Oracle, the American multinational software and computing company, best known for its enterprise database products, recently showcased its new environmentally-enhancing use case for blockchain technology in partnership with The World Bee Project.
Presenting at the London Blockchain Summit 2019, held at the London Olympia last week, Oracle described their role in what may be one of the most socially impactful and important use cases for blockchain technology yet.
The World Bee Project aims to increase food security worldwide by leveraging the latest technology in AI, sensor technology, and the internet of things. Oracle is already working with the World Bee Project to help track beehive health via cloud computing, and now both parties are exploring the potential of distributed ledger technology for environmental protection.
Bees are essential for human life, underpinning our entire agriculture systems and food security, and implementing blockchain to support their lifecycle could be a significant use case which finally takes the power of blockchain public.
How Are Oracle and the World Bee Project Using Blockchain?
So, how does blockchain assist beekeepers? There are currently multiple issues across the honey supply chain, with many suppliers producing impure or tainted honey, which isn’t the same product as the label may imply.
Impurities such as refined sugars, corn syrup, salt, or other toxic materials have regularly been found in many shop-bought honeys. Not only is this a problem for consumers, but it also imparts a heavy economic burden for responsible beekeepers who supply good quality honey. In turn, as these responsible beekeepers are far more likely to manage the bees in their care sustainably, it affects the levels of well-managed hives in existence.
This is such a massive problem, that according to Oracle over 75% of honey sold in stores is ‘fake,’ or not as pure as it says on the jar. Instead, blockchain – which provides an immutable ledger of all past transactions or data, could prove the exact origin of store-bought honey for consumers at the point of sale.
Oracle’s exposition demo, called “The Connected Hive and The Future of Farming,” invited attendees to watch the process of deploying IoT and AI sensors to track these vital pollinators health. These included collecting metrics on the weight of the hive, the distance traveled by the bees, and even acoustic data from inside the hives – effectively creating the world’s first AI ‘smart hives’.
Andy Clark, Design and Innovation Director at Oracle, took the opportunity to share with Blockchain Summit attendees how Oracle’s blockchain technology could assist The World Bee Project in verifying honey as part of their eco-label certified products.
The key innovation with storing honey ‘data’ on the blockchain comes from the way it is verified. Scientists at the University of Reading have developed a novel method of recording the pollen ‘signature’ from the hive’s surrounding plants, which can be stored on the blockchain. If there’s any different honey added afterward which would adulterate the product, there will be a different pollen signature, and the honey won’t be certified as single-source.
Oracle’s blockchain solution is being developed with both The World Bee Project and Reading-based Professor Simon Potts, a global pollination advisor for the EU, and a member of the Convention on Biological Diversity for the United Nations.
To date, this is one of the most high-profile examples of an environmentally focused organisation implementing blockchain solutions, to an issue which would have been previously impossible to track and trace.
Does Blockchain Offer a Brighter Future for Bees?
While Oracle is currently working with The World Bee project predominantly to track the origin of honey using blockchain, the knock-on effects for the health of these crucial pollinators is potentially huge.
Beekeepers and farmers who can charge a higher price for their honey, through the proven origin at the point of sale, will subsequently be able to invest more time and resources into their hives and be incentivised to take better care of their bees. Likewise, for the first time, consumers will be able to have confidence in the honey products they are buying.
This deployment of blockchain technology in a real-world scenario is one of the most environmentally and socially responsible uses of blockchain to date, providing a stark contrast to the popular narrative that blockchain is detrimental to environmental health.
In the future, it’s highly likely that other environmental or supply chain management blockchain solutions will emerge to prove product origin, or for farmers and producers to get valuable certification on their products.