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Havenbedrijf Antwerpen, Belfruco, Enzafruit and PortApp start with one digital certificate

Blockchain tested in fruit import

Imec, the global leading research and innovation hub in the field of nano electronics and digital technology, yesterday announced T-Mining, a startup supported by the imec.istart research programme, and Havenbedrijf Antwerpen will test a blockchain solution for efficiently and securely transferring phytosanitary certificates that guarantee the safe transport of fruit and vegetables. The blockchain technology was developed by T-Mining, and will be tested in a pilot project in cooperation with Belfruco, Enzafruit and PortApps.

For the import of fruit and vegetables, various parties are involved, and the exchange of export and import certificates is nowadays done by post. During this pilot project, apples from New Zealand meant for the European market will be provided with phytosanitary certificates transferred using blockchain technology. A great number of parties are involved in this. For example, the authorised inspection authority in New Zealand is responsible for extending phytosanitary certificates. The New Zealand exporter will then transfer this certificate – and the shipment of apples – to Belgian importer Enzafruit, who will transfer the certificate to shipping agent Belfruco – who will then have to transfer the certificate to Belgian authorities so they can start the inspection and approve the certificate, or not, before the shipment of fruit is cleared for import in Belgium from the terminal.

“Thanks to blockchain technology, we are able to transfer the original version of documents completely digitally, rather than having to send a copy of it,” explains Filip Heremans, Chief Product Officer for T-Mining. “It can be compared to a text file e-mailed to someone. Both now have their own version of the same document. However, the question then becomes, who has the original version? With important documents such as certificates, which guarantee the origin and safety of our food, this naturally is problematic. Blockchain technology allows for these documents to be transferred, without being duplicated. At any one time, therefore, only one party owns the original document. Besides, the blockchain guarantees realness and authenticity of the document, because nobody can change or delete something from it without detection, one of the most important characteristics of blockchain. To this end, all data is stored in a decentralised manner on multiple ‘nodes’ with various parties, such as Havenbedrijf Antwerpen, the New Zealand port authority, Belfruco and T-Mining. Another important characteristic of blockchain is that all parties have all the same information all the time, which is naturally necessary for a speedy and efficient process. This is nowadays a well-known problem, with quite some queues as a consequence. 

So-called ‘Smart Contracts’ automate the flow of documents between the various parties, so that certain access rules can be enforced and new information can be shared with the parties involved without delay and in a secure manner. Additionally, we also work with PortApps, which develops front-end applications so that final users can load, transfer and approve documents via the blockchain, which is a back-end technology.”

Sven de Cleyn, imec.istart programme manager: “We’re pleased the options created via new technologies such as blockchain find their way to actual applications that make everything easier and more efficient, and that startups such as T-Mining play an important part in that. It shows that a new generation of startups, including T-Mining, which are supported by imec.istart, can develop relevant solutions for their customers, even if these are major global players.”

According to Nico Wauters, CEO of T-Mining, blockchain is a new technology that enables completely new solutions, but is dependent on partners that want to work together closely but at an arm’s length. This pilot project shows that the port community of Antwerp has an innovative mindset. “I’d be willing to say the Port of Antwerp is gradually recognised globally in the field of blockchain technology,” he says.

About T-Mining
T-Mining is an independent Tier 2 technology provider that’s building a trusted Smart Contracts Community Platform for the Maritime and Logistical sector using blockchain technology. This open platform is a framework for communities, which means blockchain services for the logistical sector can be quickly built by reusing a number of ready-made components. Third parties can use the platform to develop new solutions for final users, by adding blockchain functions to their existing software products, and by gaining access to the underlying blockchain network that is shared by the business community.

About imec.istart
The imec.istart business acceleration programme supports entrepreneurs during the early development stages of their technology startup. The programme offers at least 12 months of support and a financial investment. It’s meant to research the feasibility of the business concept, to help realise the commercial launch of the first products, and to help facilitate the start of a sustainable and healthy startup, partially supported by imec.istart’s partner network.

For more information:
+32 16 28 12 11

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