Two sisters, an extraordinary territory and a century-long family tradition-these are the ingredients of the story we decided to tell with QualityChain.
The story begins in the 1920s. Grandfather Guglielmo returns from Argentina and decides to put down roots in Montalto Pavese, the land of his ancestors, where he buys the first acres of land.
Oltrepò Pavese is an incredible land crossed by the 45th parallel, the ideal latitude of all the world’s great wines. Here plains, hills and mountains embrace in a breathtaking panorama dotted with castles and ancient villages. Taking pride of place among these hills is the vine, which for centuries has given richness to the area and given birth to some of the most important wines of the entire Italian production.
It is precisely to the vine that Guglielmo Piaggi dedicates his life, and after him his son, Enzo, who from his fourteenth birthday to the present has never stopped working and taking care of the vineyard, first with his father and then with his wife Angela and daughters, Elisa e Silvia.
It was they, in 2017, who decided to put a face and a name to the production. The Lefiole brand was born, an affectionate expression that in the Oltrepadana language indicates girls, and which today identifies the wines that are produced on their estate in Montalto Pavese.
The first is called Alené, from the fusion of mom Angela and dad Enzo’s names, and is a Pinot Noir. This grape variety, among the noblest internationally, originated in Burgundy but has found a second home in Oltrepò Pavese for nearly two centuries.
The second, Elivià named after Elisa and Silvia, is a Pinot Grigio, with a straw-yellow color and copper highlights.
The stories of both wines are now told and made indelible thanks to QualityChain, which uses blockchain technology (explained easily here) to make information secure and always verifiable by consumers.
In fact, it will be possible, by scanning the goblet-shaped QR code hanging on the bottle, to discover the history, values and production techniques behind these wines of excellence, and to verify them through the appropriate blockchain test. All within the reach of a smartphone, using only the camera, in the case of iPhones, or aQR scanning App in the case of an Android device.
Alené and Elivià bottles equipped with this technology will now be marketed through a variety of channels, from direct sales to restaurants, wine shops and online channels, and will allow new consumers to know every detail of the wine they pour into their glass.
QualityChain helps Italian agribusiness SMEs transform their products from simple exhibits to true digital experiences capable of enhancing their uniqueness. QualityChain is a transparent, smartphone-friendly space in which to share with consumers the history and values of small Italian producers, a showcase from which to observe the skilled hands that work the land, the wine, the bread, and everything good that our companies produce.
Blockchain traceability: what it is and what it is for
What is the difference between normal traceability and blockchain traceability?
The difference lies in the way the data is saved: in the second case, in fact, all the information about the product is saved precisely on a blockchain, a special computer network that makes the data essentially immune to counterfeiting(at this link you can find blockchain explained easy easy).
This is obviously very important for the consumer, because it allows him or her to know without a shadow of a doubt the history of what he or she is eating or drinking.
In fact, this information is then made accessible through various technologies (which we address later in the article), such as the QR code, which allows the product’s history to always be within reach of the smartphone
A story carved in (digital) stone
Tracking on blockchain means to say:
“Here, this is my product and how I made it, I’ll write it down and sign it for you, in fact, I want it carved in stone!”
A responsible producer
It therefore means taking full responsibility for one’s supply chain in front of consumers, creating the highest degree of transparency and trust allowed by our technologies.
A manufacturer that tracks on blockchain stands out from others because of its focus not only on selling, but also and especially on informing and educating about product quality.
From producer to consumer: QR code and RFID
There are various technologies that allow consumers to access information provided by manufacturers, but the most widely used are definitely QR codes and RFID tags.
What are QR codes? They are those square, pixelated images that we see more and more often on the Internet or around our cities. These codes can be scanned from your smartphone via the camera on iPhones or via special apps on Android phones.
When you scan a QR code, your phone obtains text information, usually the address of a site, to which you can link to receive information about the object you are scanning: in the case of an agri-food product, you might be taken to the web page that tells its story.
What about RFID tags? Just like QR codes, RFID tags transmit an information to your cell phone, but they do so with radio waves: to read them you have to pass your phone over them with the NFC option enabled.
What types of traceability exist?
Let’s start by saying that there is not so much a one-size-fits-all solution for blockchain traceability as there is a set of different solutions that are more or less suitable for various production processes and company size.
For example, as a manufacturer you might choose to track only parts of your supply chain that you perhaps consider most important for the purposes of communicating the quality of your product, or you might choose to track every detail of product production and logistics, from raw material to distribution.
There are also differences in the types of data that are recorded and the technologies used to collect them: larger manufacturers connected to large retailers may decide to Use sensors, drones and other IoT devices, while a small producer might choose to log manually the information that it considers most important.
For simplicity we distinguish into three types:
1. First-level traceability: the micro enterprise
Small business owners often lack the financial means to invest in a complex system of sensors and IoT devices. This is why more and more manufacturers are turning to much cheaper“first-tier” solutions where data entry is left to the manufacturer and its operators.
