Tracking & Tracing Food on a Blockchain w/ Henry Ines
Interview with Henry Ines, CEO of GoChain
In this episode, we hear from Henry Ines, CEO of GoChain. GoChain is a blockchain company that helps all members of the food supply chain track and monitor crops from the ground to the kitchen table. Henry discusses topics related to blockchain technology and where it is headed in the future. He also shares some detailed examples of real blockchain applications, including stopping food illness outbreaks, plus requirements you may face as an organic farmer.
Learn more about Avé Organics: www.aveorganics.com
Learn more about GoChain: www.GoChain.io
Connect with our guest on LinkedIn
#agriculture #blockchain #farming #organicagriculture #organicfarming #supplychain #technology
INTRO: Welcome to Organics Unpacked, a podcast for the business-minded organic grower — an interview podcast where we hear from the top experts in the commercial organic industry, with a focus on the business elements of organic growing both in and out of the field. You will gain insight and grow your operation. This show is brought to you ad-free by Avé Organics, a Wilbur-Ellis company. To learn more about Avé Organics, visit our program notes. In the meantime, enjoy the show.
TOM: Hello, everyone. Welcome to Organics Unpacked Podcast, and thank you for tuning in today. I’m your host, Tom Buman, and this is episode four of the Organics Unpacked Podcast, where we talk about organic farming from a practical worldview. Today’s guest is Henry Ines, the CEO of GoChain. Henry is here to share with us just what blockchain is and how organic agriculture can benefit from using blockchain technology. Well, as I said, today’s guest is Henry Ines, an expert in blockchain, and he’s here joining us from Texas. Welcome to the show, Henry.
HENRY: Thank you so much, Tom, for having me. It’s great to be on the show.
Blockchain Technology Background
TOM: So, Henry, tell us a little bit about yourself and blockchain and how you got to this point today?
HENRY: Sure. Yeah, so I guess in terms of experience, I’ve got a little over 20 years of experience. I started, out of school, in the management consulting side of the business, and it was at Price Waterhouse. It was pre-merger, so that was quite some time ago. Really, at that time, I was working with a variety of different enterprises, some government projects, as well, but really talking about Fortune 500 companies. Then, from there, I went through PricewaterhouseCoopers into their securities division. So, at that point, I was focusing more on 7, 63 transactions, so Southside M and A. I did corporate finance for a few years, middle market, investment banking, corporate finance and then moved into some merchant banking hedge fund. We were looking at, at the time, deals, from real estate to precious metals. So this was actually looking at global deals. Then, from there, having done quite a bit of work in Asia, I moved into venture capital, doing late C series A tech investing and really was in that space for a little over 10 years. One of the great parts about being in that business is you get to really see all the really neat, amazing emerging technology that’s coming out in the world, highly impactful. So, from there, we were looking at fintech and, at the time, starting to see the emergence of blockchain. For me, it was amazing, and so I made a decision to kind of jump and dive all into blockchain. So, for the past few years, I have supported a variety of different initiatives and projects. Most recently, I was head of a blockchain genomics company, and then I had the opportunity to become CEO of GoChain. I’ve been working now on the protocol side, and it’s been amazing progress right now, to see how blockchain is being adopted.
Mission of GoChain
TOM: Great. So, as CEO of GoChain, tell me a little bit about the company, how long you’ve been around, kind of what your focus is.
HENRY: So GoChain was founded really late 2017, and it’s main net. The main protocol went live in early 2018. So everyone has heard about Bitcoin, right? Bitcoin has been around a little over 10 years now, and, actually, Bitcoin’s doing great. What really has emerged, I would say, in recent years is the underlying technology, which is blockchain technology, and so this is really starting to be adopted in all sorts of different industries. One of the main friction points for the adoption of blockchain continues to be the scalability question. It’s hard to have adoption when blockchain transactions can take a considerably long time to process, and there could be high transaction fees. So scalability remains one of the key issues, and so GoChain was founded to really tackle the scalability question. The main net was launched in early 2018, and so GoChain has really done exactly that. To tackle the scalability question, we’ve come out with a novel consensus framework, and that really is the question about how do you process that block in the blockchain? And we do that through something that’s fairly novel called Proof of Reputation.
