Princes turns to QR codes and blockchain for sustainability storytelling

Princes' partnership with Provenance will also see QR codes added to selected seafood products

The codes, which are being introduced to tinned tomatoes sold in the UK this month, will enable users to access a dedicated webpage walking them through the journey of the product through the supply chain, from farm to supermarket. Data collected through Princes’ audits, GPS mapping and blockchain traceability programmes will be used to support the storytelling and ensure that information is accurate and up-to-date.

Princes has partnered with blockchain-enabled transparency programme and certified B-Corp Provenance to roll out the codes and improve its supply chain data. Building on an existing blockchain project with Italian agricultural group Coldiretti, which is used to ensure that worker rights are maintained and that farmers using sustainable methods are paid a premium, the partnership with Provenance will scale the use of blockchain throughout the tomato supply chain.

Acting as a digital ledger, blockchain creates a verifiable and tamper-proof audit trail that can be used to trace products through the supply chain. Provenance uses this verified data to create a ‘Product Passport’ and to inform storytelling on the consumer-pacing end of its software.

Princes’ corporate relations director David McDiarmid said the move will help the company to “clearly and conveniently” tell the sustainability story of the 250 million units of tomato products it manufactures each year. Notably, 100% of the tomatoes it sources come from farms with independent ethical certification.

“While many of our customers are aware of our approach, we want to broaden the transparency of this work and our sourcing decisions, for the benefit of further retailers and the millions of families that enjoy Napolina,” McDiarmid said.

“We hope that by making this more of a consumer issue we can raise the profile and action by supply chain stakeholders, not just in tomatoes but many other Italian agricultural products that are touched by the same human rights issues.” 

In the coming weeks, QR codes will be added to Princes-brand tuna and other seafood products sold in the Netherlands, using the same Provenance software.

The future of food

The agri-food sector is a key driver of deforestation and a major contributor to global emissions. It is also acutely exposed to the physical impacts of climate change and is a hotspot for human rights abuses in the supply chain.

As such, many businesses are turning to innovative technologies in a drive to build a better food system.

Unilever and Sainsbury’s, for example, recently revealed that a joint blockchain-based experiment aimed at improving social and environmental practices in their tea supply chains has proven successful. Orchestrated by the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), the scheme provided farmers with a financial incentive in return for feeding social and ecological data into the blockchain system. Blockchain for food supply chains is also being touted by the likes of  Ben & JerrysAccenture and Mastercard.

Satellite mapping is also growing in popularity. Marks & Spencer (M&S) uses satellite data to inform interactive, digital maps of its supply chains for seafood and beef; Unilever is using geolocation technology to ensure it meets its deforestation-free palm oil commitments and Mondelez International’s deforestation-free cocoa efforts involve satellite mapping regions in Ghana and the Ivory Coast.  

Elsewhere, AI is helping companies to optimise water and fertiliser use and to minimise waste on farms and beyond. It is being trialled at grain farms across Kenya by Capgemini.

Sarah George

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