This can be done in two ways: the first is self-certification of a “supply chain storytelling”, that is, a description of the ways in which the product is processed: a winemaker might record the characteristics of the soil and vineyard, a cheesemaker might focus on the curdling temperature and the grafts used, or even the cashmere manufacturer might highlight the careful selection of fibers used. This collection of information is prepared by the producer and then recorded using blockchain technology.
The second is the self-certification of true traceability: as the product is processed, the producer enters key information about the individual supply chain step, such as date and mode of processing, into the system and records it in real time on the blockchain database.
This type of traceability is not so much geared toward actual individual lot traceability (for product recalls, for example), but rather toward achieving more transparent communication with the consumer-that is why it is often considered a form of storytelling rather than traceability in the traditional sense.
2. Second-level traceability: the medium-sized enterprise
A larger company might decide to invest in a complete IoT sensor system. In this case, the producer can choose between two options for recording information: integration with enterprise software or manual entry.
The former option is certainly more reliable than the former, as the collected data goes directly from the source to the blockchain, with less risk of information tampering. However, it is also the most capital-intensive upfront, because it requires full integration of the chosen blockchain platform with the software the company already uses for data collection and tracking.
Unfortunately, many of these applications do not provide the ability to export directly to other programs, so these integrations can be quite complex and expensive, even for a medium-sized company.
The second option, manual input, on the other hand, requires the work of an employee to copy the data from the sensors and register it on the blockchain. Although this solution saves on the initial investment, it comes with a sacrifice in terms of security, as the transition from sensors to blockchain goes through human intervention.
3. Third-level traceability: the large-scale retail trade.
We definitely find the most complex blockchain traceability systems in large-scale retail: large food groups have highly articulated supply chains, involving numerous producers, processors and service providers, and producing very large quantities of batches of each product.
In this scenario the ability to accurately trace the history of foodstuffs turns out to be even more important, with or without blockchain: however, this technology gives the assurance that the recorded information is not changed, and that there is no room for interpretation in attributing errors to one or the other part of the production chain.
What does it take to implement blockchain traceability?
It all depends on which path you want to choose: to achieve complete blockchain traceability (second and third levels) you will need to place sensors at critical points in your supply chain, and integrate your systems with blockchain software that creates the records.
If, on the other hand, you opt for first-level traceability, you are most likely ready to go! The first thing you need to do is to identify everything that makes your product special: your territory, the processes you use, your focus on not using harmful substances in processing… Anything that can set you apart from the competition and communicate the quality of your product.
Once you have defined the story of your product, you can find photos and videos that can also visually communicate your company’s values. You can show the various stages of processing, your factories, but also, most importantly, your people, so that the consumer can put a face to your product and strengthen his or her trust in your brand.
When you have collected all the information you just need to find a service or company to help you register it on the blockchain, and provide you with the QR code to insert on your packaging. This can be done in the label, with a slight change in design, or directly by applying an additional sticker on the package.
How much does it cost to track products on the blockchain?
It is difficult to set an a priori price on this type of software.
The cost depends largely on your requirements: the type of tracking you want, the number of products you want to track and the detail you have to achieve, and whether you already have or want to install an IoT sensor system.
This technology is very advanced, and companies in this area often create products tailored to the individual manufacturer.
There are exceptions: QualityChain for example offers an annual subscription starting at €1’500, with no upfront costs, while others, such as IBM Food Trust and Foodchain, have opted for a combination of upfront installation cost and annual fee.
Other companies, such as TE-FOOD, EZ Lab, FoodLogiQ, Ambrosus, and ValueGO, on the other hand, are more focused on the custom model, creating ad hoc projects and evaluating implementation costs on a case-by-case basis.
We are at a key moment in the adoption of this technology in the Food&Drink industry. If you choose to be one of the first to track your products on blockchain, there is no question that you will stand out in the crowd, particularly in an industry that is often as uninnovative as agribusiness. A “tracked on blockchain” stamp attracts the consumer’s eye, of that there is no doubt.
But we need to look further. We are moving toward a world where this kind of technology will become the norm, where all products will be tracked on blockchain, where consumer trust will already be cemented on new brands, new flavors.
According to many, now is precisely the right time to start building this confidence, for small business as well as large, and it is the time to go the extra mile and position yourself as an innovator and pioneer in the industry .
Let’s find out in simple terms what blockchain is, how it is different from bitcoin, and what its applications are.
Even if you are not a finance buff, you have surely heard of “Bitcoin” or “Blockchain” at least once.
Are you still a little confused about what these terms mean?
Don’t despair: by the end of this article you will be able to explain blockchain and bitcoins to anyone!
Blockchain: what is it?
Have you ever wondered what happens when you upload a document or photo to a website? When you hit “upload,” the information from your computer goes through your modem, and travels through the Internet: thousands of miles of cable that finally takes it to another computer, called a server.
The server is owned by the website operator, who therefore has total control over your information, and has the power to change it at will: he could delete it by mistake, share it with someone without your permission, or even falsify it!
