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AI, IoT and blockchain trace meat from paddock-to-plate at nation’s largest food processing company, JBS, in Australian-first trial

Sydney based start-up Lumachain has a ground breaking trial underway with JBS Australia, the nation’s largest food processing company, marketer and exporter, using Microsoft technologies, including Azure AI, IoT, and blockchain. In collaboration with Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, Lumachain is developing a solution to provide a data trail for the industry and consumers – all the way from paddock to plate.

Over the last two decades, total global meat consumption has increased by 64 per cent. Australia is the world’s third largest beef exporter and JBS Australia plays a major role in supplying more than 50 countries around the world.

While demand grows, customers are increasingly discerning and want to know the origin and quality of the meat they eat, and that it has been safely and ethically sourced. They are also keen to understand more about its journey into their shopping baskets or onto their plates.

Meanwhile the laws surrounding food labelling face regular scrutiny and producers need to be able to respond rapidly. Transparency regarding ingredients is critical to compliance.

JBS Australia – the local subsidiary of the world’s second largest food processing company JBS S.A. – has been working with Microsoft partner Lumachain on a ground-breaking AI, IoT and blockchain-based solution in response to the challenge. 

According to JBS Australia CEO Brent Eastwood; “Meat and food processing is a critically important sector of the Australian economy. We are large suppliers for local consumption, and major exporters to all markets, and JBS has a strong track record in innovation to deliver exceptional quality, drive efficiency and transparency.

“The end-to-end transparency that this trial is demonstrating has enormous potential for not only Australia’s meat producers – but the entire food chain. For consumers Lumachain’s solution provides the rich information that they want, giving them peace of mind about what they are feeding their family for dinner.”

Jamila Gordon, CEO, Lumachain and Steven Worrall, managing director, Microsoft Australia
Jamila Gordon, CEO, Lumachain & Steven Worrall, managing director, Microsoft Australia

Transforming supply chains

From the moment a steer first arrives at the JBS processing facilities, key data is captured. The solution uses AI and blockchain to keep track of meat and food as it is processed, packaged and loaded into refrigerated trucks.

Instead of relying on truck drivers to manually test and record the temperature in their van, this process will be automated. Meanwhile, contractual and compliance data regarding temperature and humidity is recorded on a blockchain with IoT sourced data used to confirm those conditions are being met during transportation. Any reading outside of prescribed limits is reflected in the blockchain and prompts remedial action.

According to Steven Worrall, managing director of Microsoft Australia; “We have worked with Lumachain almost from its inception; it was one the first Australian startups to take part in our world-renowned ScaleUp program in Sydney.

“The trial Lumachain now has underway with JBS Australia demonstrates how Microsoft Azure based services – AI, IoT and blockchain – can dramatically increase the amount of data and insight that is available up and down the food supply chain.

“These are global challenges, and while Lumachain may be based in Sydney, it has always had an international focus. Microsoft Azure’s global footprint and scalability means that the solutions developed here in Australia can be deployed seamlessly anywhere providing Lumachain with the opportunity to grow fast and efficiently by delivering world-class platforms.”

Mike Zimmerman is a partner at Main Sequence Ventures, which manages the CSIRO Innovation Fund and is the lead investor in Lumachain.

“In a world that needs to feed 10 billion people, tackling the challenge of food security and quality while delivering efficiency and transparency in food supply chains is essential, and can be a competitive advantage for Australia,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“Lumachain and its global partners are breaking exciting new ground that could transform the food industry as we know it.”

With this trial we have shown how, using state of the art technologies, it is possible to collect critical data at every stage of the supply chain and provide certainty to all stakeholders. For example, we can help Australian producers showcase the top quality, ethically and sustainably produced beef they provide to both domestic and international markets. Our platform helps increase sell-prices, reduce waste and improve shelf-life, safety and quality, right through the supply chain. Jamila Gordon, CEO, Lumachain

Satisfying discerning customers

“In the future we will be able to extend these solutions using additional Azure cognitive services. Supply chains all over the world are ripe for transformation and disruption, and this trial with JBS Australia demonstrates the impact that could have.”

Lumachain has also developed a prototype smartphone app, crafted using Microsoft PowerApps, which displays all the detail about the meat’s journey from paddock to plate – explaining the product, its provenance, the processor, and its journey, providing end-to-end transparency.

Ultimately that data could be made available direct to consumers, or through interactive displays in retail outlets, providing rich information at the point of sale.