Blockchain technologies, agricultural, innovation and the circular economy

On May 11, 2021 WPSA/PIX organisers held simultaneous seminars in Melbourne and Brisbane; a combination of virtual and real live people in the room.
Ben Van Deldren, KPMG’s agriculture specialist, gave a fascinating presentation on the positive effects of blockchain technologies, other innovations in agriculture and explained the circular economy.
In this edition of Poultry Digest there are reports on Alltech’s ONE Ideas ‘Planet of Plenty’ theme and reports on new poultry packaging technologies that reduce waste and help to better preserve and present products.
In simple terms ‘sustainability is the ‘new black’. 21st century agriculture has to feed a lot more people without wrecking our fragile environment and still create profitability and livelihoods for the world’s producers.
Ben in a truly fascinating presentation demonstrated how it would be possible to achieve these worthy aims.
Ben certainly got the undivided attention in the room with his opening slide.
‘Global mega trends impacting the food sector, which were major demographic changes; the changing nature of workforce structures’.
“The evolution of demand and the pressure of global trends will reshape the market and supply chains in which food and agribusiness continue to mature, collaborate and compete,” he said.
“Agriculture is an integral part of our economy; nationally it contributes to $155 billion a year (pre and post farm gate) and employs 1.6 million.
“The potential impact of digital technologies is huge, a $20.3 billion uplift in fact,” Ben predicted.
Turning to the key elements driving trends, the first, “The future of food with the intensification of production systems and automation will change not only what we grow, but how we grow it.
“Increased demand for food will be driven by increasing populations predicted to hit 9.7 billion by 2064 with 21% over 60 years of age.
“Digital capability will be paramount as the agribusiness workforce will be required to up-skill their digital and enabling capabilities based on a new framework such as data collection, analysis and data management.
“Socially aware consumers will have changing drivers including transparency, traceability and health.
“An increasing regulatory framework will require a greater transparency of the supply chain to ensure food traceability and to ensure access to both domestic and export markets.
“Changing geopolitical and regulatory landscapes could lead to protectionist agendas as well as market de-regulation.
“Depletion of water supplies,energy resources and climate change require enhanced and sustainable resource utilisation with the help of new technologies.
More than 40% of the agricultural workforce is likely to be impacted by augmenting and automating technologies.
“Farming for good, which means balancing the social obligations to look after the planet whilst producing enough food to feed a growing population.
“Digitisation of technologies are rapidly changing industrial ecosystems and automating supply chains which impact current work practices,” Ben pointed out.
“What is a Circular Economy?” was Ben’s next topic.
“The Circular Economy means that products no longer have a life cycle with a beginning, middle and end.
“When materials stop being used, they go back into a useful cycle – hence the term Circular Economy.
“It has the potential to enhance productivity and profitability, reduce
resource costs, make manufacturing more competitive while creating new business offerings and jobs.
“To achieve this, the circular economy is about closing the raw materials cycles and therefore focuses primarily on cooperation within and between sectors.
“It’s about a system change and the circular economy is therefore more than ‘waste 3.0’ as it is about commodities valued as high as possible.
“There are different business models within the circular economy to increase these values.
“These models have an effect on the production process of models as shown in the circular model graphic.
“Challenges like resource reliability, volatile growing conditions, pressures on supply and margins in food production, as well as changing consumer preferences and food security
pressures, are forcing us to rethink inefficient and wasteful linear models through our food supply chain,” Ben explained.
It will come as no surprise that circularity is well established in the Netherlands.
“In the Rabobank Circular Economy Challenge, around 200 SMEs have developed a circular action and
business plan, of whom 31 entrepreneurs are interviewed on the impact of circularity on their organisations,” Ben explained.
“Seventy percent of all participants developed a new Circular Business model and set up a collaboration within their value chain to make this a reality.
“With 75% of the SMEs, circular economy is an important element for defining the organisation’s strategy.
