Pioneering tech startup eHarvestHub is rolling out a blockchain-enabled platform that makes it simple to track food through the supply chain, quickly identifying and eliminating potential sources of contamination. Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, CEO of eHarvestHub, Alvaro Ramirez, talks about how important it is to determine the source of contamination quickly – something that blockchain technology can help to combat.
“Identifying the source of contamination is vital to preventing its spread,” he says. “Traditionally, tracing this has been a timely process, given that a number of different middlemen hold different pieces of information about the journey of produce along the supply chain.”
“By the time all the relevant information is queried and aggregated, contamination could spread even further.”
“With blockchain technology, this is no longer an issue. All of the data is readily accessible, and the source of a given disease or outbreak can be located in a fraction of the time that it would normally take.”
eHarvestHub is impacting the food industry by disrupting traditional models.
The blockchain technology underpinning eHarvestHub allows farmers, grocers and truck drivers to connect directly, cutting out the middleman, driving down costs and cutting waste because of more efficient distribution. However, it also has an important role to play in fighting food contamination.
eHarvestHub’s blockchain-enabled platform was conceived as a means to empower both the farmers and truckers that put in the bulk of the work into the agricultural sector. The use of a decentralized ledger is seminal to achieving that purpose, says Ramirez, while also allowing a number of other benefits – one of which is transparency and accountability when it comes to data.
“This data can be anything from GPS coordinates of where produce has been, to food safety certificates and other documentation pertaining to hygiene checks,” he adds.
eHarvestHub’s strength lies in the innovative use of blockchain and smart contracts coupled with removing the layers of middleman, as a means to provide advanced solutions to smaller growers, independent workers in the farming sector.
Decentralization is about leveling the playing field so that they can compete with the large companies that currently dominate it.
According to Ramirez, the system will be of value to retailers, farmers and truckers who wish to directly interact, without needing to go through mediators – resulting in lower prices for the end-consumer and more profits for the rest of the stakeholders.
“The introduction of cryptocurrency in the industry will soon enable consumers around the world to become the new generation of lenders for farmers anywhere, eliminating the need of borrowing centralized banks,” he continues.
The platform is currently being trialed with 2,000 farmers in the US, Colombia and Nicaragua.
“We have had very positive feedback and look forward to forging more relationships as the technology is adopted.”
Because blockchain technology has so much potential to speed up food recalls and enable the information transparency that consumers demand, it’s being used in a Nicaragua project to tackle food contamination as a focal point.
“We focus on helping growers meet regulatory requirements on food safety and industry standards on traceability. The use of blockchain and smart contracts coupled with removing the layers of unnecessary middlemen goes beyond food traceability with eHarvesthub, as the company uses the technology to give grocers direct access to fresh food quality, increase product shelf-life to lower the cost of food.”
What is in the pipeline for the innovative startup?
The California-based start-up has stepped into this space because it’s on a mission to disrupt the food chain.
eHarvestHub’s introduction of a revolutionary new food distribution system based on blockchain technology is already making waves and there will be much more to come, says Ramirez.
“In the long run – complete disruption of the agricultural sector,” he claims.
“Taking the power from a few large entities and redistributing it to those who add the most value to the industry. Removing middlemen that result in the inflation of prices, so that fresh food can be accessible and affordable to all.”
“In the short-term, we’re looking at launching our Initial Coin Offering, where tokens will be sold to supporters to further fund development. By the end of the year, we expect to generate over 1.6 million transactions in the next twelve months completed through the eHarvestHub platform, and shortly after that, the use of the EHH token in a peer-to-peer (direct transactions, without the involvement of a third-party) manner by users in the ecosystem.”
Agile companies are already tuning into blockchain technology with many believing it is the present and the future.
So, what happens to more rigid companies which do not tap into its benefits?
“Blockchain is still in its infancy and it’s an exciting time to be involved,” continues Ramirez.
“There are hundreds, if not thousands, of projects with promising roadmaps that are focused on improving the tech to answer problems relating to scalability and adoption. I think decentralization is a tenet that will be woven into the fibers of the majority of businesses sooner rather than later.”
“It will mark a shift towards empowering individuals in dealings with companies. Those that continue to refute it will no doubt lose out on custom to more innovative businesses that are actively enhancing their activities through the use of blockchain technology.”
Disease control and prevention
Food-borne illnesses make more than 48 million people sick every year in the US, hospitalize around 128,000 people while more than 3,000 people die each year, according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The organization says that determining the source of foodborne illnesses is an important step in developing preventative measures and CDC estimates that unspecified agents cause 38.4 million episodes of foodborne illness in the US each year.
FoodIngredientsFirst reached out to CDC for its reaction to platforms like eHarvestHub and how blockchain technology can contribute to fighting food contamination.
“Health officials at CDC look forward to learning more about new technologies that may enhance the traceability of food and contamination and how they can be used by the industry to prevent foodborne illness among consumers,” says CDC spokesperson, Brittany Behm.
When an outbreak occurs, it’s critical that the source of contamination is quickly identified. But with fragmented supply chain data, the process is slower – which can cost lives.
The startup, which believes blockchain is the right technology to make food more affordable and accessible, raised a US$1.2 million round led by US investor and billionaire businessman, Tim Draper’s VenturesLab Fund and Kaiwu Capital, to build its technology.
Draper is the billionaire businessman that bought Silk Road’s seized bitcoins from the US Government. Silk Road was best known as a platform that used cryptocurrency and was used for selling illegal drugs as part of the dark web and after it was taken down by the FBI in 2013, the Bitcoins were sold at auction to Draper.
eharvestHub completed its full suite of products in 2017 and the platform is operational and currently being used by a growing number of farmers.