Product supply chain tracability

I’m wondering if that has already been discussed… It seems that as a hub, if I want to offer my consumers to buy oranges for example, and I am in Norway where no oranges are produced, and I can’t really import them myself, I will buy the oranges to an importer (of course who select organic products, fair products, etc.). The problem is that when I put that product online, I can only link the product to the entreprise I buy it from. In my case, the importer. Of course, in the product description I can share information about who the final producer is, but it is less user friendly than being able to link a product to different entreprises throughout the supply chain. Like I could select the entreprise of the final producer as “producer”, but I could say that I buy it through Entreprise X (so that I know in the report that I have bought that to this supplier and can order easily). Has this already been discussed?

My dream would be that when I buy a banana, I see the real true producer of the bananas in the OFN webshop, and not ony the local reseller :smile:

I share this dream! :smile:
But this question even applies on a ‘local’ level: if there are two hubs inbetween producer and consumer (i.e. producers --> hub 1 --> hub 2 --> consumer) - does the consumer see hub 1 as the producer, or does he see the whole chain?

Tracability is going to be essential if we want restaurants to use this system. For health reasons, restaurants need to have a tracability sticker or label on each product they receive in case someone gets sick, they can trace the bacteria or virus.

So not only do we need to make sure that it’s possible to access this information online on an informational purchasing level but also on the product itself when it arrives at the restaurant. Because many chefs lose the labels or take photos of them, it would be great to even eventually have a system that stores information on previously purchased products. We can ask the farmers and intermediaries to put stickers on their produce, as they do now, but we may even want to tailor those stickers to be “Open Food” labels. Something to discuss in the future.

I agree that working toward the dream of full traceability is ideal. My [small food hub1 deals with only certified organic goods. Traceability is one thing the organic system has gotten good at I think, and we can learn from that. For example, in the winter months, when my own product (lets say beets) are sold out, I procure beets from other Ontario (my province in Canada) farmers. I get these from a wholesale/distributor who conveniently is located 5 minutes down the road. They have excellent cold storage - so can store longer than me. They are a certified organic distributor, so they have to keep records to verify that everything they have bought in is organic, and they have to know who produced it. So - theoretically, I could name or link to the farmer who grew the beets. This would apply to things procured from further away as well such as @MyriamBoure’s dream bananas. In fact, this particular distribution company I deal with, also labels if the product is fair trade certified as well as organic certified. So the dream is very possible - it just takes a lot of detailed product records - again, something that OFN could make easier in the long run perhaps. This is something our sustainable and just food hubs could model for mainstream aggregators and distributors why exchange nameless and placeless products. Its one of the things that makes us different.

Hi everyone! For your information, I am in contact with people from the project Provenance (yes, I know, another blockchain project!):
To see if there could be any link with OFN.
I have a hangout plan with the founder on Friday morning 10:30 CEST (Oslo time). If some people are interested in joining, please let me know so that I can add you to the call!
Ping @Selmo @lawrence @Kirsten @serenity

Thanks Myriam.

I would live to join the call.

Kind Regards

Lawrence Strydom

+27 (0)824983084

@lawrence it seems that this message was “stuck” somewhere in the cloud… I’m sorry but as you can see, I didn’t see it before so couldn’t add you to the call :-o I had a second call with them yesterday, I’m going to open a discussion to share all the things I have learned… interesting project that could help us improve the tracability of the supply chain, especially for all the distributors who import products, from traders, who work with other distributors, then different producers.

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Something interesting that came up at our Cape Town Launch event earlier this week was a question from a Restaurateur who wanted to know if it would be possible to use the platform and list his menu items as products with all the ingredients being traceable to the producer… A nice future extension I think.

Yes! I have been talking twice to Provenance ( and I heard also about Sourcemap (ex: I see a very interesting potential, especially with Provenance, I’m just wondering if we need the blockchain to do that… I will write a feeback and share it here to open a discussion and see if we want to experiment stuff with them, if some producers / distributors are interested.

I’ve been thinking of this on a list of features that I think could help the eventual US launch. Ratings for different processors comes to mind. There’s a processor (aka slaughterhouse) that multiple livestock farmers here use. Maybe 15% of that processor’s products seem to end up with an off flavor. But they’re really close to Salisbury and have good prices so vendors keep using them.

