Interview Robby Goetinck - HOWEST - Changing the meat industry with blockchain

Howest our BLING partner, is working with blockchain in various ways. About a year ago they started a pilot that could be a real gamechanger for the meat industry. We spoke with Robby Goetinck, blockchain architect at Howest to find out more.

It all started with: the Future Flemish Pig. A collaborative business project (ICON type) in which various businesses from the chain partnered up with different research institutes. One of the aims of the projects is to figure out how data sharing can be implemented through innovative federated blockchain technology (a decentralised system managed by a networking consortium). In addition, the multidisciplinary research approach can illustrate the role pork production can have in future circular agro-food systems.

Why the pork industry?
The Flanders region is famous for breeding a specific type of pig, the Piétrain. The pig industry has significant economic value for the region and the chain is rooted in tradition and homegrown ‘know-how’ with regard to breeding, genetics and meat processing. The stakeholders that are part of the chain face different challenges as global trends are pushing for more sustainability, transparency, better traceability and trustworthy data, improving animal welfare, increasing the quality of meat and reducing waste. Blockchain is seen as an underlying technology that could tackle some of these challenges and stimulate cross chain collaboration. 

Why blockchain?
A major difference blockchain can make is that it can ensure that data becomes trustworthy, transparent and easier to share. At the moment data is collected and stored by each of the parties involved and then forwarded via email across the chain. So the data is transferred from A to B to C. This system is very vulnerable and susceptible for fraud, a major issue in this sector. For example, it is a known problem that pigs have been slaughtered before turning the legal age and that this has been covered up by changing birthdates in databases. Blockchain provides an answer for this as the data can be stored and accessed in real-time by all the stakeholders involved. Any changes made can be traced back to the one who made the changes. And thus can be held responsible.

What could this technology mean for consumers in the future?
Today the market is heavily industrialized and people have become detached from where their food comes from. Once this technology is used and scaled, it will change our relationship with food. Imagine that you as a consumer could simply scan a QR-code on the packaging of a product and see the entire lifecycle of the animal. Meaning you can see what kind of life the animal had, from what it was fed to the amount of animals it was living with, but also where it came from, what kind of transport was involved (carbon footprint) etc. All this could empower consumers and inform the where their food comes from and help them make more sustainable choices.

This application of blockchain technology benefits the wellbeing of animals, the quality of meat for consumers, the climate as consumers can make well-informed sustainable choices, the stakeholders of the chain as it improves the efficiency of the processing chain, and it assures transparent and trustworthy data which can prevent and tackle fraud in the industry.

Want to learn more about this project check the website.