Cork-based Zeto is on track to raise €20M through a relatively new funding mechanism called an initial coin offering (ICO). This will enable them to continue to develop their ground-breaking blockchain-powered IoT platform, ZetoChain, which uses advances in blockchain technology to monitor and control refrigerated produce along the cold chain, from the production plant to supermarket shelves.

Zeto uses big data analytics and IoT technologies to create cloud-based software-as-a-service (SAAS) solutions for the global commercial refrigeration industry. With their newest offering, ZetoChain, they aim to offer a level of food safety transparency that will become an industry standard, and bring unprecedented cost and time efficiencies to the global food industry.

What does this mean for the consumer?

Around 600 million people (almost 1 in 10) in the world become ill after eating contaminated food every year; 420,000 of these will die. As food supply chains become more and more complex, with many players (such as farmers, processors, and distributers) spanning wider distances, the challenges of ensuring food safety are increasing.

Currently, each point in the supply chain has its own stand-alone methods of monitoring the environmental factors that affect the produce. Applying blockchain technology to the supply chain provides a secure end-to-end record of locations, temperatures, and environmental conditions at every stage of the product’s journey. This means that retailers and consumers can be confident that the food has been handled and stored to the highest food safety standards at every step of its journey from farm to fork. And if there is an issue with contamination, identifying its source in the food supply chain can be done in seconds, rather than days.

Zeto’s CEO, Stephen Slattery commented: “Food safety has always been a driving force behind the solutions that we have developed here at Zeto. The initial version of our platform manages hundreds of sites where people buy their food every day and helps to ensure that that food is being stored safely. With the emergence of blockchain technologies, now we have the opportunity to not only ensure food safety at the point of sale but to ensure it from the moment the food is produced to when it is eventually sold. It’s a natural evolution of our platform and we are working closely with some of the most progressive health and safety managers in global retail brands to bring the platform to market as soon as possible. We will be announcing some large brands as initial clients of ZetoChain in the coming weeks, so it’s a really exciting time for the company right now.”

Prechain Capital, a crypto fund with a focus on early-stage blockchain ventures, has already completed a private investment in the ZetoChain platform.

PreChain’s Managing Partner, Eric Willis said: “At Prechain Capital, we invest in great teams with structural competitive advantages that are re-imagining large markets. Mobile, next-generation supply chain software and blockchain technology will revolutionize the food safety space. We’re fans of the work the Zeto team has done in this market and look forward to supporting their vision going forward.”

So what is blockchain?

Blockchain technology provides a decentralised secure ledger for digital transactions. A blockchain is an expandable chain of blocks, or records, that are securely added to each other using cryptography. Each block contains data. Once a block is added to the blockchain, it is secure, and its data cannot be changed.

How ZetoChain works

Zeto’s blockchain-enabled IoT sensors are placed at every link in the cold chain. Temperature and environmental data is recorded in real time and securely stored in the blockchain. If a problem is detected, the responsible parties are alerted so that preventative action can be taken. Smart contracts prevent the acceptance of unsafe deliveries and the sale of unsafe products. Customers can use a mobile app to scan the Zeto label on the product that they are about to buy or consume to view a full history of the product.

Blockchain in the retail industry

It’s early days for blockchain technology, but it is expected to significantly transform how we do business, with potential applications for every industry. As tech companies around the world eagerly develop blockchain software, the question has become: Who can bring viable applications to market first?

Walmart, Nestle, and Unilever, among other retailers, already have blockchain on their radar, partnering with IBM to develop applications for blockchain in the retail industry around supply chain management and food traceability.

French retailer Carrefour is also using blockchain technology to trace the production of chicken in the Auvergne region. They plan to expand the use of this technology to a broad range of produce over a wider region in the coming years.

Zeto and the Nimbus Research Centre

To quickly bring ZetoChain to market, Zeto have partnered with Ireland’s leading IoT and blockchain research group, the Nimbus Research Centre. The centre focuses on cyber-physical systems and Internet of Things (IoT) research, and they have recently completed a blockchain project, SmartBlocks, with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. Zeto’s CTO, Jonathan Harrington commented: “We are delighted to announce this partnership with Nimbus. Their expertise in embedded systems design, security, and blockchain technologies will allow us, in conjunction with our hardware partners, to quickly bring a market leading IoT blockchain solution to market.”