Britain’s organic industry is taking a major step forward, testing technology that tracks the journey of organic food from farm to shop shelf.
The trial allows shoppers to tap their smartphones on packets bacon from Eversfield Organics Farm in Devon on sale in select As Nature Intended stores. Using near field communications (NFC) on product packaging and the shop shelf, together with barcode, the blockchain technology instantly retrieves the product’s complete supply chain journey. An app is not needed.
Shoppers see the organic certification, the organic criteria met by the product, a map of its journey, photographs from the farm, an image of the animal if it’s a meat product, as well as farmer or producer profiles.
Organic campaigner Soil Association has teamed with start-up tech firm Provenance to pilot the NFC technology.
Provenance chief executive Jessi Baker says the company created the world’s first digital certification symbol, with key verified data and batches of product stored on the blockchain, for the program.
The pilot, the first of its kind in the UK, taps into increasing consumer interest in provenance and where food comes from. Researchers have found that mistrust significantly impacts the relationship consumers have with the foods and products they buy.
The issue of food transparency is increasingly in the spotlight in the UK, with 70% of respondents in a recent survey objecting to fake farm labels and 80% wanting to know which farm system has been used to produce their meat and dairy products.
Soil Association Head of Farming Liz Bowles says the new system offers a solution to communicate provenance in an interactive and simple way.
“This technology will enable consumers to have much higher levels of trust in the food they buy as they can literally see where it has come from,” she says.
“For organic farmers, it will allow them to be visible to their customers and offer them opportunities to develop their businesses using this technology to communicate more directly with consumers.”
Eversfield Organic Farm sales and marketing director Anna Bury calls the technology a huge step towards a future for all shoppers to choose authentic products with a positive impact on the planet.
“Now retailers can share the journey of our animals every step of the way with their customers,” she says.
Soil Association Certified organic always means fewer pesticides, no artificial colors and preservatives, always free-range, no routine use of antibiotics, and no GM ingredients.
The pilot program was to continue until supplies of the specially tagged products run out.
Soil Association Certification plans to continue to promote the new interactive digital certification to brands and retailers, to significantly extend the organic certification.