So, instead of working with anonymous miners all around the world, we work with highly reputable legal entities, and these entities are responsible for processing the blocks on the blockchain. These are the governance framework for the GoChain protocol, and you’re talking about Fortune 500 companies, publicly traded companies, nonprofits, NGOs, universities, all these types of organizations. They essentially stake their reputation to be part of the coaching protocol, and so they have no reason to be bad actors. And this is something that’s critically important on two fronts. One is that, by having this consensus framework, we are able to tackle the scalability question, and so we can process transactions very fast relative to some of the other protocols out there. And really, from a transaction standpoint, we can do that for under a penny per transaction. So really, really cost effective. Then, also, if you’re an enterprise or government, you kind of want to know who’s handling your data, who’s processing the blocks, and it’s good to know that you’re dealing with highly reputable organizations. So that’s what makes GoChain very novel and is helping us, really, to help drive adoption in the blockchain space.
Defining a Blockchain
TOM: So I’ve been to a lot of conferences. Well, not so much the last year, but the couple of years before that. And it seems like every sustainability conference I go to, Henry, there is a speaker, like it’s mandatory that you talk about blockchain. But most people don’t even know what blockchain is or didn’t at that time. They just felt it was something to talk about. Can you explain in simple terms for somebody like me, what does blockchain mean in this sustainability world? Why is it important?
HENRY: Okay, yeah. The way I like to typically describe it is, look, a blockchain is just a type of database. It’s a type of data structure. Okay, now, within this data structure, you have a certain kind of data. These are data that are timestamped, and they’re cryptographically secure. And this data is essentially packaged into a block, and it, essentially, synchronizes a consensus that spreads across multiple computing nodes or devices. So that’s really what it is in a nutshell. So you’ve got a block. You’ve got data in that. Once that’s in the block, and you have all these different nodes that agree that that’s the next block that should be put on the blockchain, it’s added. And the important thing is that, once that block is added on the blockchain, it becomes, then, immutable. So it’s cryptographically secure. You cannot edit it. You can’t change it, and so the very nature of blockchain makes it very compelling from a ledger standpoint, to be able to record and audit transactions. You have the timestamp of a transaction. You can have all sorts of other kinds of metadata that make it important from an audit perspective, and so this is really important. And I think one of the best use cases is for supply chains, and this, of course, really underscores the promise and use of blockchain for sustainability.
So, really, any claim that’s being made out there, and we’ve all seen it going to the grocery store, whether it be organic or glyphosate-free or whatever it is, these are claims. And as a consumer, we have to ask the question: Well, how do I know that’s true? And so you can see these kinds of technologies, now blockchain, that’s emerging, where people can start to leverage this technology and have assurance that their product is authentic. They can verify the claims that are being made. And I would say, then, from a producer or an enterprise standpoint, you can also deliver that assurance and the confidence. If you have to undergo a third-party audit, or if your customers demand clarity or transparency, you can do that through a variety of different technologies to include blockchain.
How Blockchain Works
TOM: So, even yet, when I hear that, it’s hard for me to grasp how it works. Can you give me an example, kind of a real-life example of how blockchain works in the real world and how you harness blockchain to give assurances to customers that they are getting the products that they ordered? Whether that’s sitting at the restaurant table or getting their box of cereal, how does it work?
HENRY: Yeah, great question. And I think this is an important question because, just like it’s the case with so many new technologies, so much of it is theoretical. We kind of talk about it in concept, but it’s important to see it in practice, right? We got to see it in practice to know that this actually works. So part of our job, as we’re driving adoption, is moving from these theoretical to actual cases, and so I can share with you some of our recent work. This is particularly the seafood space, live proteins. An example I’ll give you is lobster. We’re working with a couple of customers right now. Actually, more than that, both in Australia and also in Latin America. But when you order these live proteins, there are a lot of questions that come up, in terms of the origin of these proteins, the quality, the time it’s taken, where they stored it in the wet markets. So we’ve got customers now where, at the point of catch of these lobsters, for example, you can tag them with, just basically, a QR code or barcode on their lobster claw. Once they’re zip-tied or tagged on, then you can’t remove them, right? Once that catch is done and the tag is on the lobster, at that point, basically, in our platform, for example, you can use our GoTrace system, where you’re just using a basic mobile device to do a chain of custody scan. And at every point where that lobster has a chain of custody, you’ll be able to record that in terms of timestamping. It could be GPS coordinates and really any other metadata that you want to include that’s important, whether that be certifications. It might be the color or grade, or it could be a unique I.D. for certain fishers or cooperatives, all these kinds of things that you can decide about what to put on a blockchain for auditing purposes. And, very important, a lot of this data also doesn’t sit on the blockchain, right? You can’t put everything on a blockchain.
