Bringing blockchain to the world of food traceability

3 Mar 2017

Image: Rudmer Zwerver/Shutterstock

TechWatch’s Emily McDaid spoke to Brendan Smyth of Arc-net, a food traceability start-up that uses blockchain to ensure authenticity.

Inspired by the events of 2013, when UK foods were found to contain horse meat, an entrepreneur named Kieran Kelly founded a new innovative start-up in food security and product protection. Arc-net was born in Northern Ireland to ensure that food products are 100pc authentic and traceable.

Food crime is a rising trend, and Arc-net points to national reports claiming 30-40pc of the food we eat is either adulterated or mislabelled.

Arc-net uniquely applies blockchain technology to food accountability. It’s about making sure you’re eating what you think you’re eating. Blockchain provides openness, transparency, and an irrefutable data history from creation through to consumption.

Arc-net’s chief development officer, Brendan Smyth, said: “We take a DNA sample from an animal to positively identify its breed, country of origin, exposure to toxins and unregulated medication, among other key markers. These samples can be cross-checked with the blockchain record to ensure the animal’s authenticity and life cycle.”


Brendan Smyth, chief development officer, Arc-net. Image: TechWatch

A report released by PwC in 2016 sets the cost of food fraud and adulteration in excess of $40bn per annum. Regular consumers are affected but so are national retailers, who unwittingly sell or purchase affected products.

It’s not just meat. In this article from The Guardian, Queen’s University Belfast professor Chris Elliott flagged six items at risk of fraud, including guacamole (when avocado, an expensive fruit, is switched with inexpensive fruit) and baby formula (where brand names make a big difference to price). Prof Elliott warned that there is “a huge incentive for the criminal to pursue food crime”.

Food is particularly at risk. A national retailer such as Tesco might need to monitor 40,000 different products. Traceability is a huge task, requiring a strong data management engine.

“It’s about delivering transparency across complex supply chains and providing the ability to verify goods,” said Smyth.

Arc-net is positioning itself to address this space.

By Emily McDaid, editor, TechWatch

A version of this article originally appeared on TechWatch

TechWatch by Catalyst covered tech developments in Northern Ireland