Blockchain-based technologies in the food supply chain: a comparative assessment

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This study presents ongoing work and preliminary results of the Sustainable Blockchain Technologies project. Blockchain-based technologies (BBT) are expected to become an innovative and disruptive force in the future, and some claim these technologies have a great potential to foster sustainable development. BBT are appealing because they should allow for secure, robust, and trustworthy solutions, and bring improvements compared to current technologies or management systems in terms of traceability and transparency. However, the blockchain backbone is essentially that of a “redundant” system, where multiple parties need to be committed and involved simultaneously and inefficiently. The study investigates the role of blockchain-based applications in the food supply chain, where they are applied to improve traceability and allow consumers to make informed choices towards sustainability. For example, WWF recently made a large echo in the news with a Blockchain Supply Chain Traceability Project to track tuna from vessel to supermarket, a digital system that promises to strengthen supply chain management as well as combat illegal fishing and slave labor (WWF, 2018). A similar case for tuna has also been implemented by the British startup Provenance (2018). This study includes the selection of mature case studies of BBT implementation to innovate the food supply chain, and their comparative analysis. The comparative analysis is used to test three hypotheses: 1) in the food supply chain, BBT are systems of technologies where the Blockchain is only one of sever elements needed for their functioning; 2) the main role of the Blockchain element in the food supply chain is to increase trust; 3) implementing BBT brings positive social or environmental impacts in the food supply chain. The cases are presented first, then reviewed qualitatively using a simple prospective technology assessment framework that describes technology as embracing four elements: technique, knowledge, organisation, and product (Müller, 2003). Finally, the trade-offs between drawbacks and advantages of implementing BBT in each case are made explicit. The ultimate goal of the study is to provide a deeper understanding on the state-of-the-art role of BBT in food supply chains as well as critical reflections on of their potential to innovate this domain.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2018
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventTransforming for sustainability - UN City Copenhagen, København, Denmark
Duration: 28 Nov 201829 Nov 2018


ConferenceTransforming for sustainability
LocationUN City Copenhagen
Internet address


  • Sustainability
  • Food
  • Supply chain
  • Blockchain

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  • Projects

    Sustainable Blockchain Technologies

    Pizzol, M. & Köhler, S.


    Project: Research

  • Cite this

    Köhler, S., & Pizzol, M. (2018). Blockchain-based technologies in the food supply chain: a comparative assessment. Abstract from Transforming for sustainability, København, Denmark.