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Research & innovation roadmap for blockchain technologies in the agri-food sector


The potential of blockchain technologies across sectors and fields of application has been widely acknowledged and is driven in private and public domains. Also in the area of agri-food, blockchain technologies have raised interest, but are not yet applied in mainstream mode. On the one hand, the area of agri-food induces special challenges to the application of blockchain technologies, such as the nature of products; on the other hand, the sector is predestinated for tracking technologies. As pointed out in the European Commission`s Green Deal, and the farm to fork strategy in particular, transparency and sustainability efforts in the food supply chain are to be increased and power between actors to be balanced. Blockchain technologies can not only support traceability ambitions, but also support the implementation of organic or other (sustainability-related) labelling schemes as well as sustainable finance and climate mitigation and/or biodiversity-friendly schemes, and smart contracts, track information for consumers, and reduce administrative burdens for the public administration

A new level of ambition is needed to tackle research and innovation (R&I) in the field of blockchain technologies in the agri-food sector, thereby generating the necessary knowledge and solutions to enhance the development and application of blockchain technologies in the agri-food sector in the private and public domain and develop the relevant capacities to foster this R&I objective in the short, medium, and long term. Experiences from the application of blockchain technologies in others sectors and areas are to be capitalised.

Activities should create an effective framework for action, which is expected to allow pooling resources, coordinating efforts and developing a coherent portfolio of R&I activities in the wider area of blockchain technologies in the field of agri-food following an integrative and de-fragmented systemic approach. This should include:

  • mapping and assessing existing blockchain technologies related European and international R&I activities and promoting their coordination in the field of agri-food; where relevant, initiatives and approaches developed in / for other sectors / fields of application with the potential of being transferred to the agri-food sector might be mapped as well;
  • assessing the extent of application of blockchain technologies in the agri-food sector in the EU and globally including the extent to which blockchain technologies meet EU and international regulatory requirements, and draw lessons learnt, benefits and shortcomings/ disadvantages;
  • analysing the needs for R&I on blockchain technologies in agri-food as expressed through stakeholder consultation and on-going research projects;
  • identifying gaps, priority areas and types of action for intervention;
  • proposing methodologies to monitor and review a portfolio of blockchain technologies related R&I activities in the field of agri-food.

Funded activities are expected to increase European capacities (technical, organisational) for implementing a major R&I programme on blockchain technologies in the agri-food sector. This results in:

  • a roadmap for R&I on blockchain technologies in the agri-food sector in Europe developed following the concept of ""co-creation"" with a wide range of stakeholders, including the private and public sector as well as consumer representatives;
  • improved coordination with existing activities in Europe and globally, thereby raising visibility and effectiveness of R&I funding going beyond EU-funded initiatives and including e.g. also nationally or regionally or privately supported actions;
  • identification of potential ""flagships"" for testing and demonstrating solutions on key actions from a producer, processor, consumer, investor and public administration perspective under consideration of experiences gained/ approaches developed in other sectors;
  • informed development of policies, supported development of relevant policies, and facilitated harmonisation and coordination between decision-making levels.

Proposals should cover all of the following aspects:

  • development of innovative, cost-effective and resource-efficient blockchain-based approaches (including systemic approaches) to increase the traceability of agricultural products taking local, regional, national, European and global supply chains as reference point considering private and open blockchain networks.
  • development of innovative approaches reflecting on the environmental, socio-economic and practicability implications of the application of different blockchain approaches considering at least the situation in the EU and developing countries.
  • giving special attention to the capacities of (small) farmers and processors and actors in third countries in the deployment of blockchain technologies, as well as to private and public (sustainability-related) labelling schemes, organic and climate- and biodiversity-friendly production, sustainable finance, food safety, food safety emergencies, detection of non-authorised substances, border controls and consumer benefits, and fraud prevention.
  • identification of possible new application areas for blockchain technologies in the area of agri-food; possible spill-over effects to related application fields, such as bio-based value chains.
  • development of innovative resource efficient approaches to reduce transaction costs and administrative burden for producers and the administration (for organic products).
  • development of suitable R&I programmes to deliver the knowledge, technologies and practices needed to achieve the aforementioned expected outcomes.
  • establishment of links to relevant actors and organisations, including to Digital Innovation Hubs, the European Blockchain Partnership and the EU Blockchain Observatory.

Proposals are expected to demonstrate how to liaise with Cluster 4 activities as regards the development of cross-sectoral technological developments of blockchain solutions and reflect on their potential for the agri-food sector, e.g. in the fields of blockchain-based Internet of Things network management, authentication and access controls methods and novel decentralised analytics.

International cooperation is strongly encouraged.