Lessons learned: blockchain beyond the hype
In order to create supply chain transparency and product traceability using blockchain technology, strong partnership and trust between all supply chain actors need to be present and there needs to be clear incentives for all the actors to share data. A technology like blockchain can only succeed when the players and the playing field is known, and trust is established.
1. First and foremost, blockchain is just another system that relies on data input from people in the chain, hence the human factor has a great impact.
2. Trust is needed to already be in place for a successful implementation of a block-chain solution. As a result of the mistrust from farmers, we did not have the opportunity to meet with the workers and get their perspective. These were factors making it hard to proceed in the dialogue with farmers and create a trusted environment to share data.
3. To successfully run a blockchain project the added value for each party in the chain must be clear. For the farmers in Morocco, the “what’s in it for me” was one thing only: will I receive a better price for my strawberries if I participate?
4. Visibility of the supply chain is needed. We often say blockchain is a tool that helps creating transparency. However, blockchain benefits from established transparency, product traceability and sound relations in the supply chain. In other words, these circumstances need to be established first.
5. In this case, the volume of frozen strawberries that Axfood yearly buys from its supplier is relatively low which weakens the business case for the Moroccan strawberry farmers to invest in collaboration and the required technology. In addition, Axfood’s supplier is just one of the five or six big buyers for the strawberry farms that were supposed to be involved in the project. In general, the largest successful implementation of traceability project is characterized by a vertically integrated supply chain where actors are the main business partners to each other.
In order to have correct data travel with the product to the retailer or a step further to the consumer, full segregated traceability must be established. This often comes at a high price and significant changes to the existing traceability system need to be made.