Arc-net, a Belfast-headquartered company that has developed a blockchain-based traceability solution to tackle food fraud, has achieved a world first through a unique partnership with a Scottish whisky distillery to protect its products.
Advanced Research Cryptography Ltd (Arc-Net) has announced that Dunfermline-based Adelphi Ardnamurchan Distillery has placed its limited edition spirit on its blockchain platform in a move that secures the whisky from food fraud.
"This is the first time a Scottish spirit has been fully traceable from field to bottle through blockchain," Arc-net's chief executive Kieran Kelly told The Irish Times. "We've connected the raw material from the farmer all the way through the manufacturing process and into the bottle."
Under the agreement, Arc-net has uniquely marked and authenticated each bottle with the limited edition set of 2,447 bottles selling out within an hour of going on sale. The distillery has now signed a minimum three-year deal with Arc-net to use its solution on other products.
“The spirit market in Scotland alone is worth about £5.5 billion. It is a prime vector for fraud and one that is growing by the day. Forward-thinking distilleries like Adelphi Ardnamurchan are getting a chance with blockchain to tell their story, create an emotional bond with buyers, and safeguard their products,” said Mr Kelly.
“We are talking with a number of distilleries in the Republic about doing something similar and there is a huge amount of interest from both high-end spirit brands and more mainstream ones,” he added.
Earlier this year, the company, which employs 20 people, won a contract for a £10 million (€11.2 million) programme with the UK food giant Cranswick to tag just under a million pigs being exported to China.
In December, Arc-net secured a £2 million (€2.2 million) investment from a Canadian-born entrepreneur who previously founded a billion-pound healthcare company. Dr Richard Steeves, who founded Synergy Health and is a former EY Entrepreneur of the Year winner in the UK, has become the company's chairman following the investment.
Arc-net also recently announced a new partnership with global consultancy PwC to help fight food fraud. PwC research indicates such fraud costs the global food industry about $40 billion (€34 billion) a year.
Mr Kelly said the company had been inundated with inquiries in the last week from major retailers following suspension of production at a processing plant in the UK owned by the 2 Sisters Food Group over hygiene standards and food safety concerns.
“Retailers are increasingly weighing up the blockchain as a way to reduce risk, ensure transparency and manage supply chain authentication and security,” said Mr Kelly.
“Problems such as those seen at the 2 Sisters plant only add further evidence of the need for it,” he added.