Anyhow, a community rating system for vendors, hubs and various links on the supply chain seems like a good idea. It’s also something that seems to promote adoption of other p2p platforms.

Hi there! I’m sorry it took me so much time to write that feedback after my calls with the Provenance team.
I have written all that I understood in that document:
@johba if you have anything to add / modify in that document please feel free :slight_smile:

In two words, the idea of Provenance is to make visible a product tracability all along the supply chain, using an “avatar” going from hand to hand on the blockchain. The visibility can be made in a user friendly way, through an API for example, or a QR code and the different actors along the supply chain pop up in a visual way. For example, if you click on a banana, you could see the whole journey of the banana from the producer to the hub.
They use an open data platform for producers to share their data.

They are a social business based in London, still in experimental stage, so the idea is to see if what they are building can be of any interest for us to be connected with (now? later?).

That would be great if some of you could have a look and tell us if you find it interesting to experiment and see if that can be valuable for us or not at that stage. @lawrence maybe you would be interested :wink:
Potentially we could experiment in two ways:

  • invite one supplier who would be interested to try out Provenance all along the supply chain (for example: one value driven importer, on only one specific product, like bananas, or lentils)
  • propose the producers to try out the open data infrastructure. In “features”, “Build trust through open data”, “gather real time data” (

I don’t know if we need those kind of tools to build up our product traceability/transparency system, but from my experience today with using OFN for a buying group, it’s a bit frustrating when the hub buys products to a distributor and we only see the name of the distributor, and not the final producer…

So it seems interesting to me to see what other value driven actors are building in that direction…

@Kirsten have you already had some ideas about product tracability all along the supply chain?

@eric what you mention is very interesting, we have started a discussion with @elf-pavlik and @lin_d_hop, also with people from The Food Assembly, about a potential research/action project on interoperability (working on open standards for producer’s and products taxonomy, notary services + API to enable applications to share data). I’ll open a thread on that topic soon :smile:

I totally support the idea of needing tools to ensure transparency in our systems/chains. I come out of Canada’s organic sector - so I have 4 decades of experience with verification and transparency issues. For me the key problematic is cost - and I’m not sure I see how the Provender system gets around that. Will it end up just like organic standards - where smaller producers end up being excluded and marginalized because they can’t affort verification processes? In the “COOL” (climate change) food hub that I want to build on OFN as a way of experimenting with it, my idea is to set 5 SIMPLE criteria and ask producers to post a public ‘pledge’ to these: no synthetic fertilizers; no pesticides/GMOs; use of nitrogen-fixing cover crops; primarily selling within 100 km of production; mixed farms (multiple products, not monocultures). For processed products, the processor is responsible for determining if 80% of their ingredients were grown with these characteristics - so they have to know their suppliers. Anyway - my point is - are we making all this more complicated that it needs to be? I can’t imagine the small scaled ecological producers I work with spending much time on creating profiles of all their products on Provender for example. Just a thought. :wink: One of our principles should be KISS (keep it simple sweetie).

I totally agree with you @tschumilas but I just think more broadly for different uses of OFN… And through OuiShare I’m connected to lots of actors and sometimes I see connections with OFN that might make sense… Today we have no solution to show in the shop who are the producers behind a processed product for example. That is something I would love to see, if I buy pastas to a local producer I would love to know who is the farmer who has grown the grains, as an end consumer. And for more complex products it can become more complex. Even more when it’s an imported products… we eat bananas, we drink coffee or tea, and in that transparency it can be interesting to see in on visual drawing what has been the journey of the product. That’s part of the transprency/education process we also want to bring in with OFN for me :wink: I don’t know if Provenance is an interesting way to do it or not, for the moment as far as I know they are the only one to work on something that can be integrated. (there is also Sourcemap… but doesn’t go so far, for example you can’t see all the components of a product)
Your hub seems GREAT btw :wink:

I think we agree Myriam - its super important to show the path and production details of ingredients in complex products. Its just that I’ve been spending the past two weeks talking about OFN specifically, and technology more generally with small-scaled producers. And its hard for me to imagine them embracing this. BUT - farmers are changing - at least here in Canada. There is a whole new group of producers (we call them new agrarians) who are much more tech-savy – so maybe this is the future of OFN. I wasn’t really disagreeing with the idea of provender, I was just trying to wear my farmer hat when I was thinking about it.

Hi guys,

I’m happy to be part of this discussion. It’s exciting how OFN creates a new channel for local businesses to reach people that share their values.

