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An Agri-food Supply Chain Traceability System for China Based on RFID & Blocl
Abstract-For the past few years, food safety has become an outstanding
logistics pattern can not match the demands of the market anymore, building an agri-food supply chain traceability system is becoming more and more urgent. In this paper, we study the utilization and development situation of RFID (Radio-Frequency IDentification) and blockchain technology first, and then we
are still many problems, such as the shortage of modem equipment and funds, low level of information application, disordered regulatory systems, and the lack of the monitor-able traceability systems. Due to these reasons, food safety events have broken out frequently and massively in China, which makes consumers to be the vulnerable groups in the markets.
analyze the advantages and disadvantages of using RFID and
Based on the reasons above, the primary purpose of this
blockchain technology in building the agri-food supply chain
paper is to establish an agri-food supply chain traceability system based on RFlD and blockchain technology for helping Chinese agri-food markets to enhance their food safety and quality, at the same time, to significantly reduce the losses during the logistics process. The remainder of the paper is organized as followed. We begin with a brief overview of existing literature on the application of RFTD and blockchain technology in agri-food supply chains in section 2. Then we simply introduce the RFTD and blockchain technology, and
traceability system; finally, we demonstrate the building process of
information in the entire agri-food supply chain, which would effectively guarantee the food safety, by gathering, transferring and sharing the authentic data of agri-food in production, processing, warehousing, distribution and selling links.
With the vigorous development of China's economy, people's standard of living has been improved constantly, which changed the consuming habit of the consumer, and more and more attention is paid to food safety and quality. However, in recent years, a series of serious food safety accidents occurred one after another, even in Europe there was a "horsemeat scandal" in 2013 (Boyacia et aI., 2014). It's worth noting that these kinds of scandals are even more frequent and serious in China, such as "Sudan red", "c1enbuterol", "Sanlu toxic milk powder" and "trench oil", which harm people's health and destroy their trust in domestic food markets. These scandals not only deeply influence the normal development of the economy, but also endanger the stability and security of the society. As a large agricultural country, the annual demand for fruits and vegetables is around 730 million tons in China. Since these agri-foods are highly perishable, their requirements for the temperature and humidity of the environment in logistics process are very rigorous. However, in reality, due to the backward agri-food logistics system, the agri-food loss ratio is up to 25% to 30% per year in China. At the same time, in the developed countries in Europe and America, their agri-food loss ratio is normally less than 3%. Currently, although they have been developing real rapidly in recent years, generally speaking, Chinese agri-food supply chain systems are still at the primary stage, and there
demonstrate the conceptual framework of the agri-food supply chain traceability system in section 3. Tn section 4, we compare traceable agri-food supply chain with the traditional one, and analyze the advantages and disadvantages of using RFTD and blockchain in agri-food supply chain traceability system. After that, we demonstrate the building process of the agri-food supply chain traceability system model in section 5. Finally, we make a brief conclusion for this paper in section 6. 11.
Agri-food supply chains have been extensively studied. For example, Li et a!. (2006) developed a dynamic planning method for agri-food supply chain. This method attempts to minimize the losses of agri-food products while simultaneously maximizing the profits for agri-food supply chain members. Trienekens & Zuurbier (2008) insisted that government departments should respond for ensuring the quality and safety of agri-food products by setting legislation and regulations. Tn order to restore consumer confidence in the wake of kinds of scandals, many measures are also being taken to guarantee the quality and safety control through the transparency of the agri food supply chain management (Akkerman et a!., 2010). Several other researchers consider the application of advanced technology, especially RFTD technology, in supply chain management. Sari (2010) developed a simulation model for supply chain firm to fmd out under what kinds of conditions the investing in RFTD technology is more beneficial
for the fIrm. The study results show that using RFlD technology in a supply chain will provide more benefIts when
products during their distribution process. Based on the information transmitted by sensor-RFID equipments from the refrigerated containers, this system calculates the remaining
Information System), etc. Besides, instead of covering all stages of the supply chain management, most studies only considered distribution and warehousing steps. Another important question they have not considered is that whether the information shared by supply chain members in the traceability systems can be trusted. Therefore, as far as I know, there is a lack of published literature that studies the use of RFTD technology to establish a traceability system for guaranteeing
value and shelf-life time of agri-food products in transmission. Ustundaga & Tanyasb (2009) presented a simulation
the quality and safety of the agri-food product in the whole supply chain. Further more, there is no published paper that
model to obtain the expected profits of using a RFTD-based system in a supply chain by calculating the performance increasing in efficiency, security, accuracy and visibility.
