New project to help Australian exporters leverage blockchain technology

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

With the Australian wine export industry facing challenges, a unique research project in partnership with industry will help exporters build their brands overseas using blockchain technologies.

glass of wine held up against the sun

Blockchain is digital ledger technology which allows product information to be stored securely and transparently, using a decentralised digital database. Information such as ingredients, production milestones, environmental certification or provenance is stored, and unlike with conventional methods the information is unable to be altered so it better protects against counterfeit products.

Bringing together a cross-disciplinary team of University of Newcastle researchers and players in the wine and labelling industries, the findings of the Wine Provenance Project will offer much-needed insights into how brands could leverage this new technology to improve their marketability and product quality guarantees.

Fulbright scholar and trade law researcher at the University of Newcastle, Professor Lisa Toohey, said when paired with technologies such as virtual reality and smart labelling, scannable blockchain tags could be used to enhance the consumer experience and provide consumer protection and assurances of authenticity.

Professor Toohey said this work would greatly benefit Australian exporters.

“Australian wine products are under pressure in China,” Professor Toohey explained.

“And with travel restrictions meaning that international tourists cannot travel to Australian vineyards and have an immersive experience, it’s more important than ever to ensure authenticity of the high-quality Australian wines on offer to the global market."

The Wine Provenance Project will provide new data on the effectiveness of blockchain provenance technologies to enhance consumer engagement with the food and wine industry. It will investigate what kind of product information the customer wants, and whether it influences buying behaviour and consumer trust in scannable technology.

Food and consumer behaviour expert, Dr Tamara Bucher, said the project will help Australian exporters to build their brands overseas:

“It’s important that blockchain technology is studied from the consumer perspective to give businesses valuable insights on marketing and anti-counterfeit.”

The unique partnership project, matching University of Newcastle expertise in international law, consumer behaviour and environmental certification in business with leaders in the wine industry and blockchain technology, is a collaboration between Tamburlaine Wines and First Creek Wines, and label-solution company MCC Label.

“Wine consumers across the world, including in China, are increasingly more demanding when it comes to environmental and provenance certification, so developing methods to ensure that certifications are authentic is paramount to build consumer trust,” environmental business expert Dr Sidsel Grimstad said.

PhD student Irma Dupuis with the University’s new NIER Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) for Food and Agribusiness is contributing her expertise to the project, and will be jointly supervised by Professor Toohey, Associate Professor Butcher and Dr Grimstad.

The DTCs are a University of Newcastle initiative to provide industry embedded PhD programs and training to produce impactful research outcomes, job-ready graduates and strong links between industry and universities.

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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.