So you kind of have to parse that data. You can decide, whether they be key data elements, critical tracking events. They’ll be sitting on the blockchain to be audited later. So, in this example, from the catch all the way from the truck/plane to the truck with the airport, where they’re waiting for the lobsters, they’re essentially driven directly into a hotel or restaurant. This has had tremendous outcomes, actually. So, one, when you use blockchain technology, it serves to disintermediate a lot of unnecessary middlemen or brokers. That’s one thing. The second thing is that you really get assurance on quality. So, because you have transparency on the supply chains, now you can see the exact routing and providence from when that lobster was caught all the way to when it was delivered to plate. So you’re not worried that it was sitting in a wet market, and you understand the freshness. In the case for our customers, they actually shaved off quite a bit of time in terms of the logistics route. So it preserved the integrity of the product. And very important, of course, the question always is: What’s the ROI? In this case, because of the disintermediation and the transparency of the logistics, these customers are actually increasing their profit margins too, which is spread across both the fishers and savings to the customers. So these are real-world examples that are happening right now, where you’re getting better quality, better consumer engagement and also better profit margins. So this is really starting to see the promise of blockchain technology come to fruition.
Tagging Food on a Blockchain
TOM: So I’m the fisherman, and I catch the lobster, right? It comes into the boat, and I put a tag on the claw, right?
TOM: Then, I take out my cell phone, and I take a picture of the tag on the lobster, and it records like a GPS point of where I’m at and a timestamp and everything. Then, as I put that onto the truck, the next person does the same thing? They take a picture of the tag on the claw, and then you can track, then, the timing of it and the location all the way from where it’s caught to the table in the restaurant. So, if I sit down in the restaurant and they bring me a lobster, and it’s got a tag on it, as a customer, I can take a picture of that tag, and I can see the entire time frame and the locations and how it was handled?
HENRY: Yeah, and if you wanted to take it one step further, for example, in our system, you can input other data, as well, that gives you granularity. For example, maybe it’s a certain fisher community, the particular region. So you start to really get the full story, the journey of where these consumables are coming from and, again, that adds another layer of engagement. One thing that’s also been, I think, very rewarding from a social perspective is that you’re talking about buyers, chefs, hotels. These individuals now have a direct relationship with the people that are catching their food, who are handling or harvesting their food. That unique relationship is good. It brings a nice dynamic in terms of that supply chain. And I think, again, from the profitability standpoint, everyone sort of wins on that occasion, as well.
TOM: So the person who actually caught it could take a picture of themselves and put that as part of the blockchain, so that when I am sitting at the restaurant waiting to eat the lobster, I could see the person who actually caught my fish or my lobster.
HENRY: That’s right. Another project that we’re working on can also give you another example beyond just having that familiarity of who caught your proteins. We’ve also had it from a defensive compliance perspective in that you can take a photo or a video of a particular critical event, and that can be cryptographically secured and put on the blockchain, as well, for future auditing purposes. So it’s easy these days to take a picture of something and Photoshop it or something, but if you’re putting something like that on a blockchain, you can’t. Once that’s timestamped, there’s a very unique signature for it, and it’s very obvious if that image or video was tampered. So there’s another element here. In this case, for us, we were talking about it, from using illegal fishing gear. And how were these fishers using the gear on their vessel at the time of catch? So there are lots of interesting ways that you can use media and use that as a point of reference and audit, posted on and referenced on a blockchain.