proposes using blockchain technology to solve the issue of information credibility in agri-food supply chain traceability systems. In this paper, an agri-food supply chain traceability
the collaboration among supply chain members is more intensive. Wang et a!. (2010) proposed a rule-based decision support system to fulfIll the real-time monitoring of agri-food
Among these researches, food traceability management has drawn more and more attention. It is defined by the European Union Commission as "the ability to trace and follow a food, feed, food-producing animal or substance intended to be, or expected to be incorporated into a food or feed, through all stages of production, processing and distribution" (European Commission, 2002). Aimed at the needs of the tracking and traceability in supply chain management, Li et a!. (2010) proposed the RFlD-based logistics tracking and tracing model, and defined 5 different kinds of RFTD business events. Besides, they also design the network structure, functional framework and security systems of the logistics tracking and tracing system. Taking agri-food as a research object, Yang et al. (2008) built a security management and quality traceability system of vegetable production from the perspective of information technology, and demonstrate its main functions, operational process and key technology of this system. Currently, a new technology called blockchain has drawn much attention from researchers in many different domains. The first application of the blockchain technology was Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer electronic cash system. Beyond its initial application, blockchain has been generalized and researched in some different domains. Kosba et al. (2015) presented a decentralized smart contract system: Hawk. Unlike other existing decentralized block chain systems in which all the transactions are exposed clearly on the block chain, "hawk" does not store fmancial transactions clearly on the block chain, thus retaining transactional privacy from the public's view. Bruce (2013) proposed a purely P2P crypto-currency scheme with the "mini-blockchain". In their research they defmed the "mini-blockchain", "proof chain" and "account tree", and described how these three mechanisms work together to built a system that can provide a high level of integrity and security, yet was much slimmer than all other purely P2P currencies. Foroglou et al. (2014) showed that
system based on RFTD and blockchain technology is developed, and the details of its implementation process in every supply chain link are demonstrated. This system can effectively improve the effIciency and reliability of agri-food supply chain management and significantly strengthen the quality and safety of agri-food products, especially in today's China's markets. TTT.
CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK OF THE AGRI
FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN TRACEABILITY SYSTEM
A. Introduction of RFlD RFlD (Radio Frequency IdentifIcation) is a non-contact automatic identification communication technology. It can automatically identify multiple, high-speed moving objects simultaneously even under poor environment and without manual intervention. Moreover, it can tag, save and manage information of objects through a radio-frequency signal. Compare to bar code, RFID tag technology has a lot of advantages, such as convenience, antipollution, mass-capacity information and recyclable. In the logistics area, RFID has been widely used in production-processing, warehouse management, logistics tracing and product anti-fake, etc. With the extensive applications of RFlD, the level of supply chain management has been highly improved.
B. Application of RFlD technology in agri-food supply chain Agri-food supply chains including production (planting/feeding), picking/slaughter, processing, warehousing, distribution and sales. In these series of links, the value of the agri-food could be extremely improved by strictly guaranteeing the quality and safety of the agri-food. In agri-food supply chain, RFID technology has been widely used for many years. Early in 1998, "Cattle tracking systems plan" had been implemented in Britain. In this plan, RFlD electronic ear tag is used for tracking and identifYing livestock like cattle, sheep, horse and pig during their raising stage. And in January 2008,
how blockchain technology can be advantageously used in
European Union passed legislation to pressure livestock farm
different domains, such as the currency, contracts, voting, intellectual property rights, smart property and fmance, in the future.
to use electronic identification for sheep (Peng et a!., 2011).
