Chinese online giant Alibaba and New Zealand dairy powerhouse Fonterra have teamed up with New Zealand Post to develop a blockchain-based food security system.
Blockchain, most famous for being the underlying technology of the Bitcoin digital currency, can also be used to authenticate transfers of ownership and the provenance of goods.
The three partners signed a memorandum of understanding in Auckland today and will use PwC to help execute the project, the New Zealand Herald reported.
Counterfeit and unsafe goods are the plague of online shopping and Fonterra itself has been stung by an inability to properly trace products.
In 2013, the dairy cooperative issued a seven-country recall of products after suspected botulism-causing bacteria were found during safety tests. That proved to be unnecessary, when further tests found no such contamination.
One of the contributors of the recall was the company’s inability to track its own products as it was in the process of changing its ERP technologies at some sites.
This and other food safety scandals have left Chinese consumers in particular highly sensitive to issue of food quality.
Alibaba is proposing a Food Trust Framework to provide a trusted market. Fonterra and NZ Post will test the technology in-market.
The pilots could be the foundation of a global system to be applied across all of Alibaba's markets.
"Connecting our co-operative with consumers and being able to reassure them about the quality and safety of our products is fundamental to being the most trusted source of dairy nutrition," Fonterra Chief Operating Officer (COO) Global Consumer and Foodservice, Jacqueline Chow, said.