I also see the challenge that global trade brings to is as in the example of the bananas. How to get the whole supply chain and other hubs into the history of a product? And what would that even mean in terms of trust?

@MyriamBoure thanks for the good summary. In the context of OFN, I think we can break down Provenance like this:

Maker Collective: Producers and manufacturers curate Stories (creation steps and supply chain of product before customer). The data will eventually be exposed though API’s for retailers and brands to improve conversion.
=> Structured Open Data

Blockchain Tracing: Things receive a digital passport. This passport can broker trust along the supply chain. But, that trust has to come from independent third party, auditor or community certification.
=> Assurance of Claims

The former might not be very relevant for OFN, as you guys have your own data model for things and how they travel. The latter could allow to integrate quality/authenticity claims across different OFN hubs.

A question I have: is there a comprehensive study on which supply chain management tools exist for SMB, and how OFN hubs could integrate with those? It’s probably easiest to find customers where we don’t need to change habits, just bring them more customers by connecting an API.

@tschumilas I’m very interested in your perspective. What are the challenges these producers face?

As part of the process for creating an instance of OFN in Canada, I’ve been interviewing smaller scaled ecological farmers who might list on the network and/or ‘feed’ the hubs that list on the network. I’ve been surprised at how few of these producers are using internet and communication technologies now. Most have a rudimentary website. Most have a neighbour or child update it for them. A few might do a newsletter. Almost none of them are enaged with social media. I have a more structured needs assessment with them planned for the first week in December, but here is my early read of the barriers:

  1. Feelings of being left behind - “Can’t teach an old dog new tricks” - They are convinced that technology has moved beyond them and it would be too much work to ‘catch up’.
  2. Overwhelmed by a new language - they joke about the list of acronyms in the ‘technology world’ and share stories with how they hear people talking and have absolutely no idea what is being said. They feel excluded in such conversations and are embarassed to ask, “What’s that?”
  3. Perceptions of inefficiency - Because they know the learning curve to engage will be steeper for them than anyone else they are worried that the investment of time wouldn’t be worth the potential ‘pay back’ (they are usually talking pay back in terms of sales - which leads to my next point.)
  4. Limited vision of what the technology might do - Because they don’t understand it, they don’t imagine the possibilities, and assume it could only help with marketing, and they’ve been doing pretty good at that on their own so far.
  5. I’m a craft farmer - They fell like their strength is with the authentic, and perceive that the digital world takes us to undifferentiated products that lack that hand-made element.
    Its interesting that time constraints don’t feature that prominately (I was expecting they would.) Time is only an issue because of the other issues. If we can address other issues, we have these growers ‘on side’.
    In talking and sharing about OFN here, I’ve been trying to keep these barriers in mind. So, for example, I don’t use acronyms. I’m trying to come up with a ‘farmer-friendly’ list of terms to use in talking about this stuff. I try to make it clear that we all don’t have to understand all of this. We can be a ‘full brain’ when we work together, and that the skills and gifts they bring are unique and necessary in the commons we are building. They understand the commons, and they understand trust - and feel they have been building these their whole lives - so this is a strong foundation for going forward I find.
    So far those are the barriers I’m hearing.
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The “I’m a craft farmer - digital takes away what distinguishes my products” barrier is interesting. You also mention they understand the commons and trust.

How do they understand trust? How is their relationship with customers now?

I’m kind of trying to understand why it’s not possible to just talk about an “online farmers market” and transfer all the concepts.

I think also we are missing a category, appart from “producer”, I should be able to specify if I am not a producer but an “aggregator” (which means that I don’t really produce, but I rearrange things, like I make baskets of vegetables, etc.) and in that case that would be great to have a funcionnality to create a basket and choose products from different producers, so that they appear in the description of the basket. Ping @Selmo @wvengen @elf-pavlik @Kirsten

This could also be a feature of the Business Model customization of the Hub (or Producer) concept, maybe not another Enterprise type. It would be nice if a user could choose from preselected templates, so after choosing Producer or Hub it opens another choice to specify what kind of Enterprise (Basket case ;), CSA, Farmers market, Wholesaler etc). Or they could choose an empty Enterprise and possibly change type later.

it seems could answer our need, there is an API also… something to study deeper based on a concrete case, with a distributor who would like to become more transparent on who are the producers behind the products.