Working with Enviva
TOM: Yeah, it’s really interesting to me when I talk to my children, that they’re concerned about their tuna and how it was caught and where it was caught. And were other creatures caught at the same time? Are they using illegal nets or something like that? And so I think this really offers an opportunity for those people that care about their food, where it comes from. So I really understand how, like an individual, whether it be like a lobster or something or tuna, you could track it, but do you have an example of where it’s more of a bulk product, where it might be like grain or fiber or something, where it might come from various sources into one location and then it’s distributed out? How does blockchain or how does your process work with a product like that? Do you have an example?
HENRY: Yeah, absolutely. Recently, we’ve actually had the opportunity to be able to share some of the really exciting work that we’ve been doing with a company called Enviva. So Enviva is a real global biomass leader, a publicly traded company. They’re the world’s largest producer of industrial wood pallets. These are renewable sources, coal alternatives. So a really important product. And they’re really, already, leaders in a sense, from doing track and trace for their product. It’s very important. Every piece of fiber that goes into these industrial wood pallets has to be sustainably sourced, from a sustainably-sourced tract of land. So they’ve already been doing very robust track and trace. And as innovators and real pioneers in this space, they wanted to take it to the next level, to also add blockchain technology. So we had the opportunity to work with Enviva, really, for a multistage pilot to be able to deploy a blockchain-based traceability solution in concert with their existing track and trace program. And this gave them a whole other layer of granularity, of track and trace and audit ability on a real-time basis. So, in addition to the track and trace program, now they’re able to basically utilize the blockchain technology to post, as I mentioned, GPS coordinates, timestamping.
So this could be routing, ensuring down to the latitude, longitude and, really, any radius that they want to define, that those fibers that they’re using, and even down to the perimeter of the types of wood that’s being used, that they are correct fibers that are being used in the process in their wood pallets. Through this pilot, they were tracking, basically, these fibers from the tracks all the way to the sawmills, and this is a really great program. And, again, I think they’re really being pioneers in this space right now, in the biomass space, to be able to harness blockchain technology and to give that level of assurance to their customers that every piece of fiber is coming from a sustainably-sourced tract of land.
Tracking Through the Supply Chain
TOM: That’s interesting to me because when I think of fiber, it can come from multiple forests, multiple trees. Obviously, it comes together at a sawmill. It’s ground up, whatever. Then it’s shipped out, and it can come from an individual tree from an individual forest. Then you can track it all the way. Then, if they’re going to put it in bulk or in bags or anything like that, can you track, then, with it all the way through the system, the supply chain, in an easy method?
HENRY: Yeah. So the first part of it, obviously, is fairly simple in the sense that you’re taking these limbs, this fiber, and putting it on the truck. And that truck can be tracked with fairly certainty granularity on the blockchain all the way to the sawmill. Now, at that point, it goes through a bit of transformation, and that’s to your point, where it starts to get more complex. We had to kind of put our thinking cap on to explore. What are some ways to handle this? And through some of the solutions that we have on our platform, we actually have some unique tagging elements that can even be able to sustain going through a furnace and things like that to be able to track some of these fibers, even as they’re being transformed into pallets. I would say a lot of these are scoping out the solutions to make sure these are possible. But we’ve put a lot of thought into it, and this could be, really, the next phase of how we track, well beyond the typical physical track and trace at the point of transformation, to be able to have the right tagging and the granularity to make sure there are no gaps. And that’s something that we’ve worked very hard to integrate into our systems.
Blockchain Uses for Farmers
TOM: So I’m raising corn, and it’s going to go into my breakfast cereal, or somebody’s raising corn. And on the box, it says organic cereal, and I want some assurance that everything is organic, like on the label. And I’d like to know where it came from or what producers it came from. It might come from multiple producers. It might come from one, kind of just depending on the supply chain. But is that something that you can think about, how you would work with an organic farmer to be able to follow their grain through the system and end up in a box of cereal that I put on my table for breakfast?
