Keeping food safe: Security Matters brings its unique tech to the table
Food & Agriculture
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Special Report: With consumers’ growing concerns over food safety and integrity, one ASX-listed company believes its technology is the key to improving trust.
Consumers increasingly want to know where their food originates, and that what they eat is safe. And with good reason.
There are an estimated 600 million cases of food-borne illnesses every year, and unsafe food is a threat to people and economies.
The modern food supply chain is a complex one that stretches across the world.
Food that originates in one country is frequently packaged in another, and then sold around the world.
And supply chain breaches are very common, as the recent Australian strawberry crisis and fake honey scandal shows.
In low and middle-income countries, the problem adds up to about US$110 billion in lost productivity and medical expenses.
Other costs are harder to quantify, and action is often reactive.
Last month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) hosted an International Conference on Food Safety, with governments and scientific experts, as well as representatives of consumers, food producers and distributors.
One of the four topic areas looked at the science, innovation and digital transformation at the service of food safety.
Strategic action was sought to tackle these issues. And those who can keep up with the globalisation of food supply networks, and meet consumer and industry needs, are poised to capitalise.
That’s where small cap ASX players can play an active role.
Security Matters (ASX:SMX), for instance, is using blockchain and tracking technology to revolutionise the way our food supply is managed.
Founder and CEO Haggai Alon says that what they bring to the table is very unique.
“We bring a full physical to digital solution. Blockchain is just one part of it. We use one methodology to create a trusted ecosystem.
“We believe we are the only company that can mark everything from production, including the seed, plant, product and packaging. If it bears our mark, then it means that it came from a trusted place,” says Mr Alon.
The company owns technology it calls “The Intelligence on Things – second generation” (IoT2).
It allows any solid, liquid or gas to be invisibly and irrevocably ‘marked’ using a chemical-based barcode, ‘read’ using a proprietary reader and stored via a blockchain record.
It provides a safe and effective way to track items starting with raw materials, through to manufacturing and sale, providing a tamperproof record of physical goods movements throughout the supply chain.
It is also working with Israeli animal feed supplier Ambar to explore how its technology can be incorporated into its own supply chain to ensure the quality, integrity and authenticity of its products.
The technology has even been successfully tested in the electronics industry, to track the production and assembly of devices like smart TVs, mobiles and tablets.
But rolling this out across the food supply chain has not been without its challenges.
The company has been overwhelmed with the demand. And as anyone who is familiar with farm to plate knows, the issue of different regulations can be a tricky road to navigate.
Security Matters says it has not found any country that adequately deals with food safety, sustainability and eco issues together as a coherent strategy.
But it has proven adaptive, and it has been tailoring its unique sequence of markers as required to overcome this hurdle.
Mr Alon grew up in an agricultural environment and says that he understands and appreciates the reliability of agricultural processes to grow food.
His team is excited by many of the interesting things happening now that push new methods of manufacturing.
“People buy food for various reasons, and trust whoever sells them food. Otherwise they don’t buy,” he says.
“I think it is the obligation of growers and food companies to create this higher standard of food security. This is not an issue for the consumer, but greater standards and ethical processes are part of being responsible and dealing with human hunger.
“We are doing this not just because it is economical, but because it is true and right,” he adds.