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Aerial view of food market at night

LR considers key takeaways from Blockchain Expo in London.

Vincent Doumeizel, Vice President Food, Beverage and Sustainability at Lloyd’s Register (LR) recently spoke at Blockchain Expo in London, with his presentation entitled ‘Blockchain for the food supply chain; hype or hope?’

Here, Vincent gives a summary of some of his key takeaways from the event and how assurance and blockchain can collectively drive food safety.

Tell us about the conference itself

The conference was the largest yet, with over 10,000 delegates joining together for the co-located Blockchain, IoT Tech and AI Expo.  With  blockchain being the most cutting-edge technology, there were 9 tracks covering all aspects of blockchain, an industry leading speaker line-up and an extensive exhibition hall of 250+ participating companies.

Lloyd’s Register had been allocated a slot in the popular Blockchain for Enterprise track, where we were joined with other leading organisations including IBM, The Bitfury Group, Centrica, BP and more, all of us delving into the challenges and opportunities that blockchain present within enterprise sectors.

Lloyd’s Register understands the need to underpin our assurance services with blockchain and this resonated hugely with the audience.  At LR, we help businesses evolve by connecting them with tomorrow’s thinking, today.  We do this by combining deep technical and domain expertise, industry knowledge and empathy rooted in over 250 year’s experience.  Put simply, we exist to assure a better future for our clients, their customers and the world.

The reaction to our presentation was very positive and for us, blockchain will be an integral part of our service offering as we move through 2018 and beyond. 

What resonated especially well during the conference itself was talking about the Lloyd’s Register Foundation (Foundation) and the work that the Foundation is doing within the blockchain arena.   The Foundation’s report on distributed ledger technologies aims to provide a greater understanding of distributed ledgers and blockchain technologies and their underlying concepts in order to provide more clarity on the applications in which they might be used

To be clear, the profits we generate fund the Foundation, a charity which supports science and engineering-related research, education and public engagement around everything we do. All of this helps us stand by the purpose that drives us every single day: Working together for a safer world.

What types of blockchain projects is LR working on within the food sector?

Blockchain is a key element of the research that we are working on, building on the progress from the Foundation.  We have recently announced a call for food sector blockchain pilots, and interested parties can apply here

We are also collaborating with the Foundation to develop a Foresight Review on Food Safety, which is set for publication in 2018/19 and will undoubtedly address the role of blockchain in driving food safety.   

The food sector is focused on food security; we need to ask ourselves what do we need to be thinking about to feed the world of tomorrow and my presentation addresed some of these issues, tying them back to blockchain in driving food safety and security.

The food sector is a very complex and decentralised network which needs to address transparency and record keeping challenges, while maintaining commercial confidences.  This resonates very well with the blockchain.

Our food supply needs to be efficient along with the food systems because they connect with all of us.  Just think, every day we have another  300, 000 people to feed.

That’s 300,000 additional mouths to feed on the earth, on the planet and there are already one billion of them existing – many of whom are starving today, so we have to be efficient because of the growing population.

Why does blockchain and food safety go so well together?

There are two main elements; firstly consumers are much more savvy and they want to know the true provenance of their food, that it is safe to eat and sourced in an ethical way. 

Secondly, we have new technologies and blockchain may be the biggest of them as this will enable the traceability in the food system, which does not completely exist today.  At LR, we believe that blockchain will be a key element to enable the traceability from farm to fork, from production to the consumers.

How would you summarise your key takeaways from Blockchain Expo?

For me, the main takeaways were as follows:

  1. Blockchain has the potential to deliver choice to the consumer; it enables them to make informed decisions as to the food that they buy is safe to eat and sustainabily sourced – all of which is underpinned with robust assurance.
  2. Secondly, there is no doubt in my mind that the amount of money being invested into blockchain by organisations will continue to rise – across all sectors, not just food.
  3. However, that investment is largely speculative in as much that we are within the realms of experimentation and we need to move to actual implementation.  At LR we continue to watch developments very closely and we see that industry collaboration with best in class organisations to deliver blockchain solutions is key.
  4. I also believe that we will see the emergence of connected assets via the Internet of Things and blockchain; our fridges may well be able to tell us exactly where the fruit juice came from whilst giving us the calorific content of each glass as we pour it from the integrated drinks dispenser.

We may well think twice before having that second glass!

On 27-28 June in Amsterdam, Lloyd’s Register will also be a key participant in the next Blockchain Expo series, being amongst a panel of leading experts to consider the role of blockchain in increasing traceability and transparency in the food supply chain, and will also be a judge at The Blockchain Awards taking place on 27 June at The Boathouse in Amsterdam.

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