Six Scottish farms have collaborated on a project to develop Scotland’s first assured gluten-free oat supply chain. Although oats are naturally gluten-free, the group realised there was no scheme to guarantee that oat storage and milling facilities had not been contaminated with gluten from other cereal grains.
The project, facilitated by Paul Mayfield of SAC Consulting, benefited from a Rural Innovation Support Service (RISS) funding. It also uses distributed ledger technology (DLT) – often called Blockchain for traceability. “It’s a relatively new technology in the agrifood sector,” notes Mr Mayfield. “Although a few global food manufacturers have investigated its use, there have been few projects linking it back to farms.”
Wallet Services, an Edinburgh-based technology business, has mapped the oat growing and post-harvest storage process, and is now working on automating of data collection and the user interface.
“What’s central to Blockchain is that the information within the audit trail gives full traceability and assurance, which ensures complete trust in the supply chain, as well as earning farmers associated crop premiums,” says Mr Mayfield. “It also guarantees the confidentiality of individual farmers’ data and that all records are tamperproof. Blockchain makes it quick and easy for supply chain partners, assurance bodies and end consumers to find out where and how the oats were grown – this will be very useful in assurance audits.
Two of the group – Andrew Booth of Savock Farms, Newburgh, and the Dams family of Craigie Farm, Whitecairns – have invested in an oat processing mill with the capacity to process the farmers’ combined annual production.
“This is a state-of-the-art plant,” states Mr Booth. “We understand it to be one of only two dedicated gluten-free plants in the UK, and the only one in Scotland. Our simple idea is that someone will be able to pick up a packet of oats in the supermarket, scan a QR code, and see a whole dashboard of information tracing the oats’ journey from farm to shelf. As farmers we want to produce a premium product that the customer wants.”