HENRY: Yeah, so this is a great example. Again, this is another example where you’ve got a claim, right? You’ve got a claim of some sort of grain that’s organic or non-GMO or something like that. So, if you think about the kind of data that becomes important for something like this and all the key stakeholders involved in this value chain, maybe you start at the farm at the point of harvest. On that blockchain, you can start to record some key data. You can have some unique I.D.s associated with the farm. If you’re claiming safe, organic or non-GMO, there are probably some third-party certifications relevant to this, specified lots. So you can have these unique I.D.s, lots, GPS coordinates. All these kinds of things can start to be recorded on a blockchain and timestamped. And as that harvest comes to fruition, maybe it, then, moves in the truck to go to a grain elevator. All these GPS coordinates and these critical events are being tracked on chain. And at the chain of custody, when you’re at the grain elevator and somebody’s taking acceptance of that grain, that’s another event that, then, is recorded on the blockchain. The farm I.D. is recorded, perhaps, where the grain and the harvest originated from, and it goes through. I guess you’ve got various quality assurances, weight. All these kinds of metadata, as mentioned, you can start to add on the blockchain.
So, again, from that grain elevator, maybe it goes through multiple different other nodes, but, at some point, it goes to a mill, where the transformation process comes. It becomes processed. Maybe, at that point, you move it towards packaging. It’s going into pallets or bags. Every one of these things can start to be labeled, so there could be a barcode or QR code. We even have some unique novel ways where you can spray micro tags on, say, on a bag, for example, that can be scanned with multiple chemical signatures. But, basically, there’s a lot of versatility in how you can tag these things throughout the entire value chain. But as it goes from the middle to the packaging and, eventually, to the buyer or the consumer, you can have the granularity to scan and have the provenance of all these different types of metadata that’s been recorded on the blockchain. And you can see that provenance. So I think that’s already, to me, I think, a game changer in terms of the level of assurance. But if you want to take it one step further, you can add IoT sensors, for example. And if you’re at the farm, if you want to look at, I don’t know, unique nitrogen spikes or signatures like that, that can prove or disprove that you’re doing organic farming, you can start to get pretty creative about how you can provide multiple layers of assurance. And all of these types of data can be recorded on the blockchain. So that gives you layers and layers of incremental assurance that whatever is being claimed is actually true.
Implementing Blockchain Technology
TOM: So, Henry, it seems to me like a lot of the customers you’re looking at, at least from the start of your building your businesses, it’s a lot of one-off, like you have to work with the customer and kind of figure out how it’s going to work in their circumstance. So do you do a lot of that, where people just call you up and say, ‘Hey, I have this idea. I want to do this. Can you help me think through it?’
HENRY: Yeah, this is a really important question, Tom, because you’ve got a lot of existing legacy systems there. And the idea is that blockchain is a tool, right? It’s a tool that can be used with other technologies to help modernization drive efficiencies. But, in all likelihood, you’re going to have to use blockchain with existing legacy systems. And, also, because this is novel and so new, it takes some ideation and brainstorming in the beginning to kind of noodle through supply chains, existing supply chains, understand. Can I implement blockchain technology with my existing system? And if not, what do we need to do? Do we need to do some specific segregation of commodities and products to make that clear? How do we get all the different players in the supply chain to participate? That’s always a really big question because, unless you own the entire supply chain, you may end up with gaps. So you have to figure out how to incentivize and get proper alignment for everyone to play in part of this blockchain traceability scheme. So there’s a lot of discussion and planning and kind of problem solving in the beginning. It’s really kind of thinking through the supply chain and where we can start first. So, yeah, definitely. In the beginning, it’s really kind of a one-off exploring. And, again, it’s a new technology. How do we use new with the existing systems and, then, from there, move it towards some MVP POC pilot. And once you get the right success in KPIs, you can start to develop a scalable solution.
Driving Blockchain Adoption
TOM: So, when I hear you say everyone is kind of a one-off, takes a lot of thinking, it comes to mind that maybe this is expensive to get in. Are there pilot programs that you can kind of develop, kind of ease people in, make sure they know what they’re getting into, what you’re getting into? How do you start working with a customer, Henry, when somebody calls you up? What are the options available to them?
