming businesses have with consumers.
MLA recently spoke with Lachie Hart, Managing Director of Stockyard Beef, about a pilot program the business has undertaken which utilises blockchain technology to enhance product integrity and tell the provenance story of the Stockyard brand.
Here are some of the key insights shared by Mr Hart.
Stockyard is a second-generation family business, with operations through much of the supply chain from breeding to backgrounding, lot feeding and marketing.
Our Stockyard branded beef has two ranges – Wagyu and Angus – which are sold into 20 different countries around the world. The expectation from our consumers, who are paying a premium, is for the integrity of the product to be well promoted and maintained.
A digital passport for the provenance story
The pilot program is all about capturing the provenance story of our Stockyard brand digitally. It considers three retail markets around the world – Singapore, Dubai in the Middle East, and Yokohama in Japan – and is in the early planning and trial stage.
Imagine giving consumers a digital passport on every Stockyard steak they purchase.
Our supply chain captures a significant amount of data from genetics to growth rates, seasonal conditions, rations, animal welfare compliance data and carcase and grading data. All data is uploaded to a third-party provider supported by the MasterCard blockchain environment. We then use an Internet of Things (IoT) device to record in real time the data on GPS location of the consignment, temperature, and other measurements.
The project also allows us to collaborate a lot better with our in-market distributers and their inventory systems.
However, the project offers so much more than traceability, compliance and provenance. The real value to us lies in the ability to engage with retailers and their consumers. It will also allow us to provide marketing and promotional materials directly to the consumer, who was already engaged by scanning our quick response (QR) code.
QR codes provide the basis for engaging with consumers. We currently use QR codes as the interface with our importers and distributers, and retailers’ inventory systems. Once primal cuts are portion cut into retail consumer packs, the QR code will be integrated with the retailer’s price sticker and the consumer will be able to scan the QR code using their mobile phone to get trusted information about the piece of beef they have chosen.
Tackling the challenges
The biggest challenge has been determining the wants from the needs. Our supply chain captures so much data, and our distributors want everything, but they don’t need everything. So, it’s all about determining what is needed within each market and distribution channel.
The next challenge is reducing the drop out of consumers. We’re expecting the initial uptake of consumers scanning the QR code to be relatively high because of the novelty factor. The challenge will be to find innovative ways to get consumers to scan that second and third time and reduce the dropout rates.
Beyond the retail sector, the next challenge will be replicating this system for the food service sector, which does have its complications because consumers are eating a finished product on a plate.
Where the value lies
We’ve always been open with our data, both up and down the supply chain, and the systems we have in place mean we’ve been able to easily verify the claims we’re making.
The real motivation for us is the ability to provide more transparency in a trusted format and in real time to our distributers and retailers, but also to consumers, which is a huge positive.
The system has the added benefit of tackling any issues of fraud. While we’ve only had two cases of fraud over the business’ 62 years, given you invest so much in your product and brand, you will always be looking for ways to prevent fraud and this system will certainly do that.
Insights for other meat businesses
As with many things, the most important first step is to clearly identify what the problem is you’re trying to solve before looking for the solution. There are a lot of technology companies out there wanting to sell solutions without understanding what your problem really is.
Secondly, we have access to an overwhelming amount of data. Being able to identify what data is relevant and how it is going to be relayed to the customer in a way that is of interest to them as an individual is critical. Tackling this is likely to be the biggest challenge.
Perhaps thirdly, another point to remember is each market is very different, with different consumers, cultures, and languages. So, the messaging and information we share with our consumers is going to be very different depending on which market we’re focussed on.
Wider benefits to the industry
Looking to the future, the big opportunity for the industry will be access to technology that can automatically collect compliance data throughout the supply chain and put all that data within a secured and trusted environment, like blockchain. An automated, data driven process of this nature has the potential to greatly strengthen the integrity of our industry.
Listen to our full chat with Lachie Hart on the latest edition of MLA’s On the Ground weekly podcast here.
*Blockchain is the technology that allows data and transactions to be recorded efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way.