Today, the innovation and the development of advanced technological standards in the agri-food sector are not only an urgent necessity, but an extraordinary opportunity to develop competitiveness. Technological innovations in the field of agriculture are part of agritech or agriculture 4.0.
Blockchain opens not only to new possibilities that allow to think and support new systems of reasoning among various actors, but it also calls for the foresight of new production models based on consortium logics for the enhancement of both excellent productions and the local entrepreneurial fabric. Starting from local PDO agri-food presidios organised in consortia of producers up to the development of a complete traceability of the supply chain, the application of blockchain technologies to new cooperative and consortium logics can constitute one of the most important economic levers of national importance for the development and enhancement of Italian agri-food products, managing to counter competition contexts that are strongly altered by large investments in marketing to bring attention to the quality of the product (the excellence of Made in Italy).
THE BLOCKCHAIN-BASED REVOLUTION AND THE ITALIAN BLOCKCHAIN
Innovating with blockchain-based logics can open up scenarios that allow to develop new consortium logics based on new governance models: we are talking about a technology dedicated to supporting trust between subjects and therefore their relationships. This can be considered a much broader and more significant aspect in relation with the idea that talking about blockchain means almost exclusively understanding a resilient and unalterable database. This erroneous consideration does not take into account the aspects that have emerged in the precious study conducted, for over a year and a half, by the working table on agri-food traceability of the Italian Blockchain Association directed by Massimo Romano. The working group is attended by technicians, lawyers, economists, sustainability experts, academics, MISE (the Italian Ministry of Economic Development) experts: the association is a non-profit body for interdisciplinary research and scientific dissemination aimed at studying the practicability and social implications of blockchain and DLT technologies, while promoting in Italy an ecosystem that is capable of improving international public and private competitiveness.
BLOCKCHAIN, GOVERNANCE AND AGRIFOOD TECHNOLOGY
Reasoning in terms of blockchain logic for the agrifood chain means promoting tools that allow to organise in a verifiable and decentralised way that is controlled by rules all the subjects that can also be independent from each other but united by a specific objective (e.g., producers of PDO Pachino tomatoes). Moreover, this mindset allows to facilitate other stakeholders in the sector, such as certifiers, auditors, regulators but also distributors, consumer protection associations, GDO, in the active participation in the validation of supply chain information inserted in blockchain.
Generally speaking, these opportunities adapt to the entire national territory where there are quality agrifood facilities to be enhanced and, given that the entire agrifood sector still suffers from a slower digital transformation process related to information management, blockchain could be a technology of choice to support the interoperability of the system. In this sense, it is interesting to ascertain how, although at the time there is not much information on the actual implementation, Sicily is the first region to have approved (last year) a legislative proposal on blockchain-based agrifood traceability.
Why are information traceability, process and system innovations in the agrifood chain so important?
As it can be seen from the aforementioned in-depth study, blockchain has the potential to improve the agrifood supply chain and the Made in Italy in different ways:
BLOCKHAIN FOR EXCELLENCE: A POSSIBLE CHALLENGE THAT HAS TO BE FACED
The great challenge of digital transformation in the agrifood supply chain can be a lever of great differentiation for Italian excellence. It must be clear that, with a professional and competent panoramic vision, the challenge is to focus not only on complete traceability of the supply chain, on the transparency of actors and information, on the digitisation of the same and on the standardisation of data, but also on the digitisation of processes and on the very idea of governance and inclusion of other actors. The future of the agrifood chain can begin immediately, for Sicily as for the whole of Italy, with the decision to rely on agritech solutions together with the most reliable and professional partners.