HENRY: So this is actually, I would say, one of the key differentiators for GoChain. It’s that, from our perspective, we want to drive adoption, and, from a business perspective, also, to do sort of one-off consulting here and there. That’s okay, but it’s also not exactly scalable, and it really doesn’t serve to drive the adoption. And for us, democratization is really important. You really need to figure out a solution that helps to democratize blockchain technology for everybody. So, for us, we’ve actually developed a turnkey solution. And this turnkey solution is essentially a turnkey track and trace system that we’ve built, leveraging the GoChain protocol. And this is our GoTrace system. So GoTrace, right now, as long as you’ve got a mobile device and a printer, you basically can go up today, sign up, and you would have a turnkey blockchain traceability system. And this is done right now through our affiliate Chainparency, which is, basically, the de facto leader, right now, for all of GoChain’s enterprise solutions. But this system, it really will enable any organization, regardless of size, regardless of budget, to be able to start to dabble and deploy blockchain technology at scale.
So, when we talk about pilots or MVPs, we have to see what the requirements are. If it’s an organization that’s looking for a quick turnkey element, to start doing some basic track and trace, that’s very easy. We can get that started right away. If you need a bit more complex, say, API integrations or more novel tagging solutions, or there are some custom interfaces, reporting, these kind of elements, we have to kind of look at an ad hoc basis to probably provide a blended approach, where there’s a turnkey element plus some customization. As you start to deal with the larger enterprises, that’s usually what happens. But we also deal a lot with a lot of the artisanal, smaller scale fisher farmers, which, as I mentioned, democratization is really important from our perspective. So they need a very cost-effective solution to be able to quickly deploy. And very important is that these organizations may be small, but they want to be competitive, and they want to get to new markets. So using blockchain technology is an opportunity for them to showcase their commitment to sustainability, to have transparency in their supply chains, but to be able to do that at a cost-effective basis. So we believe this is very important, and it can be a real game changer for some of these smaller scale producers.
Blockchain Tagging Options
TOM: We were talking earlier about some of the tags that are available these days, and the technology kind of blows me away. Can you give just a couple examples of different tags that you have access to, that if a customer says I might need a unique tagging system to follow something through the supply chain with your blockchain system? Tell me some of the unique things that you have availability to?
HENRY: Sure. So, when I say turnkey, that part of traceability, to have a turnkey traceability solution, you also need to have a multitude of different tagging labeling options to make it work. So you can do barcoding. You can do QR codes. These are fairly standard, but, depending on the product you’re trying to trace, it may require different types of tags. So I’ll give you a couple of some of the other options that we have. It really depends on the product. So there’s an organization we’re working with out of New York, called Shape Matrix. And they have their unique 2D, 3D geometric shape tags. So these can be as small as, I believe, one micron, so very, very small. And you can think about how many of those one-micron geometric tags can fit into a standard GS1 barcode. So each one of these tags are encoded with data, and the way that it’s integrated with our system now is that we can do an optical scan of these barcodes. Again, they could be 2D. They could be laser etched. They could be 3D that are put on a particular product. But we can scan that, and that basically does a call to Shape Matrix and, through their AI engine, can authenticate that that tag is real. You have the encoded data, and, in fact, that product is authentic. And because of the sophistication of this system, as I mentioned, you can have a solution where you can have an aerosol spray of microscopic tags that you can spray on something and do multi-layer authentication beyond just the physical shape, even a chemical signature on top of it. Now, why would you do this? It really depends on the product that you’re trying to trace.
So, one thing, it could be a basic commodity that’s low value. You probably wouldn’t use one of these types of tagging solutions, but what if it’s a very unique item? What if it’s antiquity? What if it’s a very expensive aerospace component? We’ve had a situation where we’ve had to use it for surgical instruments to be FDA compliant. So you want to have versatility in tagging, and it really depends on the products. And, sometimes, a typical QR code and barcode doesn’t work. Another one of our partners, Gentag, has a significant amount of IP in the healthcare space. They’ve developed a whole range of IoT sensor-based solutions that can be used for tagging, so from RFID all the way to a new type of IP they have that’s called Color, which is a combination of optical sensors plus NFC, all embedded in one for multi-layer authentication. Again, so you can move from basic scanning to also multi-layers of sensor and optical color scans. So, again, it’s very interesting, depending on the product, to give you that level of assurance and authenticity, and we wanted to make sure that was possible, depending on the product that needs to be tracked.