According to the discussion above, many studies have considered the use of RFTD in agri-food supply chain management. However, most of them concentrated on technical functions of RFTD and its integrated application with other technologies, such as WSN (Wireless Sensor Network), GPS (Global Positioning System) and GIS (Geographic
In USA and Japan, RFlD system had been used for tracking agri-food in the entire supply chain from planting to the distributor and retailer. In these supply chain processes, RFID systems provide management information and safety data of agri-food for producer, wholesaler, retailer and consumer. During the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, RFTD technology had been used for tracking and monitoring the Olympic food. Athletes and staff could get the information about the food they
eat, including what kinds of food they have eaten; where are these foods come from; and what processes these foods have gone through, by their personal RFlD lD card (Liu et aI., 2012). Thanks to RFTD technology, agri-food supply chain management could realize the tracing and monitoring of "from
maintained by all the nodes in the whole system, and everyone can become one node of the system after registering online. Reliable Database: every node could receive a complete copy of the database from the system through the form of sub database. Tampering with the database by one node is invalid,
farm to fork", and once the food safety issues happen we can fmd their source and solve the problem immediately.
and that could not influence the data of other nodes, unless one can control over 51% of the nodes in the whole system at the same time. Thus, if there are more nodes in the system, it will be more secure. Anonymity: since there is no need for trust between nodes, there is no need for nodes to reveal their identities and all the nodes in the system are anonymous.
C. Introduction of blockchain technology The essence of the blockchain is a technical scheme of reliable database which is collectively maintained by the way of decentralized and trustless method. This technical scheme could create blocks through any number of the nodes in the system by using cryptography. It is just like what the name says: a chain of blocks. Each block contains the data of all transactions in the system within a period of time, and it could create digital fmgerprinting which can be used to verify the validity of the infonnation and connect with the next block. There can be a huge number of such blocks in the blockchain. The blocks are linked to each other in a linear (like a chain), chronological order with every block containing a hash of the previous block. The blockchain technology can be visualized as a general tenn for technical schemes which are similar to NoSQL (Not Only Structured Query Language), and it can be realized by many kinds of programming languages. Currently, there are some methods for achieving that, such as POW (Proof of Work), POS (Proof of Stake) and DPOS (Delegate Proof of Stake). According to the definition of the blockchain above, a blockchain-based
decentralized, trustless, collectively, reliable database and anonymity. Decentralized: there is no organization in the whole network, and even if a node is crashed, the whole system will still be up. Therefore, the blockchain system is very robust. Trustless: since the whole system is running transparently, the system is absolutely open source and there is no need for trust among every single node and any node can never cheat other nodes. Collectively Maintain: the blocks of the system are
The core problem solved by blockchain technology is how we can build a consensus foundation for secure infonnation transaction without worrying about data tampered when any nodes can not be trusted in the whole network. Blockchain could guarantee the security of the whole network by using mathematical algorithm mechanism. Thanks to blockchain, all the nodes in the system could exchange their data autonomously and securely in the trustless environment.
D . The basic concept of agri-food supply chain traceability system based on RFID & blockchain technology The agri-food we mentioned in this paper contains two types: fresh fruits & vegetables, and meats which include pork, mutton, chicken and beef. The agri-food supply chain traceability system which we build in this paper mainly relies on RFTD technology to implement data acquisition, circulation and
distribution and sales links of agri-food supply chain. Besides that, it also uses blockchain technology for guaranteeing the information which shared and published in this traceability system is reliable and authentic. This traceability system not only covers each enterprise in the agri-food supply chain, but also includes some compulsory food safety & quality supervision inspection centers, such as government departments and third-party regulators. For example, government departments could use this system to check the safety status of the products at any time. Once food safety accident happens, they could take emergency measures immediately to prevent the spreading of the hazard.
Conceptual framework of an agri-food supply chain traceability system based on RFID & blockchain technology
Thanks to RFlD & blockchain technology, this traceability system could realize the information identification, inquiry, tracking, monitoring and tracing for the whole supply chain, and it could also be a secure, transparent and traceable platform for all the members in the agri-food supply chain. In addition, excepting RFID & blockchain there are many other technologies which can be comprehensively used in this traceability system, such as WSN, GPS, and GIS, etc. For example, GIS can be used together with RFID to control and track the production of the plants. Meanwhile, GPS can be used to make the vehicle positioning and optimal distribution route for distribution vehicles. In conclusion, all of these features enable this new traceability system to effectively guarantee the safety and quality of the food, and implement the precise recalling and responsible investigation for the defective product.
C � Farm
Fig. 2 shows the framework of a centralized agri-food supply chain traceability system which has been widely used recently. In this system, supply chain members rely on an information supervision center to transfer and share their information, which fulfills the informatization and intelligentization of the entire supply chain. This centralized traceability system effectively implements the information sharing and, to some extent, realizes the management in the whole agri-food supply chain.
