Technology increases transparency in the livestock chain
In 2019, Safe Trace and non-governmental organisations Friends of the Earth and The Nature Conservancy set up the Partnership for Responsible Farming, a project funded by the Partnership for Forests. This collaboration between the company and both NGOs led to Conecta, a tool to support the monitoring of the beef chain that improves the relationship of the beef processors with their indirect suppliers, since the direct supplier is monitored by a series of controls.
In an interview with the blog of the Beef on Track program, the director of Safe Trace’s new businesses, Vasco Picchi, explained Conecta's proposal to bring transparency tools to the chain of suppliers and to collaborate in creating deforestation-free cattle ranching that covers breeding all the way to the end product.
Beef on Track Blog: What are these tools?
Picchi: It is difficult for rural producers, who sell to a beef processing plant, to understand the compliance situation of their property. It is not uncommon for a beef company to refuse to purchase their products and many of them do not know exactly why. Conecta offers them three tools to help with that. The first is a mobile app that uses the same technology as PIX and blockchain, a super secure data transmission technology. The intention is for it to be a means for rural producers to consult data on themselves and their properties in public or private databases, for example, in Agricultural Defence, purchases and sales, registration data, and the data the beef processors have on them. Having this information readily available enables them to make better decisions, understand what their farm’s situation is, and include supplier data for searches, such as socio-environmental compliance. They can also choose who they want to share their data with. So, when a beef processor is going to make a purchase, the producer can decide if it wants to share information or not or when taking out a bank loan, it can also choose which information it wants to use to get a better credit rate.
Beef on Track Blog: Who pays for this tool?
Picchi: It is the person who is interested in sharing information with the producer. For example, the beef company that requires information from the producer, so it has information that is secure and validated by the producer.
Beef on Track Blog: Who uses Conecta today?
Picchi: Conecta is entering phase two, after an initial phase with the information base of Frigol. It has just been announced by Marfrig as a monitoring tool and we are taking our first steps with them in the State of Mato Grosso. Conecta is also providing technological infrastructure to JBS in Pará state.
Beef on Track Blog: And the producer just has to download the app and input and access information?
Picchi: That’s right. Entering, accessing information and authorising, as requested, those who have permission to view the information. The insertion can be done offline and synced with the system by connecting to the Internet.
Beef on Track Blog: Is the tool already compliant with the General Data Protection Law?
Beef on Track Blog: What is the second tool?
Picchi: It is the website www.pecuariaresponsavel.com.br, which gives access to all the information that is available in the mobile environment. Since it includes the records of purchases and sales of property, it allows the user to see the entire official herd inventory in the Agricultural Defence registry and the records of purchases and sales. The producers can post operations, such as vaccinations, death of animals, see how their situation is in relation to different purchase protocols and, as such, check their eligibility in terms of compliance with differentiated markets, if they are able to reach a higher price or if there is a differential in the value of the animal. The idea is for the producer to be the information agent. He or she is selling the product and the information. Therefore, the person who pays for the service is the one who is interested in buying the product and the information and it is this person’s role to input the information and authorise the viewers.
Beef on Track Blog: What is the third tool?
Picchi: The third is not a tool for the producer. It is based entirely on blockchain, which uses a structure called Hyperledger that is divided into two: Hyperledger Fabric, where all traceability data is recorded in a secure and easy-to-audit way so that the chain is fully transparent as long as the producer allows access to the information, and the other is an identity, similar to PIX, called Hyperledger Indy. Hyperledger Indy is a specific blockchain framework that creates individual credentials, as if it were the electronic CPF and CNPJ taxpayer number of the property. It is digital proof given by certain databases that a specific property is owned by a certain individual. It is an infrastructure that enables secures data transactions, aligned with LGPD, and that offer scalability and are easy to audit as well.
Beef on Track Blog: What benefits have you been able to measure?
Picchi: The first is the benefit of data access. The producers find it difficult to access data about their property. They often have an irregularity problem that they are unaware of or do not know how to fix. Conecta brings this information to the producer. We also make an effort to build and validate a farm's re-integration flow because our intention is not to restrict producers from the supply but to help more producers regularise their situations. We help with the re-integration process of these producers in terms of the Public Prosecutor’s Office so that the beef processing plant can return to the formal sales circuit, avoiding the triangulation of cattle and a series of other problems of livestock farming that lead to the animals being tainted as a result of deforestation. We are able to help the beef processors get a first perspective of their suppliers and understand where their greatest risks lie. And the same thing for the producer. This technological leap has enabled the producer to now get this information in an automated manner and fully compliant with LGPD. The producer also receives it much faster, which is optimal for negotiating with the beef processors, as well as transferring the socio-environmental regularity information from the producer to the beef company.
Beef on Track Blog: Can the producer prioritise information to the Public Prosecutor’s Office as well?
Picchi: If requested by the Public Prosecutor’s Office and authorised by the producer, yes. The important thing is for this procedure to be respected. The data is owned by the producer. Anyone who has access to the producer's data can request it and the producer can use this as a tool in his favour in any situation, whether it derives from a public or private origin.
Beef on Track Blog: What are the next steps?
Picchi: In addition to this angle with the beef processors, who are inviting their producers to participate, there is another angle we are working on with the producers' associations so they can invite their producers.
Beef on Track Blog: What do you expect from this project in the long term?
Picchi: This project is very much related to private relations. The dynamics of the multilateral agreements between Mercosur and the European Union, of the private agreements between the large importers and the national beef processors, are strongly linked to socio-environmental responsibility. This is leading to the creation of purchasing protocols in national retail as well. Conecta is a way for the requesting area and the end customer to have their own transparency, traceability and sustainability requirements and these requirements can differentiate the chain, not only in what it is able to supply, but also by requirement of who is able to supply, and how that producer can, on the basis of supply and demand, get a better price for his animal and how this value is divided in the chain. The aim is to democratise access to information, provide transparency and at the same time ensure that all links in the chain are able to differentiate their products and place them in the best markets.
Beef on Track Blog: What information does the producer provide through Conecta?
Picchi: There are three major sets. Herd health information, such as number of animals per category, vaccinations, etc. The second set of data is related to socio-environmental issues and illegal deforestation, which is the subject most touched upon right now. The third gathers data on operations, which works not only on the external traceability of the animal but also on internal traceability, which means that the producer can identify his animal with the earring, monitor weighing, and all the internal management data.
Beef on Track Blog: Is this whole process an audit enabler?
Picchi: Yes, because by having access to the same data from three or four different sources, we can bring more transparency and even help the auditor validate what the real information is.
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