Penn State is asking Pennsylvania produce farmers to take a survey regarding blockchains, with hopes of potentially deploying the emerging technology to improve wholesale farm businesses and give Pennsylvania growers a competitive advantage.

Penn State Extension, the College of Agricultural Sciences, and Smeal College of Business have mailed apple, peach, nectarine, potato, and vegetable growers surveys to collect producer input on potential applications of blockchain technology.

Blockchains are digital ledgers that make it possible to track huge volumes of transactions between multiple parties who may or may not trust each other. Blockchains enable something called “triple-entry accounting,” where transactions are recorded by a universally trusted third-party (the blockchain itself) in addition to being recorded by the parties directly involved.

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The term blockchain does not itself refer to a specific cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, and blockchains can be used with a variety of automated “proof” strategies to provide ongoing public assurance that data has not been manipulated, not just the extremely energy intensive “proof of work” approach used by Bitcoin.

“Technology has transformed many aspects of agriculture and our economy, yet many of the business and record- keeping systems used by produce growers lag behind the digital revolution,” the Penn State Extension explained in the release, comparing the blockchain of 2021 with the internet of the early 1990s. Penn State said that new economic, legal, and social systems may be built on top of the technology.

Penn State noted that ag-related blockchain pilot projects already exist elsewhere today, including the use of blockchains to provide consumers with information about product origins, to process contracts and payment for deliveries, and to manage traceability programs for producers.

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Results from the blockchain survey are expected to be released this winter, with Penn State Extension planning to create a focus group for producers who wish to further deepen their understanding of potential blockchain applications for ag.

Growers with questions about the survey should contact Jay Eury at Jay.Eury@psu.edu or 717-398-3849.


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