Conceptual framework of centralized agri-food supply chain traceability system
However, the biggest problem of this centralized format is that it is a monopolistic, asymmetric and opaque information system, which could result in the trust problem, such as fraud, corruption, tampering and falsifying information. As is shown in Fig. 1, our new traceability system which has applied blockchain technology could obviously solve these issues. In this system, instead of being an information supervision center, government departments and third-party regulators are just some normal nodes of the system, just like all the other members. However, they also have their own responsibilities, such as forcing the application of RFlD in the entire agri-food supply chain, and inspecting the authenticity of the information uploaded by supply chain members. This new decentralized traceability system could become a disruptive innovation which could increase the transparency of the supply chain, strengthen the information credibility, realize the real-time tracking of agri-food, and consequently, enhance the safety assurance of the agri-food supply chain.
B. Advantages of the agri-food supply chain traceability system based on RFID & blockchain technology Benefit to tracking and traceability management
Agri-food supply chain traceability system builds a kind of agri-food information chain which covers the food safety supervision regulator, farm livestock farm processing ,
A. Comparative analysis between centralized traceability system and RFID & blockchain based traceability system
BASED ON RFTD & BLOCKCHATN TECHNOLOGY
C � Fig. 2.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF
. . . ...
AGRl-FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN TRACEABILITY SYSTEM
enterprise, logistics enterprise, sales enterprise (supermarket) and customer. Moreover, relying on the blockchain system, all the information of the agri-food in the supply chain is transparent and open, thus logistics enterprise could implement real-time tracking for the agri-food products, supervision regulator could execute traceability management and responsibility investigation for defective product, consumer could obtain the full information of the products in the entire agri-food supply chain, which are beneficial to establish a healthy market environment.
2) Benefit to enhance the credibility of the agri-food safety information Currently, most of the RFTD-based supply chain traceability systems are all based on the idea of using a centralized system with the government department or a third party organization to achieve information transparency along the supply chain. However, these kinds of centralized organizations are completely opaque and user will never be able to know the inner details of the transactions. This could lead to information fraud and extortion for supply chain members. By using blockchain, this now traceability system removes the need for a trusted centralized organization and provides an information platform for all the members in it with openness, transparency, neutrality, reliability and security.
Benefit to fighting against fake products
The information data of the product could be encrypted and protected by binding the product with a unique TD of RFTD tag, which could protect the product from counterfeited. Moreover, by applying RFTD, many kinds of agri-food infonnation can be added into the traceability system through intelligent equipment. Since this process does not need any manual operation, greatly decrease the mistakes caused by human factors. Besides, by using blockchain technology, all the
of the pig, including the information of its parents, fodder, epidemic prevention checking and medication situation, from birth to slaughter. Moreover, these RFID tags also record the infonnation of production managers and operational staff, and once the food safety accident happens the relevant managers and staff can be found and to deal with the accident immediately. All relevant information which is saved in the RFTD tag can be uploaded to the blockchain system through the wireless network.
members in this system are unable to manipulate agri-food information, which further increases the safety and quality of
B. Processing link
After receiving agri-food products from production enterprises, processing enterprise could understand the basic
C. Disadvantages of the agri-food supply chain traceability system based on RFJD & blockchain technology I)
The high cost
First of all, the cost of RFlD tag is very high. Comparing with bar-code, the minimum cost of RFTD tag is 0.3 dollar, however, in China a bar-code normally cost only 0.02 RMB (Zhang et aI., 2014). Secondly, establishing this kind of traceability system needs huge investments in corollary equipment and updating the original system. Tn consequence, all of these conditions seriously restrict the application and popularization of RFlD technology in the logistics area. Tn order to reduce the cost, many enterprises try to narrow the application scope of RFlD. For instance, instead of using RFTD tag on every single product, it can be mainly used on pallet, packing-case, and container, etc. However, enterprises will not invest in it if there are not enough returns. Actually, for these high-quality products where a marginal increase of some degree to the price would not affect the willingness of the customers to buy, which means customers maybe would rather pay more for these products for safety and reliability. Besides that, using RFlD could extremely improve the production and management efficiency, which is also a kind of benefit and advantage to enterprises.
The immaturity of blockchain technology
As an emerging technology, blockchain is still in its initial phase and there are some obstacles to its further application. For instance, right now the transaction capacity of blockchain is restricted to 7 transactions per second due to the restricted size of block, while VISA can handle up to 47000 transactions per second. Another obstacle is how to deal with the ever-growing size of the blackchain for the issues as storage and synchronization. On an average, every ten minutes, a new block is appended to the blockchain through mining. V.
