On June 27, 2018, CAT Squared along with dozens of business, government, agriculture, and education leaders from across Arkansas met with Governor Asa Hutchinson and IBM to explore the evolving use of blockchain technology to track the distribution of food from farm to fork. This workshop was a part of the Governor’s new initiative: Blockchain for Arkansas, or BC4AR, an initiative to coordinate and align safety and distribution efforts among key industry leaders.
“Blockchain is a first-generation technology that has the potential to improve the delivery of goods and services in a full range of industries, especially the food industry,” Governor Hutchinson said. “Arkansas has an opportunity to be a leader in the application of blockchain technology by beginning an important conversation about aligning food-safety efforts throughout the state.”
“As an Arkansas company that is already recording food traceability data, CAT Squared is in a position to shape the Blockchain as it’s developed in Arkansas,” said CAT Squared Software Developer Jeremy McKee, who has worked on several prototype web applications that interacted with Smart Contracts and the Ethereum blockchain.
Current Blockchain Landscape in Arkansas
Headquartered in Northwest Arkansas, Wal-Mart along with IBM have completed a proof of concept for Blockchain Traceability and are looking to implement it in Arkansas. One of the core goals for Wal-Mart is to reduce the paperwork associated with food shipments, reduce time in transit, increase shelf-life of perishable products, and increase speed of recalls.
Blockchain is virtually unregulated at this stage (at both the State and Federal levels), and one goal of the initiative is to help define what legislation should look like to encourage businesses to adopt the new technology, while avoiding over-regulation, and imposing additional regulatory compliance work for food producers. There is also an initiative to create a Blockchain Caucus to help define, and steer Blockchain efforts and legislation in Arkansas.
Governor Hutchinson is pushing for educators to address skill gaps within the state’s workforce and challenged businesses to work with schools to help prepare students for technical positions. The Governor personally challenged businesses to send employees to a college for one hour a week to mentor and instruct tech students on real-world skills to better prepare them to enter the workforce.
One major hurdle for Blockchain in Arkansas is the lack of rural broadband access. Without reliable connectivity, it will be impossible for remote farms to transmit real-time data on their production. The Governor is working with Arkansas broadband providers to push them to reach more of the state and to improve Federal initiatives for broadband expansion.
The University of Arkansas is currently building Blockchain programs to educate students on Blockchain define different educational focuses for programs. Some examples include training coders on how to code with the Blockchain, training analysts on how to model and use the data, and training business students on how to implement it.
Blockchain technology is very immature at this stage, and the lack of legislation may present obstacles to businesses adopting Blockchain software. The Governor challenged participants to get the ball rolling on Blockchain in Arkansas, and to work together on putting Arkansas on the map for Blockchain.
What’s the Future for Blockchain in Food Traceability?
There are (at least) two possible directions for implementation:
- From the producer side, a producer-level app could be created to capture production data for the Blockchain (for agriculture or livestock). This app could interface with a consumer-facing app, where a user can scan a barcode and see traceability data on his/her phone.
- On the consumer side, a consumer-facing mobile app could be developed to push notifications to consumers when a recall affects products they’ve purchased.
During the day-long workshop, Governor Hutchinson stressed that the end-result must be simple. Wal-Mart’s representatives used the phrase ‘QuickBooks for Blockchain’ to stress that the end product must be simple for businesses to implement.
“CAT Squared fully supports the efforts of the Governor’s BC4AR Initiative, and we look forward to leading the way to developing a robust, easy-to-implement Blockchain solution for food traceability,” said CAT Squared CEO Vernon Smith.
Want to learn more?
Kathy Barbeire, Marketing Manager