Happy Chinese New Year - A digital pig’s tale

February 7, 2019 3:03 AM

We are excited to announce that Switch Maven has partnered with an alliance of Australian Blockchain specialists and a consortium of International organisations to create a Livestock traceability system to improve supply chain efficiency and validate the quality of goods supplied from Papua New Guinea

The participants in this project include:

  • Switch Maven - an Australian software development and education specialist
  • AgriDigital - a digital platform for agricultural commodities enabling seamless trade flow management and supply chain finance
  • Geora - a blockchain protocol for global agriculture helping tech companies and agribusiness trace, trade and finance along agri-supply chains.
  • Decouple ventures - creates composable Apps and Businesses for the third iteration of the Web
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) - specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger.
  • The ITU - the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies
  • The National Information and Communications Technology Authority (NICTA) - a government agency responsible for the regulation and licensing of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in Papua New Guinea.
  • PNG Department of Agriculture and Livestock - PNG government department

The initial work on the proof of concept commenced in January 2019 and the livestock chosen for this pilot is pigs in Papua New Guinea. Pigs are a valuable commodity in PNG and are a status symbol and core part of the social and economic environment. They are used not only in transactions but also to commemorate special occasions and to solidify relationships.

The bulk of pig farming in PNG is conducted in rural areas where farmers raise a small stock of pigs in free range or semi enclosed environments. This has made quality control difficult and there has been no national identification systems or standards in farming practices introduced.

PNG has had success in exporting other agricultural products including coffee, cocoa and coconuts but to build up consumer trust both locally and internationally for a livestock product is a complex undertaking.

This is not the first Blockchain initiative to tackle the traceability of produce. Many global organisations are in the process of trialling distributed ledger technology on many aspects of the supply chain sector. Walmart recognised the power of Blockchain and partnered with several collaborators to trace contaminations faster and maintain consumer confidence. They also have been able to identify the indelible record of transactions that flow through the supplier network to give transparency to the consumer as to where the products come from and whose hands they pass through.

Our PNG project initial focus was to find a simple identification system that basic farmers could operate using the technology that they have access to- this was greatly assisted by the rising penetration of mobile phones in PNG and the drastic recent improvements in mobile network coverage.

By utilizing Near Field Communication in mobile phones and RFID tags we had a basis of identification for pigs. We then identified the key information that should be stored in relation to the life of a pig and could be easily recorded via a mobile application that farmers could relate to. Examples include pig breeds, medical treatment history and dietary information.

Blockchain has had mixed coverage over the past 12 months since the marked devaluation of the cryptocurrency market and the rise and fall of tokenization and financial instruments such as ICOs. In the background however more and more global institutions have been quietly building Blockchain applications that have more tangible applications.

Many of these applications do not have the glamor and splash of past Blockchain announcements but are creating efficiencies and networks with huge ramifications under the surface of everyday life.

The PNG Pig project seeks to explore a few challenges in the agricultural supply chain of developing nations including:

  • Any livestock market has biosecurity concerns- creating vaccination standards and a platform for recording treatments helps to reduce risk and minimize outbreaks
  • Creating a 'service manual' for livestock lifts the value of the produce and by making this information available to potential buyers it increases the value of the asset while maintaining consumer confidence.
  • Small farmers have a difficulty in accessing loans as it is harder for them to validate their stock of assets. An immutable source of data on farm assets makes it easier to justify asset holdings and access financial aid.
  • The consumer needs a way to feel confident that the produce they buy is actually from the labelled producer and has been made available by a particular chain of suppliers that meet their expectations. Records on the blockchain can make the consumer aware of the milestones of the produce they select and allow them to make informed decisions on their buying choices.
  • Brand integrity for PNG is extremely important. A traceability platform allows PNG to be taken seriously as a global exporter and helps in engagements with other international markets. As PNG is the gateway to Asia for other Pacific nations this can help to create discussions in other Pacific markets and encourage traceability innovations in the region.

Geora with it's library of smart contracts and experience in agribusiness supply chains have sped up the process of system integration with user facing applications and allowed a seamless experience for users to interact with the ethereum blockchain.

A range of farmers will be trained on the system in PNG throughout March and the aim is that once the platform is widely distributed it will encourage consumers to seek out 'validated livestock' and pay a higher price for goods that have a traceable lifecycle.

If the supply chain pilot program is a success, then this consortium will consider expanding trials to include more foodstuffs across a wider variety of regions.