So, Europe has a new green deal. The most exciting message is that the EU sees climate change as the greatest challenge of our time and now actually wants to do something about it. 50 years after mankind officially stated at the first UN Climate Change Conference in Stockholm that it can change its environment and must protect it, the EU is now stating that, overall, this can possibly be regarded as rather potentially quite important. Congratulations to us!
But after all, better late than never. Sticking your head in the sand is useless, after all, climate change will make it uncomfortably hot and it will certainly be full of microplastics. So, as optimists, let’s take a look at the reforms we are aiming for.
“The European Green Deal […] is a new growth strategy that aims to transform the EU into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050 and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use.” (EU 2019: The European Green Deal: S. 2)
The transformation that the EU is striving for is literally crying out for blockchain technology in all areas. Both the partial aspect of the deal “supplying clean, affordable and secure energy” as well as “mobilizing industry for a clean and circular economy” and “accelerating the shift to sustainable and smart mobility” are aimed precisely at those areas in which there is currently a lot of activity in the blockchain world. However, one point is of course particularly close to our hearts at OURZ and we are glad that it is now receiving more attention.
Since 2018, OURZ’s mission has been “Transparent Food from Field to Plate” and now, three years later, this has managed to become, letter by letter, one of the EU’s main goals for a transformed economy!
In our opinion, it was about time! More attention is needed with regard to holistic approaches that can reform the food & beverage industry. Industrial agriculture is closely related to, among other things, slave & child labor, marine & groundwater pollution, food waste & famine, resistant germs & zoonoses, bee deaths & biodiversity loss, virgin forest clearing & greenhouse gas emissions, fraud & greenwashing, and other unpalatable things. But: We need agriculture, not only rural agriculture but also industrial agriculture. It is also a fact that many farmers are deeply concerned about nature and are the pioneers of a better green future.
In the 18th century, before the industrial revolutions, the resulting division of labor and the ever-advancing globalization, people (mostly) knew very well where their food came from. The conditions under which the tofu animals grazed were just as easy to check as the origin of the hops for the beer or the wheat for the bread. In addition the people also knew their butchers, brewers and bakers personally. Long-standing, sometimes intergenerational relationships could develop, together with trust.
Today it is hardly or not at all traceable where one’s food comes from and who had something to do with it. This of course opens the door, the window and even the cat flap for the problems described above. But if we can no longer trace where our food comes from, how healthy it is for us or how fair and sustainable it is in terms of social and environmental aspects, then we can no longer trust these aspects either. Food fraud and greenwashing have unfortunately become commonplace. Simmel already stated over 100 years ago: “The completely knowing person does not need to trust, the completely not knowing person can reasonably not even trust”. The only thing left which we can be absolutely certain to know: The purchase price. Whether this is cheaper or more expensive than with other products we can understand very easily. Reasonably, the purchase price is therefore also the product attribute on which we usually base our purchase decision most strongly. But, since the true cost of our food remains hidden, we can’t even base our decisions on it.
Blockchain is changing that. It is the technology to re-establish a direct and trust-building connection between all parties involved in the value creation process.
A blockchain is actually just a database on which ones and zeros are stored. Like a USB stick, for example. But while you can delete and change data on your USB stick as wildly as you like without anyone noticing or being able to trace it, this is not possible on a blockchain. This is essentially due to two of its properties.
First, it is a back-to-end database. All data that is stored on a blockchain remains on it forever. Data that is newly added must not contradict the previous ones in order to be stored. So you can still lie on the blockchain if this is not prevented by other additional technologies, but then you can no longer contradict each other. Given the complexity of today’s world this makes it pretty difficult to cheat.
Secondly, it is a distributed database, the so-called distributed ledger technology. Data is no longer stored centrally in one place, but everyone now has copies of the data. Not only does new data have to match the previous data, but a majority of those using the blockchain have to agree to the new data being added. Only then will the new data be immortalized on the Blockchain. And even if they try to cheat you, you will definitely notice it, since you have your own copy of all the data. This creates, according to the blockchain visionary Tapscott just mentioned: “trust through clever code”.
But now back to the EU’s big deal and in particular the Farm2Fork strategy. What is this actually supposed to entail? It’s about sustainable food production, sustainable food processing and distribution, sustainable consumption, and preventing food waste. So in other words, it’s about sustainability from the field to the plate and it’s about OURZ. In the following I would like to show what we are already delivering for the Farm2Fork strategy and what we are actively working on.
1. OURZ Sustainable Food Production
As described earlier, we humans have lost the relationship with our food. Blockchain can change that – OURZ is changing that. Consumers get a direct insight into the history of their product and can establish a connection to it, learn to value it again. Currently, consumers can express this via a heart on our web app. In our next app version, which we are already working on, there will be even more possibilities to interact!
