Surprise cyber technology is opening up new doors for growers

Australian fresh food producers could soon be harnessing pathways to expand into Asia thanks to a once little-known technology that was originally created as a way of exchanging cryptocurrencies. Devised by a group of young mathematicians, the full potential of ‘blockchains’ is only just being realised, years after it was invented.

The system allows transaction details, information and records encoded in these ‘blocks’ that are impossible to corrupt or change to be shared equally among users. The technology could open up trade because it creates a trusted and reliable electronic ledger that can be accessed by everyone.

For the lettuce farmer in Mildura wanting to export to Thailand, it means they can sell their produce as a brand direct to the purchaser and ensure it arrives in the same condition as it left Australia.

Professor Alice Woodhead from the University of Southern Queensland is one of four leaders involved in the distribution chain who will be speaking at evokeAG. in Melbourne next month.

The inaugural two-day agrifood tech event, to be held February 19-20, will look at the diet of the future and how it will be produced and distributed.

Professor Woodhead believes one of the biggest problems facing farmers wanting to export into Asia is the lack of control of produce once it arrives at its destination. It is not uncommon for counterfeiting or alteration of products to take place. Meat can be pumped with red dye to make it look fresher or even branded as Australian red eye rump when really it is buffalo imported from India.

For vegetables, there is a risk imported items can be replaced with Asian produce which may have been grown in contaminated soil. A recent test of foods in a Vietnamese supermarket found 60 per cent of items had chemical levels above recommended consumption levels.

“The consumer wants the guarantee that it is Australian, so if you don’t know how your vegetable got from the market in Thailand, or wherever it lands, then you don’t know if that it is your product being sold,’’ said Professor Woodhead.

Innovative packaging and efficient distribution are also essential for ensuring quality in the supply chain and will also be discussed at evokeAG.plenary discussion facilitated by Richard Macchiesi, General Manager Insights and Innovation at Visy, one of the world leaders in innovative smart packaging.

Visy recently partnered with Israel-based company Water.IO who have patented `Smart Cap’ technology that can interact with consumers on a completely different level. Using a combination of sensors, algorithms, cloud servers and mobile apps it can send out personal alerts on staying hydrated and even reminders on re-ordering. Its application can be used in a range of food and pharma products.

“The future of packaging is evolving with technology and as a result, we will see greater engagement, personalised products and data supplied to brand owners,” said Mr Macchiesi.

“evokeAG. will provide a forum to highlight those innovations in packaging and logistics that will make a difference to Australian businesses.”

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