Google blockchain and the search results will boggle your mind. You’ll fall into endless reams of information about blockchain and bitcoin. Cryptocurrencies spawned the birth of blockchain, and the technology has grown and adapted to serve other industry needs.
Wikipedia defines blockchain as a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. Each block typically contains a hash pointer as a link to a previous block, a timestamp and transaction data.
By design, blockchains are inherently resistant to modification of the data. It is “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way.” For use as a distributed ledger, a blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively adhering to a protocol for validating new blocks. Once recorded, the data in any given block can’t be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks, which requires collusion of the network majority.
The launch of the new generation of the Beef InfoXchange System (BIXS) is an answer to the needs and demands of consumers and retailers, and will allow the use of blockchain technology to function with our current traceability systems. BIXS is operated by BIXSco Inc., and is a web-based data management system, a value-added traceability system adding transparency and verification to beef production.
Mintel, a global and award-winning provider of market research, has found that only one in five Canadians trust health claims on food and beverage packaging. Another study out of Dalhousie University found that 63 per cent of consumers feel the claims made on food packaging don’t align with what they’re eating – very often referenced as food fraud. Consumers demand more transparency and accountability from producers, processors and food retailers.
The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals the largest ever drop in trust across the institutions of government, business, media and non-government organizations. The good news is that of the four institutions, business is viewed as the only one that can make a difference. The belief is that a company can take actions to both increase profits and improve societal and economic conditions in the community in which they operate.
But the same study identified the precarious nature of this belief. Business leaders must step up on issues that are important to society. Businesses can illustrate the benefit of innovations but must address what those innovations mean to employees and customers. There’s a tendency or preference by the consumer for self-referential media and a reliance on one’s peers for information.
For more than a decade, fragmentation of the beef supply chain has been a major concern of industry stakeholders. Silos function well when each sector works autonomously but with consumers demanding more information about their food, a fragmented system won’t meet the demand.
Issues related to privacy, competition, confidentiality and lack of trust have pervaded the industry. CAPPI, Strawman and Canadian Beef Improvement Network reports all identified that data sharing needs to happen. Until data is shared, the industry won’t evolve. Some of the most memorable things BIXSco Inc. heard when we took over the Beef InfoXchange System in Februrary 2016 were:
- the memorandum of understanding in the beef industry is “I win, you lose;”
- data is power;
- the easiest way to make money is at some else’s expense.
These points illustrate the lack of trust between segments of the beef industry.
The new management at BIXS took what they heard to heart and set out to create new industry partnerships. The goal was to respect existing business models, earn trust, respect privacy and deliver value to the industry. It’s been three years of listening, challenging and learning, while sifting through all the well-intentioned advice and recommendations.
The BIXS management team is unique, with business, technology, marketing and agriculture knowledge in its background.
BIXS supports the integrity of the beef supply chain, providing transparency for all participants while protecting privacy, moving the industry from the disconnected supply chain of yesterday to true value chains of tomorrow.
Using blockchain technology, BIXS will increase efficiencies, building robust integrated blockchain solutions that will work alongside the new web-based traceability system, which tracks cattle via radio frequency identification tags through their lifetime.
Using a blockchain as a part of an existing web-based data management system is not unique to BIXS, nor to the agri-food industry. Blockchains come in many forms, public and private, able to track many things or to focus on one thing. A blockchain can operate between two parties or multiple parties with defined rules to determine what blocks are added or followed.
BIXS sees blockchain as a logical addition to traceability in the beef industry, able to easily track specific information.
Traceability, transparency and sustainability support a beef production system that prioritizes the planet, people, animals and progress. The Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef framework for producers makes Canada the first country in the world to launch a producer framework for sustainable beef production, to certify cattle operations and track chain of custody. Our country is considered one of the world leaders in sustainable beef production.
With the new enhanced Canadian traceability regulations in place, the integration that BIXS has with Canadian Livestock Traceability System (CLTS) will become more important, making it easier for producers to comply. CLTS is operated by Canadian Cattle Identification Agency, which is tasked by Canadian Food Inspection Agency to track animals in respect to food safety, animal and human health.
The BIXS team believes that a producer should only have to enter data once, and be able to have that data flow to whatever system needs or requires it. The data flow only can happen with the permission of producers, by registering on BIXS, to protect privacy and established business models.
The new generation of BIXS allows customization to suit multiple situations, including using blockchain technology that’s poised to revolutionize the agri-food industry.
Hubert Lau is the president and CEO of BIXSco, a partnership between the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and Alberta’s ViewTrak Technologies Inc.. He is also chief technology strategist for Troy Media Digital Solutions. BIXSco Inc. is also a member of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and invites everyone to visit www.crsb.ca to understand more about sustainable beef production. VBP+ is explained clearly on their website (www.verifiedbeefproductionplus.ca) and BIXS (www.bixsco.com), which can fully follow chain of custody over an animals lifetime, or interact with a blockchain in the agri-food sector.
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