Helium Blockchain for Agriculture: Modern Tech for an Ancient Industry

In simple terms, Helium blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that records and verifies transactions without the need for third-party verification. It uses cryptography, which can be applied to ensure that any changes made to the ledger are clear and irreversible.

The significance of this kind of technology is huge for food and beverage businesses. Not only does blockchain carry the potential for an entirely transparent and traceable supply chain, but it can also help retailers to achieve their commitments to sustainability and better meet customers’ needs. 

Excited? We are too! Let's see how Helium blockchain technology could revolutionize the agriculture sector, creating benefits for grocery retailers and their customers, too.

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4 ways blockchain technology is being applied in agriculture

A successful grocery business relies on its agricultural partners further up the supply chain. If the raw materials aren’t produced or aren’t produced to standard, then your whole business model can cave in. 

Blockchain technology is offering all-new ways of monitoring agricultural activity — helping build trust between retailers and their raw ingredient suppliers and helping retailers prove a product’s provenance and authenticity when it comes to organic and ‘good for you’ labels.

The below four use cases explain how.

Blockchain for agricultural insurance 

Climates are changing, and agriculture businesses need to respond as best they can. Extreme climate conditions affect crops and livestock quality, and to counter these uncertainties, most farmers opt for agriculture insurance schemes.

Insurance policies available to farmers differ depending on how losses are computed, and payouts are carried out. Indemnity-based insurance is a type of agricultural insurance that compensates farmers depending on the assessment delivered by an expert who visits the farmland to inspect the damages.

However, indemnity-based insurance has a lot of disadvantages when it comes to damage examinations and the absence of insurance information, which affects the farmers, the insurance company, and — ultimately — the retailer waiting for products as well.

So how exactly does blockchain apply to agriculture insurance? Blockchain technology offers a better alternative to indemnity-based insurance by enabling the application of index-based insurance. This boosts the general accuracy of the insurance operation by activating a payout based on a quantifiable index rather than the loss.

And when your suppliers are well compensated in the event of an issue, they’ll stay in business with you longer. Happy supplier = consistent supply chain = better business. 

Blockchain for product traceability  

Blockchain can be used to create an immutable and transparent platform where data can be stored without an intermediary. 

For values-driven and ethical retailers, this could be a game-changer. After all, rather than just claiming your beef is grass-fed and that your wine comes from an organic, biodynamic vineyard… you can prove it instead.

Aside from building loyalty and supporting your brand message, blockchain traceability can add to your sustainability credentials as well. Using blockchain in this way can help tackle food waste in the supply chain ensuring food safety at all stages of production and post-harvest freshness.

A close-up shot of a ear of wheat against a sunset

Blockchain for supply chain traceability

Looking at the wider supply chain, blockchain ledgers can also increase transparency and trust at every stage of the production and handling process.

Food supply chains are becoming longer and more complex as the years go by. There have of course, been difficulties during the pandemic and recession, with several businesses looking to limit operating costs — are you sure your products are still being handled in the way that you’d expect? 

Issues regarding product quality, safety, traceability, and efficiency can be mitigated with blockchain technology — helping protect retail businesses and the health of consumers. 

Blockchain for smart farming and modeling

Smart farming involves the use of various technologies to boost the agricultural process, efficiency, and dependability. Think precision irrigation, automated climate control for greenhouses, and sensors for soil health and moisture. The Internet of Things (IoT) plays a big role here, with IoT-powered beacons/sensors, data collection and analytical machines, and machine learning technology. 

It’s all very exciting. But applying this technology, however, can be expensive, extensive, and difficult to manage and secure. Adding blockchain technology into the mix makes it possible to store data securely, and all transactions are time-stamped for total transparency.

What do we not yet know about blockchain for agriculture?

As we’ve seen, the potential for blockchain in agriculture is huge. And yet, this is still a very nascent technology, and many businesses are learning about blockchain’s capabilities as they go. Concerns have been raised about privately-operated blockchains, for example, as these are less secure and can be tampered with more easily. 

The biggest problem with blockchain technology to date is that it’s not yet widely adopted by farmers and agricultural businesses. Blockchain technology requires a high level of technical knowledge and experience to use, so, understandably, we’re not seeing every producer incorporating the tech. 

And yet, it’s only by taking strides toward a blockchain future that we’ll see the real impact it can have in the agricultural space. Not only this, but businesses will be able to develop the knowledge or experience they need to avoid insecure blockchain networks and harness all the benefits.

Read about how Buffalo Market is using blockchain in its business today.

Seven harvesting machine work their way through a crop field

When with blockchain go mainstream in the agriculture sector?

It could be some years before we see a majority uptake of blockchain in agricultural businesses.

One of the main limitations of blockchain technology in agriculture comes down to the farm or site size. Small farms may struggle to collect and integrate farm data since they lack the infrastructure to support such a process — they may also see the innovations are too costly (both financially and in terms of time) to utilize the tech in its nascent state. 

And in some ways, they’d be right. The collection and uploading of data to the distributed ledger can end up very costly, imposing barriers to entry for many agriculture companies. Businesses need to train their personnel on how to apply and acquire blockchain technology, which is expensive and labor-intensive.

As with all technology, though, the more the technology evolves, the less expensive it becomes to install.

Future-facing retailers need future-facing partners

Blockchain technology has the power to transform a business. That’s true of many industrial sectors — but as we’ve seen in this guide, food and beverage companies have many benefits to claim.

At Buffalo Market, we’re at the forefront of blockchain adoption for the food distribution industry. We’ve been investing in blockchain technology and we’re incredibly excited to pass on the benefits of blockchain to the retailers and CPGs we work with.

Get in touch today to see what those benefits could look like for you.

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How Buffalo Market uses Helium for food distribution

As a food distributor, Buffalo Market is keenly aware of the historical lack of transparency in the industry and how it leads to frustration and disappointment. That’s why one of the primary tenets of Buffalo Market’s business philosophy is to be as transparent as possible, both internally with our team members and externally with our retail and CPG partners.  

To that end, our fleet of delivery trucks is outfitted with Helium-enabled sensors. These sensors allow us to collect and openly share data with our customers. If a store receives a delivery of frozen food, they can trust that our delivery driver kept the product at temperature the entire time it was in transit. How? Because they’re able to freely access the data collected from onboard temperature and humidity sensors on the blockchain.

Using Helium sensors and blockchain technology, Buffalo Market helps foster trust between ourselves and our clients and provides better service based on reliability and accountability.

To learn more about the retail practices that work in 2022 and beyond, check out the rest of the Buffalo Market blog or contact us today!

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