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How they will use blockchain to tell the truth about the food we eat

Is the salmon actually Norwegian? Has the convenience food been stored at the right temperature? Were the grapes exposed to frost in this year's wine season? DNV GL uses blockchain technology to provide consumers with increased safety and knowledge about the food choices they take.

Picture a freight plane full of salmon on its way to Asian fish auctions. Or a half-cooked wrap in the counter of the 24-hour kiosk on the corner. How do the sushi enthusiasts at the luxurious Tokyo restaurant know that they get the Norwegian quality for which they pay so much? And how do you know that the chicken wrap is stored as it should be on its way to your lunch break: in the production room, on the truck, in the warehouse and behind the counter?

“Using blocked technology,” answers Ingunn Midttun Godal.

She heads DNV GL's business development for the food and beverage industry, a business area having on its customer list a global network of major brands that most people are familiar with. When it comes to food safety, Godal sees that the blockchain technology helps solve some of the fundamental issues globally: the need for trust.

The true story
“Blockchain” is the technology buzzword these days. So also for the food safety experts in DNV GL. All aspects concerning consumers and other stakeholders in the value chain of food and beverage production, can be transformed to verifiable data points that DNV GL can help retrieve, store in the blockchain and make available through a simple QR code. 

The reason why blockchain technology is so suitable for this kind of documentation is that it was developed just to establish and maintain trust. The technology is comparable to an open ledger where everyone has access, and where all events are logged as they happen.

"We combine our knowledge of the production of food and drink from soil and fjord to table, and our experience from auditing and monitoring food and beverage production, with the manufacturer's information that may be of interest to the consumer. We facilitate digital data retrieval through sensors or other methods, and then put everything in a blockchain. The data are verified, time- and geotagged, and cannot be changed, and so lets you tell the actual, true story,” summarizes Godal.

Convenience food, wine, and Norwegian salmon
The company has several concrete projects in progress. Among other things, DNV GL collaborates with one of Asia's largest kiosk chains on using blockchain technology to document refrigeration and storage of convenience-food products.

"The purpose is to show the customer everything about storage, from production until you pick it up from the shelf, and make this available before you buy," explains Godal.

So, you won’t have to worry about the state of the chicken wrap.

Where they have come the furthest, is in collaboration with several Italian wineries. They want to make verified data available to customers, on everything from soils, grapes, weather conditions, water flow throughout the season, to harvesting, fermentation and bottling.

“The product is called My Story™ and was introduced at the world's largest food safety conference this winter,” says Godal.

"But you can picture this on all kinds of products, for example to verify the authenticity, storage and quality of Norwegian farmed salmon sold on the world market," says Godal.

Confidence technology
DNV GL also has blockchain projects going in other areas, and the company's technology partner is the Chinese company VeChain, which has partnerships with a number of other major global players.

"When we work with the best blockchain experts, we can focus on finding applications where technology creates value, instead of on developing the technology ourselves," says Godal.

She started her professional career as a chemistry engineer in what was then called Det Norske Veritas, working among other things with drinking-water quality for 11 years. Then she spent a long time in the public sector, including the Norwegian Food Safety Authority and the Norwegian and Welfare Service (NAV) before re-joining DNV GL.

When she returned to head the food and beverage business in DNV GL, she was impressed by how the company had managed to convert technology buzzwords like "blockchain" to actual value-creating services.

"There is an increasing trend of consumers demanding not only safe food, but also true stories from the food and beverage producers, sustainable production, and companies taking social care of workers and surroundings,” she says.

"Our role in DNV GL consists of facilitating good quality of data retrieval, as well as verifying data and making them relevant. If a breach or anomaly occurs in the data series, this will be visible to everyone,” concludes Godal.

Ingunn Midttun Godal