2018 was a prominent year for highlighting the dangers of foodborne illnesses and the current problems that are faced within the infrastructure of the existing supply chain model.
As recently as 13th December it was reported that a major E.Coli infection had spread around the regions of North and Central California due to a contaminated batch of Romaine Lettuce which had to be recalled. This ultimately resulted in sixty-two people infected from 16 states and the District of Columbia. This meant that twenty-five people were hospitalized, including two people who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure however luckily no deaths were reported. You can read more about this here.
This is just one of many reported outbreaks throughout 2018 and you can find a more extensive list on the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention here.
Each year, the CDC estimates 48 million people in the United States alone get sick from contaminated food. As a result of this impact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates associated illnesses tend to cost the economy more than $15.6 billion annually.
Globally, the World Health Organization estimates that contaminated food causes 600 million illnesses annually and 420,000 deaths. (Source)
So how does this relate to Te-Food?
Te-Food is described as “a farm-to-table fresh food traceability ecosystem on blockchain, covering all logistics and food quality activities and data management of the supply chain. It provides cost effective software and identification tools to make livestock and fresh food supply information transparent.”
They currently have business relationship with over 6000 companies, make 400,000 transactions a day and in doing so serve 34 million people.
In order to combat the aforementioned issues within the current supply chain model, Te-Food introduced their utility token TFD, a blockchain protocol, and smart contracts that created a trusted transaction ledger to integrate consumers, supply chain participants and authorities in one ecosystem with all data being verified and unmodifiable.
Using this technology it will be possible to combat fraud and corruption which is already being caused by several companies and sometimes authorities on a global scale.
The data will remain of a quality standard and also will be available to the public, as food safety related data all over the world is a property of all us, and data must be accessible. Distributed ledger technology will provide us with a means to do this.
Ultimately this will begin to build trust between producer and consumer with Te-Food believing that “Incorruptible food history information leads to transparent
food supply chains, which can make a difference in public health, and literally save lives.”
Finally, implementing this technology will help relieve the burden for companies, businesses and governments be reducing the amount spent on combating foodborne illnesses by ensuring that all data along the supply chain is verified and legitimate.
Te-Food’s mission can be seen below:
In their short time since inception, Te-Food have already made some highly impressive and progressive partnerships for a Blockchain company. To a name few these include The FAO, the United Nations, Deloitte, GS1 and Laurel. The full list can be found on their site here.
To highlight one of their flagship customers, Te-Food works with Auchan, which is a retail giant present in 17 countries worldwide with 58.5 billion USD yearly consolidated revenue, and 351 000 employees. More information can be read about this on their Medium channel.
Some of Te-Food’s customers can be seen below:
2018 was an impressive year in terms of expansion for Te-Food as they are now operating in the UK (HalalTrail), US (Wyoming Beef) and more recently Canada (Canada Malting Company). This means they are already in progress of achieving the goals set down in their Whitepaper and on their roadmap as they stated that “Our main plan for 2018 is international market expansion. We have detailed roadmap to launch TE-FOOD in 17 countries within 5 years.”
I sat down with Marton Ven, Chief Marketing Officer of Te-food, to discuss the project further.
Te-Food was established in 2016. Was it always the plan to build a business first and then integrate blockchain technology afterwards? Or did you later study the technology in this industry and decide to implement it after seeing it’s potential?
We had been developing TE-FOOD as a centralized traceability solution since 2015. As we had been working with supply chain companies, we had to realize that the trust among consumers, supply chain companies and authorities is completely lost. The industry is so full with debates, lawsuits, corruption, and scams, that even data coming from a third party like us seems suspicious to the participants.
Due to the specific supply chain environment in emerging markets, fresh meat products can be sold only for a very short time. So the date of slaughtering is a crucial data, it decides if the companies can sell the product or it has to be thrown out. Due to distrust, there were rumors on our markets that we can modify this information, and probably large players are paying us to do so in their favor, so they can sell expired meat. Certainly such thing never happened, neither were we approached, but still, this rumor was harming our credibility.
So we started to think how to solve this problem. At first we wanted to bring in another third party which certifies that the information entered into our systems are never touched. But then – still in 2016 – Erik, our CEO read about blockchain, Ethereum, and he saw that it does just what we need: A technology, which gives us credibility, that the processes, business rules we tell about ourselves are true in a verifiable way. We think this is one of the biggest advantages of blockchain. Everybody from banks, to lawyers, to web shops can tell what their policies are, but usually you have to trust that they will keep themselves to it. With blockchain and smart contracts based operations, these policies are verifiable and incorruptible.
What is your own personal background and what was the driving force in your decision to join Te-Food?
We have been working together with Erik since 1996. We founded two IT companies to develop custom hardware and software solutions. We developed (and are still maintaining) the largest loyalty card system – called SuperShop (owned by SPAR) – in Hungary with ~3 million card holders and daily 1.5 million card transactions; we developed (and are still maintaining) self-service and assisted-service utility check payment terminals for the Hungarian Post, which are available all over Hungary; and we developed a special electric car charging system with all hardware and software elements. We developed a lot of other systems as well from project management systems to CO2 quota trading engines. We know Trung – our third partner – since the 90s, he is a successful and respected businessman in Vietnam.
