Humanity has spent most of its history growing and preparing food – and in Sicily, this is a tradition that simply hasn’t gone away. Most people in the world used to walk into small local shops until the rise of supermarkets in the 1980s, but in Sicily discussing food is still a must.
In the rest of the world though, the reality is very different. Having a chat about the best olive oil for a particular dish is not something everyone can do. Most of the time, lunch is spent with both hands busy, one on the computer mouse and the other with a plastic fork and a take away sandwich.
But, according to a London/Sicilian based start-up, this is about to change. Zoegi Pure has developed a technology that allows their customers to scan products with their phones and find out exactly who made it and where it was grown. They’ve chosen Sicily because of the amazing flavours and the number of small producers growing organic food in the centre of the Mediterranean.
“This is not an easy task, but it’s actually do-able now”, says Yelena Kensborn, one of the founders of the business. “Blockchain, the technology that started Bitcoin, has proven that it’s possible to track things. Still, with food, we have to add a physical label. This is why we decided to run a Kickstarter to get everyone involved.”
“We came together and decided to create a system that will show on which farm food is grown. You simply scan the olive oil, marmalade or honey with your phone and immediately find out who grew it, how they make it and even recipe tips” says Gaetano D’Alessandro, one of the first to join Zoegi.
The Sicilian/English/Swedish team have started selling authentic products in London and Stockholm and have now put together a Best-of-Sicily food box that offers the best flavours of the island to tourists and allows them to get to know the story behind them with minimal effort. This also gives small organic producers a chance to share their products with the world. Through this, they can continue growing organic – something that has become increasingly difficult in the past years.
“The seasons have changed. Before, the oranges used to be bigger and more mature in November. Now it takes more time “, says Enrico Caldara, a Zoegi orange marmalade producer from Agrigento”.
The new technology is important for consumers as the number of food scandals have risen in the last few years; from horse meat to contamination of products. The complex supply chains used to get food to the plate introduce chances for the wrong food to enter the supply chain.
Alongside this, smaller farms and producers are often excluded from the biggest markets as they cannot deliver enough food for today’s wholesalers to take notice of them. Zoegi aims to tackle this by simplifying the processes to get food certified and ready to be sold into larger markets.
The technology is built on blockchain – the mother of bitcoin and many other innovations that are currently taking the world by storm. When the product is packed, it’s tagged with a NFC chip that links to a blockchain protocol – and logs everything that happens to it along the way. It stays there forever. The tag itself is impossible to alter because the antenna breaks if you try to remove it. Each stage is then logged, giving the exact information of production and the route it’s traveled.
You can find more information about the project here