Olive oil firm CHO taps IBM for blockchain

Tunisian olive oil producer CHO has started using IBM’s Food Trust blockchain platform to provide traceability for its Terra Delyssa extra virgin olive oil.

The aim is to allow the oil to be tracked across eight supply chain checkpoints, including the orchard where the olives were grown, the mill where olives were crushed, and the facilities where the oil was filtered, bottled, distributed.

For customers, there will be a QR code on each label that will allow them to view the provenance of the bottle they have purchased and “gain peace of mind about the origins of their olive oil.”

For distributors and retailers, a separate application using blockchain will enable them to access information about each processing and control stage of production, including that it was first press, extra virgin, organic, based on analysis from CHO's in-house laboratory and third party auditors.

Terra Delyssa is promoted as a premium olive oil brand, grown in CHO's pesticide-free orchards with 320 days of sun, cold pressed and coming entirely from a single source. The company says transparency is a key consideration for its customers, while IBM maintains it has data showing that 73 per cent of consumers will pay a premium for full transparency into the products they buy.

It’s not the first project in this area. Oracle has been working with Italian olive oil company Bellucci to implement blockchain-driven traceability to try to guarantee customer confidence in its products in the face of widespread adulteration in the olive oil sector in Italy.

Counterfeiting and fraud is a big problem for the $16bn-a-year olive oil industry, with some studies claiming that between 60 and 90 per cent of olive oils sold in the US are adulterated with cheaper pomace oil or oils from other plant species such as sunflower, canola and peanut.

Last year, a Europol-coordinated operation resulted in the seizure of 150,000 litres of low-quality oils that had been adulterated with colourants to make them appear like extra virgin olive oils, with 20 arrest made. The scam is estimated to have netted the network around $9m.

Meanwhile, a report from Juniper Research published last month suggested that widespread adoption of blockchain could save the food industry a whopping $31bn by 2024, from avoiding frauds such as mislabelling, dilution or substitution, as well as from slashing the cost of complying with regulations by 30 per cent.

"In terms of food provenance, olive oil presents a difficult challenge, as the product must work its way from an olive grove to an international base of retailers while retaining its purity and freshness,” commented Raj Rao, general manager of IBM Food Trust.

“Thanks to Food Trust, information about the origin and purity of the product can be made available in near real time for both consumers and CHO's distribution partners.”

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