We like to develop custom corporate systems, but we always have been missing something. If you think about it, for many employers, the main goal of IT developments is to replace people with technology and cut jobs. We were a bit fed up with this mentality after 20 years. We wanted something more meaningful. We found it with food traceability, we feel it every day that these systems can literally save lives, and mitigate suffering. This is something worthy to wake up in the morning.
2018 was a tough year for the Crypto market. However, from a tech perspective, we witnessed even more innovation and advancements than ever before. Can you talk about the progress you made last year?
Technologically we made a huge step by developing and launching the FoodChain, our food traceability ledger. But development and technology has only a small part in business success, even in IT. Companies almost never choose a supplier due to technology, because it’s too abstract, too hard to understand, and easy to fake. The choice is based on trust. They have to trust your experience, your brand, your partners, and of course your pricing needs to be competitive.
The most difficult parts for startups is recognition and adoption. You are amongst hundreds and thousands of unknown startups. Recognition means that the large players of an industry start to notice and recognize your efforts by inviting you, mentioning you, partnering with you. Adoption means when companies are ready to pay for what you provide. These are two very difficult achievements, much harder than developing a software.
What was your finest achievement in 2018?
There were a lot from our token sale to the launch of the FoodChain, but I think from a business viewpoint the biggest achievement is to be chosen by Auchan. From a social project viewpoint, our biggest pride is our strong community, which support us each day.
After a successful Mainnet release, the FoodChain, you are currently ranked the 10th highest blockchain according to most daily transactions on Blocktivity, having peaked at 8th. With so many MasterNode registrations are we just witnessing the very beginning of the FoodChain?
Being amongst the top 10 blockchains is an important achievement. Being amongst projects with 100x or 1000x of our market cap shows that this indicator rather reflects the hype, and not the fundamentals.
Our masternode business setup differs from all other projects. We chose not to print tokens continuously and pay with it (even if many people told they would like it better). We can pay out for masternodes a part of what we get from the customers. This gives a certain limit of what we can pay, so we can’t onboard thousands of masternodes.
At the same time, we have to be competitive in the market. As supply chain solutions are amongst the most popular blockchain use cases, there are, and there will be a lot of solution providers from small startups to huge international enterprises. We always try to find the best balance, and iterate quickly if something doesn’t work out.
It seems not a few weeks can go by without Te-Food announcing another Partnership. With the successful release of FoodChain and with so many big partners already, are you beginning to garner a lot of positive attention in the traceability industry?
Yes, companies, organizations, universities started to recognize TE-FOOD during the last few months. While food traceability is not something we invented, it started to have its momentum recently. We wrote a blog post about it, and what we expect in 2019.h
But such partnerships with established companies require a lot of work, travels, negotiations, planning, etc. A lot of effort which most people wouldn’t believe. Achievements we announce in December started in May, so we have to work hard, but this is something we got used to.
You’ve recently announced a working Partnership with TomoChain in order to resolve potential issues with scaling as your blockchain continues to grow. Can we expect any more Partnerships with other projects?
We think there can be fruitful synergies between various projects. There are a growing number of solutions for every problem we face in blockchain technology. We are always amazed by the fast pace of this industry. We are glad to cooperate with TomoChain, but such cooperations need time. We reached a certain level with our current technology, now we have to focus our efforts on customer implementations. As we started working together in due time, we expect that once we will see our limits, we will have a proper technology to use.
Are there any plans for the company to keep expanding globally and establish more offices around the world?
Yes, as a matter of fact, expanding is our main plan. But opening offices is the most expensive, and not always the most effective way. We are working with local representatives, established companies with customers and added value. We want to enable them to sell and implement TE-FOOD for their customers without our involvement. This also takes time and a lot of effort, but we expect to see results in 2019.
What can we expect from Te-Food 2019? Are there are many surprises around the corner?
We published hints about our long term vision in a previous blog post (https://medium.com/te-food/te-foods-achievements-in-2018-and-plans-for-2019-3572ca58373d). But such visions are rough divinations, not exact plans. This whole industry is evolving so quickly that we have just dim visions about what it can become in the future. The only thing we can do is focus on our customers – food companies, talking to them, understanding their problems, and think about possible solutions. We are pragmatic people, we think building solutions today for the problems of tomorrow is often too risky.
What are your views on Crypto as a whole for 2019?
I think there will be a lot more stories about blockchain technology adoption. Expectations set the bar too high in 2017-18, but the technology will gain on itself soon. Adoption of cryptocurrencies and tokens will take longer due to compliance reasons. They are so revolutionary, that they simply don’t fit in the traditional legal structures of the countries.
But the offering of blockchain plus crypto together is too strong to avoid. If I would have to bet, I would say security tokens and centralized cryptocurrencies (managed by a state or a large company like Facebook) will bring the breakthrough, and wide range adoption for crypto. I think these can happen in the next 2-3-4 years. Making predictions beyond this timeline would be impossible, anything can happen.
I thank Marton for his time.