My right or yours

Cows look left, right and left again…

Blockchain technology – the next great quick fix or a long term solution?

A small selection of food history anecdotes

Authenticate IS published an interesting whitepaper on LinkedIn exploring databases, supply chain mapping and problems in rolling out blockchain technology in the food industry.

I’m surprised there was no mention of BS10008 and other IT ISO standards looking at Evidential weight and legal admissibility of electronic information. Looking at other IT methodologies should not be ignored. How to reliably roll them out is something else. Perhaps blockchain technology could be part of individual organisations strategy and standards. Class it as more than a few steps above written passwords stored in the same bottom draw filing cabinet as the hard drive backup. Yes, mistakes happen and there’s always a better option.

Years ago, myself, Ravi Pathak, and Malcolm Lyons with others put forward a proposal for traceability and tracking in food… and the then government jumped the gun and set up their (I think) minimalistic system but it did address some issues. Of course, we always would think ‘we could have done better’ wouldn’t we? As a longterm ‘What if…’ analyst I love looking for holes, how easily they might spread and sharing with who can and should give a damn. The others impeccable record in IT, disaster recovery and agricultural trading would have made up for my limitations I’m sure. The hardest things to admit are ‘nothing can ever be perfect’ and ‘lack of being perfect starts with each of us’.

There are big holes still in food traceability for sure, with worrying consequences. For sure, it is comforting to believe ‘it’s getting better’. So for just a few holes…

DEFRA classes alpaca herds of hundreds as pets… so variations in animal physiology means bulk tests designed for other animals won’t work 100% reliably with potentially disastrous eradication and no-compensation fears for farmers.

In the mid 70s at the Milk Marketing Board Veterinary Research unit pre-computerisation we had coloured paperclips to indicate brucellosis test results. Clips would foul on other cards, fall off, be replaced perhaps erroneously and after three positive tests, cattle herds would be eradicated. It was easy to ‘blame’ the person who updated the card last, without thinking of the person who subsequently removed the adjacent card or perish-the-thought (if you excuse the pun on the cattle and farmers demise), the whole system: Quick solutions, lots of holes then too.

In the late 80s, Greens of Soham worked with students to gain info on beetroot – never one of the big 5 crops, so research was much appreciated where it was a major fenland crop. I’m not suggesting food safety is best monitored by students, but on an appreciation that collaborative working helps underfunded and weaker areas shine in diversity as they should, and look rather less than holes or weaknesses in systems.

So this is a plea for any new rollout idea, particularly involving IT, to consider experience across many areas as more worthy sometimes than an over-concentrated expertise focus on just one. A horse might need blinkers in a horserace but they would be disastrous if we all wore them crossing a road. Smart organisations ask of their systems ‘tell me what I don’t know’.

For your own ‘What if…’ collaboration with our network of industry businesses call:

Deb Stevens
Clever Resourcing