OURZ also offers a digital marketplace. Sustainability-oriented producers and soon also consumers will be able to make trust-based purchases on this marketplace, if desired guided by a fairness algorithm, which can promote cooperation and coopetition. Farmers receive an additional sales platform, but also more planning security. Together with Solino and Geisenheim University, OURZ is currently researching how the order management between producers and farmers can be automated, improved and thus made more resilient. The next step is to put our so far rudimentary AI into operation, which will provide reliable planning advice to all parties on our blockchain, enabling faster decision-making and of course resilience.
To sum it all up: Food producers get the knowledge and certainty they need to prioritize sustainability
2. OURZ Sustainable Food Processing & Distribution
What helps farmers, of course, also helps those who build their business on their work! Real-time data, the new magic word with three T.. Once data is entered on the blockchain (preferably automatically via cyber-physical systems), it is immediately available to everyone else (or at least to those who should be granted access to it). Procurement management can be made much more dynamic and efficient via the OURZ marketplace, without taking away planning security from farmers. Already now this holds the possibility to generate significant efficiency gains in vertical and horizontal supply processes and we have just started to realize our Tech 4.0 ideas!
But not only upstream there are many opportunities. Especially downstream, blockchain technology, i.e. OURZ, is creating a rousing sustainability stream. Most people in the EU want to shop sustainably, but very few say they actually do so. This phenomenon is called the attitude-behavior gap, and we have already addressed the causes and possible business solutions in our previous articles. Very briefly summarized: In order for sustainability (which, after all, cannot be perceived with our senses in the supermarket) to be sold, consumers must also believe in it. They have to trust all those involved in the value creation process, even if they don’t know them at all. OURZ creates credible transparency along the value chain and helps producers to demonstrate and prove quality and sustainability. We at OURZ cannot force unfair companies to reveal their externalized costs to people and the environment, but we can enable the fair ones to show that their prices are the true prices. #truecost
With our next version of the consumer app, we’ll then be paving entirely different paths to bridging the attitude-behavior gap. Among other things, trust management, engagement & co-creation will be completely rethought! Today, we are already helping sustainable producers to distribute their products online in a trust-generating way. In the future, we want to additionally offer them a huge trust-based marketplace via the app, so that sustainable food products can conquer the market even more.
Of course, in the future our OURZ AI will also help producers. How much of what product needs to be produced and where it needs to be delivered to, when, and where the resources for it can be sourced from and when it should be done. While OURZ real-time transparency helps with just-in-time production, the Corona crisis has shown us that this process may not always be the best. Our AI will enable Perfect-Time production based on real-time data and its autonomously acquired knowledge!
3. OURZ Sustainable Food Consumption
Consumers want to consume sustainably. Most of them know what is at stake for them, their children and grandchildren. That they have not succeeded so far sooo well but it is not only due to them. Confusing packaging, misleading labels and a lot of trust gambled away by green-washing. So it is extremely difficult to stick to one’s personal values and interests when shopping, be it digital or analog. OURZ helps. We make it possible to quickly obtain usable information regarding the sustainability of a product in hectic situations, and also to comprehend and compare the entire product history in all its facets.
We give consumers the opportunity to build a relationship with their products and the people who were involved in them. In this way, our approach promotes sustainable consumption.
4. OURZ Food Loss & Waste Prevention
The most obvious benefit of OURZ: With trust-building real-time data and more dynamic sourcing management, we can already help reduce food loss everywhere. Our AI will then soon be able to reduce loss even more by providing intelligent demand alerts. But we can also help in other aspects.
Until now, when contamination of ingredients in products occurs, it is often difficult to trace in which products and batches the contaminated resources were processed. Far too much food has to be disposed of as a result. With OURZ blockchain technology, it is possible to trace exactly which products are affected – in seconds! A fast, effective and product-specific recall management is thus possible all the way to the end customer. Our new app will also be able to warn customers when their products are approaching their best-before date. Besides, who even throws away good food when they know the work and love behind the product? Yesterday’s future is today! What was science fiction ten years ago is now just, plain and simple, science. We at OURZ have proven, among others with our partner Solino, that blockchain technology works along value chains and combines entrepreneurial profit-making with sustainability in a unique way.
Please misunderstand me correctly, the enormous challenges we are facing can of course not be solved by technologies alone (as many unfortunately think)! It needs a joint effort of producers, manufacturers, service providers, consumers and politicians in all conceivable areas. However, this does not change the fact that the F&B sector absolutely must be catapulted into the 21st century. Part of the collective effort must therefore be to promote innovative and unique ventures. The more innovative and unique a startup or initiative is, the harder it is to find support for what are often seen as overly visionary missions. This must change!