THE BUILDING PROCESS OF THE AGRl-FOOD
SUPPLY CHAIN TRACEABILITY SYSTEM BASED ON RFlD & BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY
A. Production link Tn production stage, for plant products, RFTD tags are mainly used on their packaging, which save many kinds of infonnation of agri-food product including the variety, name, producing area, planting time, fertilization condition, usage of pesticides, plucking time, etc. For the meats products, such as pig, RFID ear tags are normally used to save the information
information of products by scanning their RFlD tags, and update their infonnation in the RFTD tag after finishing the processing flow. For the plant products, like the production link, RFlD tags are used for the products which have relatively high value and strict requirement for environment; for these products with low value, RFID tags are only used on their pallets and packing-cases, and the bar-codes are mainly used for the single agri-food products. For the meat products, taking pigs as an example, the information, such as the source, number, receiving date and epidemic prevention should be written into the RFTD tag. The RFTD tag which is bound with animal product could also record the information in its processing stage such as product type, weight, expiration date, storage conditions, inspection and quarantine information, etc. Since the agri-food processing link is a very complicate stage which is the key to the safety and quality of the agri-food product, the updated infonnation in the RFTD tag should also include the situation of using additives, the basic infonnation of processing enterprise and relevant staff. And then again, upload this updated information to blockchain system, which can be conveniently inquired by all the members among the agri-food supply chain.
C. Warehousing management link By setting up relevant RFTD equipment in warehousing center, the information of received products, storage environment, agri-food's receiving and delivery time can be automatically obtained. Meanwhile, with wireless sensors and monitoring equipment, the RFTD reader can be used to directly query inventory information. And all relevant information should be saved in blockchain system, and opened to all the members in the system. This system could not only greatly improve the efficiency of warehouse management, but also fulfills the enterprise's requirement for dynamic storage management which could enhance the quality and safety of stored products as well. First of all, infonnation in the RFTD tag can be used to query agri food product's information such as quantity, category and storage time, etc. Secondly, in order to avoid loss and spoilage, based on the product quantity and storage time, managers can make decision for which products should be given priority to move out of the storage. Finally, RFTD systems can be also used to check the real-time environmental information of cold storage, including temperature and humidity, which could avoid food safety accident occurring.
D . Cold chain distribution link Tn the distribution process, 3T principle (Time, Temperature and Tolerance) is the key factor in ensuring the safety and quality of agri-food. Therefore, a vehicle-mounted safety monitoring system can be established by setting temperature and humidity sensors in different temperature areas with vehicle-mounted wireless network and computer. This small system allows delivery staff to transfer the temperature and humidity real-time data of agri-food to blockchain system. Meanwhile, when the temperature and humidity exceed the security standard it will raise the alarm immediately. Last but not least, by using GPS, distribution center could implement vehicle positioning for each
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Since RFTD tag saved the information of agri-food in the entire supply chain, once food safety accident happens, the defective products can be located
immediately. Moreover, happening reasons, location and responsible staff can be traced by blockchain system as well, which could extremely reduce the losses and hazards.
Guarantee the freshness of products.
consumers are shopping in the supermarket, they can use the RFTD reader to obtain the basic infonnation of agri-food products by scanning their RFID tags. Moreover, thanks to blockchain technology, all the infonnation along the agri-food supply chain is fully audit-able, which means customers could also obtain details infonnation about the final products in a real-time manner by inspecting the blockchain system. Transparency of products information could significantly enhance the consumers' trust for products and obviously increase their confidence for the agri-food markets. VI.
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In this paper, an agri-food supply chain traceability system is established, based on RFlD & blockchain technology. This system covers the whole process of data gathering and information management of every links in agri-food supply chain, which realizes the monitoring, tracing and traceability management for the quality and safety of the agri-food "from farm to fork". Tn future studies, with the rapid development of blockchain, building a decentralized system in which the infonnation can be completely trusted is the development tendency of the logistics industry. And if application cost can be significantly reduced, RFTD technology will be more widely used in the logistics industry. There is no doubt that with the wide application of these emerging technologies, products can be understood, carried, checked and trusted as they travel along the supply chain. This will effectively enhance the quality and safety of agri-food products.
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