The blockchain (or “block chain” translation), serves precisely to solve this problem: It is a system that uses thousands of computers and thousands of different owners to save data, joined in a single network that spans the entire planet.
This makes any changes to the information first go through the scrutiny of thousands of owners, who verify that it is legitimate and truthful. This is why data on the blockchain is said to be transparent and immune to counterfeiting.
Because of this feature, blockchain is perfect for recording information in many areas, especially those where data authenticity is crucial: just think of notarized deeds, food tracking or financial transactions.
Now that you are a little clearer about what blockchain is, let’s go into a little more detail! In this post you will discover:
As mentioned earlier, the magic of blockchain relies on the ability to store data on thousands of connected computers, which are called network nodes.
These nodes have two main tasks: the first is to copy and keep up-to-date a copy of the so-called Distributed Ledger (in English, Distributed Ledger), a ledger that contains all the information saved on the blockchain and serves as a reference whenever someone attempts to change a piece of information.
We can imagine it like this:
For simplicity, we use only four nodes in this example, but in reality there are hundreds to thousands, depending on the blockchain in question.
When someone attempts to change any of the information saved on a node, the other nodes are asked to verify whether that someone is authorized to accomplish it.
If all nodes give the okay, the shared register is updated with the new information, but also keeping a track of the previous information. Kind of like when we draw a line on a wrong word and write the right one next to it: this way any change is transparent, and it is impossible to change the information secretly.
Bitcoin and Blockchain: difference
What is the difference between Bitcoin and Blockchain then?
It is very simple: bitcoin is based on blockchain technology, just as the automobile is based on the wheel, or google on the Internet.
Bitcoin is in fact a cryptocurrency, and it is the first and undoubtedly most famous application of blockchain technology.
To make a long story short, cryptocurrencies are digital currencies that have no owner, such as a state or central bank, but circulate on a network based on blockchain technology.
Let’s follow the same reasoning as before; if I have 3 bitcoins and I want to send you 5, the whole network will go and check how many bitcoins I have, and it will find that the transaction is not possible. Conversely, if I try to send you only one, the network will approve the transaction.
Have you ever wondered why it takes several days to make a transfer? It is precisely because this is usually done by banks that they do not communicate effectively with each other, as a digital network can.
Blockchain, on the other hand, represents the underlying technology not only of bitcoin, but of dozens and dozens of other applications, in a wide variety of fields: let’s see some of them!
Blockchain: what it is used for
Now that you know what blockchain is and how it works, we can move on to real-world applications of blockchain.
This technology has been proposed to solve problems in almost every economic sector, but in order not to dwell too long we will only address the most discussed ones.
Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple…
If you’ve read the previous paragraph you now have a good understanding of what Bitcoin is, but the famous gold coin is not the only cryptocurrency in circulation! In fact, there are hundreds (or even thousands) of independent cryptocurrencies, each with different characteristics, value, and uses. The ability of blockchain to function without a central authority makes possible the emergence of this variety of “digital cash,” but it is still very little used in the real economy. This has not prevented the creation of a veritable parallel stock market, with heavy speculation on the values of these coins, which can vary wildly even in a matter of minutes.
Food Blockchain: The traceability of the supply chain
Because of its security and transparency features, blockchain is perfect for recording information about the history of food products.In fact, the use of blockchain in agribusiness supply chains allows companies to communicate with their consumers in a completely transparent way. When you buy a product tracked on blockchain you can find out with just a few clicks everything you want to know about what you’re putting on your plate or in your glass: what the ingredients are, where they come from, when they were made and by which company, whether chemicals were used in processing or not, details about the area where they were produced.
There is really no limit to the degree of transparency that companies can achieve thanks to this incredible technology, which is establishing itself worldwide as synonymous with quality and reliability.
If you are interested in this topic, this article addresses in detail the requirements and costs of blockchain traceability for a manufacturer.
Blockchain is gaining momentum in the field of certification because it allows for the creation of certificates that are absolutely unforgeable and verifiable all over the world-all it takes is a smartphone and an Internet connection. In Italy, we have various examples, such as that of Italian Sandwiches certified on blockchain.
Blockchain has recently become law; in Italy saving a document on blockchain has the same legal value as a time stamp. Time stamping is essential when it comes to associating a legally certain and legally usable date and time with a computer document, especially for the copyright or intellectual property protection.
Many banks and stock markets are already experimenting with blockchain as a way to save time and money in the management of financial transactions, as the features of blockchain match perfectly with the security needs of these institutions.
…are just a few of the other countless applications of this technology, which has dominated events and columns devoted to innovation for years now.
Hundreds of companies around the world continue to experiment with new ones on a daily basis, trying to gain a competitive advantage from this powerful technology that is so famous and yet so little known. But we are making great strides, mainly because of people like you, who are informing themselves about these issues and taking this information home, to work, to friends at the coffee shop, or on social media-this is helping to create a more technologically aware and advanced world.
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