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One farm is using blockchain technology to help consumers learn about their food.
Thursday, May 13, 2021
Good Morning!
I’ll admit, I love reporting on agriculture. I also love reporting on science and technology, so you can bet that I jumped at the opportunity to share today’s feature story with you. Some people may think that farming is an old-fashioned vocation, where change comes slowly, if at all. But that is simply not true. The EcoDairy puts a lot of emphasis on innovative farm practices—its whole purpose is to be a demonstration farm, after all—but it’s not the only one out there trying new things. Lots of farms are working to be on the cutting edge, and I think that’s something worth writing about. —Grace Kennedy, reporter
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These Angus cattle are part of the Bakerview EcoDairy's new project to use blockchain to share information about a cow's life with consumers. 📸  Grace Kennedy. Want to see more photos?
What blockchain can teach you about the cow you are eating

Blockchain. You may have heard that word connected to things like Bitcoin or cryptocurrency. You probably haven’t heard it connected with your steak.

Abbotsford’s Bakerview EcoDairy is planning to change that by using blockchain technology to track information about an individual cow’s life, and then giving that information to the person buying its meat at the market.

The plan is to take the data collected by the EcoDairy and link it with other important information for each individual cow: the distance from the farm to the market, certificates from the butcher, the grade of beef (which is different for Angus and Wagyu beef). The linking will be done by using blockchain, a technology that chains discrete blocks of data chronologically in a way that is incredibly hard to hack.

(Blockchain does have its controversies, especially around the environmental impact of the computer power needed to maintain it, but that hasn’t stopped it from being a popular way to encrypt data.)

Ultimately, people purchasing meat from Hank’s Grass Fed Beef, the EcoDairy’s Angus herd, and HIRO Wagyu Beef, its Wagyu herd, will be able to see the blockchain data and learn about the life of the cow they are eating.

Spencer Serin, an agricultural consultant, is the one responsible for taking the project from the farm to an app.
He said that consumers, particularly in restaurants or places like Vancouver, want to have a better connection to their food.

"You can create beef without monitoring all this stuff, and the product will be fantastic," Serin said. "But there’s a real push right now for… the knowledge of where your food is coming from and why we do what we do on the farm. This is part of that overall goal of increased transparency."

That transparency starts in the calf barn, with information gathered about the youngest members of the herd. The CalfCloud, which is used at the EcoDairy, collects data on its calves while they are fed from an automatic milk bottle that roams the barn. As the cattle mature, another application tracks their eating habits and weight gain.

All this data is useful for farmers. Farm managers are notified by the CalfCloud if certain calves aren’t drinking enough, which means the managers can spend time focusing on the calves who need the most help. Tracking weight gain for older cows means farmers can make decisions on whether they need to take the beef to market, or start feeding different kinds of food. But Serin thinks this data will also help create a better picture of the process for consumers who want to know the story behind the food on their plate.

How all this data will end up on an app, and exactly what consumers will be able to see, is still up in the air. The EcoDairy is only a month into its 3-year, $230,000 project and there’s still much to figure out.

"I don’t know how it’s going to look yet, truthfully," Serin said. But the main goal is clear: to trace each animal’s life from barn to plate and make that information available to consumers at the click of a button.

— By Grace Kennedy

The Floor Is Yours: Do you want to know more about where your beef comes from? Share your thoughts in our new Facebook discussion section.
Need to Know
📚 The Chilliwack School Board has been told to take human rights training, and 3 trustees are against it. [Chilliwack Progress]

⚖  A man known as the "Abbotsford Killer" has been denied parole. He was given a life sentence in 1997 for the murder of Tanya Smith. [Abbotsford News]

✈ Construction on the new main terminal at Langley Regional Airport is just months away from completion. [Langley Advance Times]

 
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The Agenda
AGASSIZ TO START OPENING DIKES TO THE PUBLIC
The District of Kent will begin to open up some of its dikes to the public for recreational use, although not all of them. The initial "test sites" will be located between McDonald Road and Scott Road, between Hamilton Road and Limbert Road, between School Road and Kilby Road, and at the Hammersley Pump Station. These sections of dike will have new garbage cans and signage, and staff will work with property owners to develop "best practices" for future dike openings, as many farmers have had concerns about the impact of allowing the public, and particularly their dogs, on the dikes.

NEW ABBOTSFORD APARTMENT BUILDING PLANNED

A developer hopes to build a 6-storey, 68-unit apartment building on George Ferguson Way, just east of downtown, according to online records. A developer recently bought 2 adjacent sites for a combined $3 million, about $1 million more than the combined assessment. There are currently 2 small apartment buildings, each with 6 units, on the 2 properties, according to BC Assessment.

COVID latest
New community data shows that more people are getting vaccines in high-transmission neighbourhoods. Data from up to May 3 shows that only 21-40% of adults had received a COVID vaccine in much of Abbotsford, as well as Willoughby and South Mission. New data ending May 10 shows around half of adults across the Fraser Valley have received their vaccine. Cases overall have gone up in Mission, and down in Abbotsford. Cases have gone down in Langley too, except in Aldergrove where there have been more. Aldergrove is now seeing a positivity rate of 10-20%. [BCCDC COVID data]

Fraser Health
  • New cases: 394 / 409 average (down 13% from one week ago)
  • 0 active outbreaks at hospitals / 0 active outbreaks in long-term care
  • School exposures: Abbotsford: 24 / Chilliwack: 4 / Langley: 18 / Mission: 3 / Fraser Cascade: 1
  • Workplace closures (May 10): 1
BC
  • New cases: 600 /  613 average (down 15% from one week ago)
  • 423 hospitalizations (down 12% from one week ago)
  • 1 new death / 1,625 total
News
Around Town
🛶 The 2021 Paddle the Slough Challenge takes place in Chilliwack on Saturday. Paddlers are encouraged to explore the city’s various waterways. They can register online to get maps.

🏅 The Mission Rotary is hosting the 3rd annual End Polio Now Car Rally to raise money for polio. The event will take place on Saturday.

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Circle Back
Missed a previous newsletter? Catch up on what you may have missed.
  • Municipal borders give gangs a place to hide, cops say. [May 12]
  • Sema:th Chief Dalton Silver says it's the youth who are doing the most to reduce racism, and that has benefits for business. [May 11]
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