Blockchain is frequently derided as a solution in search of a problem. But buried beneath the crypto scams and Web3 utopianism hide some intriguing use cases.
Some of the most powerful applications are in traceability. When embedded in supply chains, blockchain can track the entire product lifecycle, from origin to consumption. As the tech provides permanent, indelible, and unalterable records, extensive data about items and transactions can be securely stored and authenticated.
In the food sector, the benefits are particularly attractive. In one pilot project by UK startup Provenance, blockchain and smart tagging were used to track illegal tuna fishing, seafood fraud, and forced labour. As well as ensuring ethical practices, the scheme exposed blockchain’s potential for corporate auditing, tackling counterfeits, and reducing administrative costs.
In Wales, blockchain boffins have found another promising target for traceability: halal meat. In a European first, British startup iov42 is developing a data-sharing platform that provides secure records of compliance with halal standards — which are often breached by fraudulent products.
The culprits range from sole traders to international organised crime groups. One of the most notorious transgressions emerged in 2020, when a Malaysian “meat cartel” was exposed for bribing customs officials, distributing meat from uncertified slaughterhouses, and passing off kangaroo and horse flesh as halal beef.
The scandal sparked an outcry in Malaysia — where Muslims comprise about 60% of the population — and across the Islamic world. It also threatened to cause deep financial problems. Malaysia was aiming to become a global hub for the $2.3 trillion halal market, and was already exporting $9bn in halal-certified products.
iov42 is betting that blockchain can reduce the risks of such offences. By tracing produce from the farm to the table, the company aims to embed provenance tracking, boost certification schemes, and increase impartiality in the halal market.
“Our technology was designed to help improve traceability in industries just like this,” said David Coleman, Chief Product Officer at iov42.
To bring the project to life, iov42 is collaborating with certification experts at Prime UK, a Cardiff-based compliance services provider. Last week, the companies announced that they’ve attracted a cash injection from the Welsh government’s Blockchain Demonstrator Challenge Fund.
The government scheme was launched to develop the local blockchain sector. If the halal project is a success, it could provide a rare example of the real-world benefits that blockchain can bring to Wales.
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