The Australian tea tree oil* industry’s biggest challenge – adulteration – is set to be tackled by new blockchain supply chain traceability.
Adulteration, the fraudulent dilution of 100% pure tea tree oil with other products, often industrial waste, or other material masquerading as tea tree oil, has been a major threat to the Australian industry for several decades. A new project, funded by AgriFutures Tea Tree Oil Program and developed by Geora who are working closely with the Australian Tea Tree Industry Association (ATTIA), aims to solve this challenge by providing traceability along the full length of the supply chain – from farm to consumer product.
The technology behind this project is blockchain, a record of transactions and tracking assets that is stored across computers to secure information and build trust. In agriculture one of its most valuable applications is the management of global supply chains, enhancing traceability and providing accurate provenance information. The industry learnt more about blockchain at evokeAG. and with Geora explored how a custom application could be built for the Australian tea tree oil industry that would protect its brand and certified product all along the supply chain John Harvey, Managing Director AgriFutures Australia said that the project is exactly the type of innovation he envisaged would come out of evokeAG.
“We wanted to bring together cutting-edge technology and the producers and industries who can use it. evokeAG. is where people connect and collaborate on all things agriculture and the tea tree oil industry’s new blockchain application is such a great example of the impact starting these conversations can have.”
For ATTIA’s CEO Tony Larkman blockchain is a potential game changer for the industry. “Between 40 and 50 per cent of our tea tree oil is destined for use in cosmetics so it’s critical that we’re able to provide certainty to manufacturers and consumers that what’s being used in these products is in fact 100% pure Australian tea tree oil.
“This blockchain project will make traceability from farm gate to end product a reality for our industry and that’s nothing but good news. It means we can protect our reputation and grow the brand through consumer confidence and expand the market for 100% pure tea tree oil.”
Tony said, “I’ll admit I was sceptical at first about this emerging technology and how we could make it work for us but working closely with Geora and AgriFutures Australia my fears have been allayed.”
Providing customer certainty is a valuable part of the TTO R&D Program for AgriFutures Australia.
The key objective of the Tea Tree Oil Program is to fund research and development that will improve supply of and increase demand for tea tree oil. More and more consumers are wanting to understand the products they use and how they are produced. Blockchain is the next step in helping producers tell their provenance story and for the overall industry to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of Australian tea tree oil in order to increase demand.
For Bridie Ohlsson, Co-founder and CEO of Geora, the mission is to build agricultural asset registry systems that are a foundation traceability technology that can be added to over time to deliver new value for industries, producers and consumers alike.
“We’ve built a system that protects the Australian tea tree oil industry and the ATTIA certification mark using blockchain. It’s an application that will let a producer create an asset in the system, send it to ATTIA for checking against the certification registry, then the certificate is attached to the asset on the chain and anyone further down the supply chain can confirm and check that the certificate is in place.”
Bridie added, “Blockchain technology and the solution that we’ve built for the tea tree industry has the potential to be utilised by other industries that are likewise concerned with provenance and traceability. It has immediate applications for other Australian essential oil industries and could expand to Australian Certified Organic products and even Australian beef.”
Testing of the application by selected Australian tea tree producers, manufacturers and resellers started at the end of February 2020 with large scale testing expected from May 2020 on.
*100% pure Australian tea tree oil is an essential oil distilled from plantations of Melaleuca alternifolia.