Provenance – Blockchain Technology Transparency For Supply Chains?
Provenance is a blockchain technology-based startup that aims to bring transparency to the world of foods, beverages, and raw materials. Here’s our Provenance review.
What Is Provenance?
Provenance, or Project Provenance Ltd., is a UK-based blockchain startup that just announced it had raised $800,000 in new seed funding. The startup has been developing supply chain solutions since first forming in 2013.
The core technology of Provenance is a distributed cryptographic ledger (a blockchain) that allows suppliers to track fresh produce from its origin to the grocery store shelf. In early pilots, Provenance has demonstrated the capabilities of its blockchain by tracking tuna through Southeast Asian supply chains. They also launched a pilot project where they partnered with the world’s largest consumer cooperative responsible for tracking fresh produce.
Provenance’s latest round of funding came from Humanity United, Digital Currency Group, Plug and Play Tech Center, and a series of angel investors.
Provenance plans to use the funding to complement grand funding and allow the market launch of the service, which Provenance expects will reach more than 1,000 food and drink businesses by 2025.
The overall goal of the company, according to CO Jessi Baker, is to improve the trust factor behind international commerce:
“Our mission at Provenance is to improve the lives and well-being of the people behind consumer products by bringing trusted, accessible information to commerce.”
The unique name of the company, by the way, comes from the word for the earliest known source or origin of a piece of artwork and a history of the hands it has passed through. The company’s blockchain is designed to provide a highly detailed provenance for the foods we eat – including seafood, produce, or other foods.
How Does Provenance Work?
Provenance tracks the foods we eat. Early tests have primarily focused on seafood and produce – both of which require freshness for maximum quality assurance.
Let’s say suppliers are dealing with a crate of tuna. Workers fill up that crate of tuna, and a label is added to the side of the crate that uniquely identifies it.
That identifier is written onto the blockchain, along with the time that the crate is placed in storage awaiting transport.
When the crate gets put onto a truck, that transaction is also written onto the blockchain.
This chain continues with every step of the supply chain process, from the first steps of taking tuna out of the water to the final steps of placing it in fish markets or in cans around the world.
The blockchain works as a single, immutable record of that food’s journey from its source to the grocery store. The blockchain encrypts and signs all this data, making it impossible to change. Nobody can change blockchain transactions after they’ve been entered onto the blockchain.
Obviously, freshness and quality are two big advantages: suppliers can see exactly where their foods came from, and how long it took to get there.
However, there’s another big advantage: suppliers can trace back to the moment their food supply was damaged or disrupted. If the food arrives damaged – or goes missing along the way – suppliers can check the blockchain to determine when the error occurred. The entire route, as the food passes from company to company, can be tracked along the blockchain.
Companies can also use the Provenance blockchain to streamline operations. They can spot inefficiencies along the way, for example, and eliminate unnecessary processes.
Who Can Use Provenance?
Provenance’s food supply tracking technology is designed to accommodate six groups of actors, each of which plays a role in the process of bringing food to market. Those actors include:
- Producers (like a cotton grower)
- Manufacturers (like someone who makes fabric or jeans)
- Registrars (organizations that provide credentials and a unique identity to actors, like an accreditation service)
- Standards organizations (which define the rules of a certain industry, like Fairtrade)
- Certifiers and auditors (agents, like separate agents that inspect producers and manufacturers and verify certain standards)
- Customers (the people who buy products at every stage of the supply chain, including the end customer)
The Provenance system relies on several core features, including:
On Provenance, everyone has a profile that can be accessed with a private key. Profiles can be public or private. Some profiles are rich with information, while others reveal just basic information and an anonymous ID. This system forms the fundamentals of the trust relationships between suppliers and customers (again, “customers” refers to buyers at every step of the supply chain).
Consumers can view certifications and standards for a product at the point of sale. Standards are linked to the certification program’s real meaning and information verifying their status.
Production programs are deployed following successful certification. The programs are specifically used by producers to prove the creation of goods meets a certain standard.
These programs allow the transformation of input goods from production into output goods. In Provenance, the registration of a certain amount of organic cotton fabric requires the input of a certain amount of raw organic cotton. A manufacturer can’t use 5% organic cotton and then call their product an organic cotton fabric, for example. Provenance monitors the input goods to ensure the output goods meet quality standards.
Goods are tagged with a unique cryptographic QR code and NFC tag that links to the full information – the ‘provenance’ – of the material.
This is the technology that connects physical goods with their digital representations on the blockchain. It refers to technologies like serial numbers, bar codes, digital tags, NFC tags, and genetic tags, for example.
At the consumer side of things, consumers can download the Provenance app to get clear, detailed information about the products they’re buying. Every transaction on the supply chain is fully auditable, and consumers can view this information to make an informed decision about their purchase.
Obviously, Provenance isn’t the first company exploring the use of blockchain in food supply. IBM, Walmart, and Alibaba are testing similar systems, and competing blockchain startups are trying to get to market before Provenance. The technology is being proposed in industries like the diamond industry, where valuable items can be tracked worldwide for enhanced transparency and security.
On the food supply side of things, Provenance will launch the first 100 transparent products in October. This launch occurs after a pre-launch of organic product tracking that is scheduled for September.
Provenance is currently accepting UK-based food and drinks businesses through the official website. If interested, you can sign up at the company’s website, Provenance.org, to be a founding member.