As in every other sector, relationships in the crop protection industry depend on trust. Farmers need assurance that the products they are using are genuine, and that they can be guaranteed to receive a reliable future supply. Manufacturers, meanwhile, want to help customers use their goods and services correctly, safely and in the most efficient way possible.
None of this can ever be taken for granted. As much as 20% of all crop protection products used in Latin America is estimated to be counterfeit , for example. Even in Europe, with its stringent regulations, the counterfeit proportion is considered to be around 10% .
In addition, the global COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a spotlight on the need for clear and robust data that ensure high quality, reliable and above all sustainable food production in times of crisis.
That’s why a cooperation between Lonza Crop Protection and the Swiss start-up company Authena promises to have a profound impact. The two organizations have developed what will be one of the industry’s first digital, blockchain-based technologies that will not only provide proof of authenticity, but possibly full traceability and transparency across the entire value chain.
It involves interactive Near Field Communication (NFC) tags being attached directly to Lonza’s Celenco® range of crop protection products. The tags are similar to QR codes, but are far more sophisticated. They will allow the user to verify where the product comes from, how to use it, whether it’s been tampered with, where it sits in the value chain, and when it expires. At the same time, the data it generates will give full reassurance that products don’t sit on shelves beyond their shelf-life. Such traceability will prevent wastage, optimize the use of resources and boost customer confidence.
If successful, it is planned that the technology will be developed to digitally connect individual farms directly with Lonza. By automating processes, this will improve speed of response and reliability still further, while boosting cost-effectiveness at the same time.
“Our vision is to create a unique, modular solution that adds value to all parties and improves the sustainable use of crop protection products,” says Rubik Sommerhalder, Global Head of Marketing at Lonza Crop Protection. “Sustainability is strongly linked to efficiency and the correct implementation of measures that secure and foster the growth of crops.
“Our collaboration with Authena is all about ‘trace, shield and manage’,” he adds. “Traceability, or knowing where a product stands in the value chain, clearly improves the efficiency of our processes. Shielding is all about authenticity – farmers need to know that the products they’re using are of high quality and not fake. Management, meanwhile, means integrating this new technology into our existing processes, and using it to improve them.
“We have chosen Authena for this project because it impressed us with its innovation, technology, agility and speed. We see this as a possible first step towards a platform technology that will allow us to better serve our customers by providing enhanced security, information and value.”
For its part, Authena is delighted to be expanding a highly innovative technology solution into a new sector. The company has already shown conclusively that it can improve brand product security and product tracing in the wine industry. “We believe in a world free from counterfeiting,” says Matteo Panzavolta, CEO. “Our goal is to revolutionize how innovative producers protect their products, their reputation and most of all their users. So we’re proud to collaborate with Lonza, one of the most innovative global companies in crop protection.”
The technology being pioneered through the Lonza/Authena collaboration will initially be piloted as a prototype in Brazil. Counterfeiting here is a particularly dangerous and growing problem for the plant science industry, with knock-on negative effects for consumers and the environment. “We’re using a lean start-up approach to the program,” explains Flavio Belluomini Cotrin, Head of Crop Protection Latam. “We expect to add the NFC tags to our Celenco® products by the end of this year. And once we have analyzed the results and made improvements as necessary, we would like to begin a phased roll-out during the first quarter of 2021.”
The digital revolution in crop protection has clearly started, with Lonza leading the way. Watch this space to find out how the initiative develops in the future.
Blockchain – improving security, reducing complexity
Blockchain is a system of recording information in a way that makes it difficult, or even impossible, to change, hack, or cheat the system. It’s essentially a digital ledger of transactions that is duplicated and distributed across the entire network of computer systems on the blockchain. Each block in the chain contains a number of transactions. And every time a new transaction occurs on the blockchain, a record of that transaction is added to every participant’s ledger.
Combining NFC tags with the blockchain technology makes it possible to create secure, end-to-end global supply chains that eliminate the risk of counterfeit goods entering the system, while also reducing management complexity and increasing transparency.