“Other benefits of a circular economy were concrete financial benefits due to the challenge participation reported by a third of those involved.
“Half of those participating companies realised a decrease in their environmental footprint.
“Employees in circular economy participating companies reported more happiness and purpose at their work.
“Two thirds of participants in the challenge noticed an increase in their reputation due to their circular economy efforts and with that a positive impact on their business,” Ben stated.
Of specific interest to the audience at the WPSA/PIX event was the question, “what are the key opportunities and priorities for the circular economy in the poultry sector”?
Further, “how circular is my company and how do we set targets for improvement”?
Also, “how do we monitor improvements resulting from our circular activities”?
“The first step is to look at ‘scope’ and to determine the boundaries, then select the indicators and collect data having identified the best sources for the data.
Next move is to calculate and with the calculation analyse the results.
“Prioritise and identify opportunities then apply, plan and act,” Ben advised.
As an example of partnership in the value chain ‘Feed from Waste’.
“Can you collaborate with feed suppliers to lower the environment footprint together?” Ben asked.
“A good example of good practice in a circular feed project is the collaboration between NGO (Nature & Environment NL) and Kipster, a Netherlands based poultry producer using well developed environmental practices in its business.
Other examples Ben revealed were of an on-farm water storage smart water storage network, a collaborated funded scheme to provide a reliable water in a dairy farming region.
Next Ben moved to the critical drivers that make circular agriculture viable; digital and data opportunity in agriculture.
“For the agricultural workforce in Australia, 41% will be impacted in the future by automating and augmenting technologies and 1 in 3 new jobs in ag, forestry and fishing will be tech related in the next 10 years,” he said.
“Digital trends shaping supply chains are that 72% of organisations see ‘as a service’ platform as a major disrupter to supply chain functions and 38% of customer centric organization are more likely to report greater profitability.
“Companies that are very effective at generating actionable insights from customers are at 23%, while 67% seek emergent technologies such as intelligent automation to reduce headcount needs.
Perhaps not surprisingly, 65% of IT leaders report the lack of skills is holding back implementation of strategies.
“Even more concerning is the fact the 33% of companies reported a major cybercrime in the last two years,” Ben revealed.
In surveys of supply chain, risk management and industry executives, over 40% do not use tracking tools to enable real time reporting while 13% have complete visibility into the end to end supply chain.
Companies where there was no process to aggregate risks from across the business were at29%, and 27% believe that there is ‘likely to almost certain risks associated with the cost of raw materials,” he added.
Given KPMG’s long history as a business partner through its auditing and strategy management expertise, it would come as no surprise that they have developed some programs for the food/ag sector based on blockchain, other digitally based developments and technologies.
The first of these Ben revealed, is a data exchange platform for Australia AgFood Sector.
“Our vision is the creation of an interconnected data highway for Australia’s Agrifood value chain.
“There is no single, easy to use
platform in Australia which allows primary producers and other value chain participants to exchange their data efficiently on agreed terms with trusted service providers or other interested parties such as government and researchers,” he added.
“We have identified four cases for an OzAg Data exchange pilot scheme.
“These are: centralised data for compliance and certificaton, voluntary benchmarking for comparisons and decisions, biosecurity and contamination information and supply and origin traceability.
“KPMG Origins establishes and tracks digital twin assets as they transition through the supply chain.
“The physical product has a digital twin and KPMG Origins links the two as they pass through the chain,” Ben explained.
To state that Bens’s presentation was thought provoking is a major understatement.
The poultry industry in Australia (and New Zealand) is well equipped with digital assets and technology like
poultry shed automation and is progressing to sophisticated data collection and more recently robotic interventions.
However, linking all these technologies into a business plan that takes into account further technology advances and dare we say, constantly changing consumer expectation has become a challenge.
Obviously, KPMG, Ben van Deldren and his team, have put a lot of work into offering solutions to make best use of new assets, technology combined with the best use of Australia natural advantages.