UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Producer input is needed Penn State Extension, the College of Agricultural Sciences, and Smeal College of Business are mailing surveys to apple, peach, nectarine, potato, and vegetable growers this October. The research team is studying ways that blockchain technology may improve wholesale farm businesses and give Pennsylvania growers a competitive advantage.
Wholesale farms in the digital economy
Technology has transformed many aspects of agriculture and our economy, yet many of the business and record-keeping systems used by produce growers lag behind the digital revolution. A relatively new technology called ‘blockchain’ has potential applications for farms and food supply chains.
What is blockchain?
In a nutshell, blockchain is a tool that can record transactions and track information between businesses and assets across supply chains. One way to think of blockchain in the year 2021 is to compare it to the internet of the early 1990s – as a very new technology with early adopters exploring potential market advantages; and, as the foundation for myriad tools and uses that haven’t been imagined yet. The internet of the 1990s was the foundation for “Electronic Mail” (E-mail). By now the internet is the foundation for social networks like Facebook, new sales channels like business websites and online shopping, and communication tools like Zoom and WhatsApp. Blockchain is another new technology upon which economic, legal, and social systems will be built.
Why is blockchain worth thinking about now if you’re a PA farmer?
PA producers planning for their business’s future will do well to keep blockchain technology on their radar. Pilot projects that use blockchain to provide information to consumers about a product’s origin, automate contracts and payment for deliveries, manage traceability programs and meet food safety requirements, and collaborate with businesses along the supply chain are currently in progress across the United States and globe.
Long-term success requires learning new tools and techniques as they benefit your business and justify the costs of adoption. The role of Penn State Extension is to understand new tools and techniques, find ways to address current challenges faced by our stakeholders, and create new opportunities for their success.
Reports on the information gathered from the ongoing survey, as well as focus groups for those interested, will launch in Winter 2021. Growers with questions or interest about the Wholesale Farms and Blockchain Technology Survey should contact Jay Eury at Jay.Eury@psu.edu or 717-398-3849.
–Penn State Extension