Tracking & Tracing Organic Food
TOM: So, in the organic world, in the food world, I understand, Henry, there might be some legislation, either enacted or proposed, that’s going to change, maybe, how we trace food. So we know about some of the outbreaks of bacteria and people getting sick from pathogens and being able to better trace back to where the source of that outbreak came from. Is blockchain designed to help there? Are you poised to help with tracking some of those foods? Like in the case of being an organic-certified food, I want to make sure, when I go to the store, it’s certified, and I want to know where it comes from, kind of back to that original. What are the changes in the food industry that we’re going to see in tracking and tracing, and how does blockchain fit into that?
HENRY: Yeah, so it’s interesting. We did an exercise a few months ago, just trying to take a look at all the different regulations that are happening. And it’s not just here in the U.S., by the way. It’s really all around the world. It’s just happening at a tremendous momentum and speed right now, in the sense that there’s a lot of regulation coming out right now to ensure transparency in food supply chains. But it’s not just that. It’s also for ethically sourcing goods. And you see a lot of regulation now around IUU, so illegal, unregulated, unreported-type circumstances that happened, particularly in the seafood industry. There are a lot of governments that are now going to require that producers and stakeholders in this supply chain are able to verify that their products are ethically sourced or, in the event, say, for the FDA Section 204 that, really, everyone’s talking about right now when this comes to fruition. In the event of an outbreak or whatever it is, you’ve got to be able to quickly produce, I believe, in under 24 hours, the records, and it needs to be an electronic record. You need to know exactly the provenance of that food and a lot of various key data elements. That needs to be now tracked and recorded.
A lot of people, I think, have been talking about traceability, that, right now, my customers aren’t demanding it. Why do I need to do this? But probably what’s going to happen even faster than the consumer side is the regulatory compliance needs. I’ve seen some of the estimates that they’re talking about for these compliance costs. You’re talking anywhere, potentially, north of almost $20 billion that’s going to have to happen for some of these compliance costs. I think it’s important that companies start to think about how to get ahead of this and electronic records and their turnaround time. And I think, also, just the commonality of language is going to be important because there are so many different standards and benchmarking standards out there, and I think harmonizing all that starts to happen with this compliance. But I think that’s going to be important for all the players to be able to start to get their records in order to be not only compliant but to harmonize with all the other players in the supply chain.
A Powerful New Technology
TOM: Well, Henry, this has been a really interesting discussion. I really appreciate you being on. I want to be respectful of your time. But if you had to give somebody, give the listening audience kind of the final nugget on how blockchain is going to help in organic food production, tracking and tracing, what would you tell people? What’s that, really, that nugget that they could take away?
HENRY: Yeah, I would say that there are a few things, let me say. One is that blockchain is not cryptocurrency. I think that’s something that people need to understand because I think people tend to shy away from that. But blockchain is a powerful new technology that is still early in the stages right now, and it’s being explored. But because of all the innovators in this space that are pushing this, I think you’re going to be able to see this technology be able to be deployed. I would say, as a leader of an enterprise, this is a great opportunity to show that leadership and champion. Explore some of these technologies, which, again, from our perspective and I think many of the others out there, you’ve got a great technology that now can bring a lot of transparency and truth across all industries and, also, at the same time, can serve to provide a level of democratization and accessibility that I think is great from a social perspective. So blockchain is a great technology, and it can be used with lots of other technologies. Go out there and give it a shot.
TOM: Henry, if people want a demo of your site or they want more information, what’s the best way to get a hold of you? I’m sure you have a website or any other way.
HENRY: Yeah, so you can go to www.gochain.io, or you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, you can check out Chainparency at www.Chainparency.com. That gives you a little bit more insight on the GoTrace platform, as well. But anyway, feel free to reach out to me. I’m happy to talk to you about your supply chain and how blockchain can be of use for you.
TOM: Okay. So, again, your website is www.gochain.io.
TOM: All right. Henry, again, thanks for your time. I appreciate it very much. I think the listeners really have a new appreciation for blockchain and what it can do for them and maybe understand how it will fit into their system, either now or into the future. Thank you for your time.
HENRY: Thank you so much, Tom, for having me.
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