Protecting the food chain with the blockchain

arc net food traceabilityKieran Kelly (pictured standing on the right with Dr Richard Steeves) started his career as a master butcher. He is now the founder of Arc-Net, a company that is blowing people’s minds when it comes to the blockchain. The market he wants to dominate is worth over €50 billion. 


Kieran Kelly started his career as a master butcher in the family meat business. Due to a household accident, he severed his forearm which meant he could no longer master his craft. He took the decision to retrain in information technology and became a digital industry leader. Before Arc-Net, he was a director with a global defence company specialising in information security and cryptography. 

What is Arc-Net? 

Arc-Net is a platform that uses blockchain technology to authenticate food products, by linking DNA sampling, to ensure that food products are 100% authentic and traceable. We want to stop ‘food fraud’. It’s the ultimate traceability platform.

The start for us was ‘The Horsemeat Report’ of 2013 by Professor Chris Elliott of Queens University Belfast. It is now very clear; consumers are leading, they want change. They want to know every detail about their food.

“Don’t be afraid to go out there and break stuff, and listen intently. Observe your market and your customers.”

Why focus on the food chain?

A number of global supply chains that I researched could benefit from the establishment of a chains’ custody. 

A chain of custody within the aviation sector and the defence sector exists whereas in the food and healthcare sectors it just wasn’t the case.

Food has a compelling message because it’s so vital. It’s what every single one of us deems as essential to sustaining life. The stats from a 2015 PwC report, show that 120,000 people are hospitalised, and 3,000 people die every year at the cost of £40bn due to ‘bad’ food. 

“We made it our mission to provide safe access to authentic food for generations to come.”

What is Blockchain? 

Blockchain itself is a scalable platform that provides an indisputable record. Whenever you connect all elements of the supply chain, you create a record – a record that cannot be changed. 

It is a distributed, secure, cryptographic ledger (which is a database with a very specific set of keys). These keys are shared with trusted members within the supply chain who also receive a copy of the database. 

What makes your blockchain unique?

It’s the validation checks that we use. There are some elements that we use completely differently to anyone else. As part of the immutable record, we also give everything a unique identity.

“Focus intently on what you want to achieve and push boundaries beyond what you think is possible.”

Who provides the DNA data?

From the outset, we have been working with an Irish company who provide this service and are leaders in their field. They work with a number of protein producers to identify the genetics within an animal. 

Your target market?

We work with leading producers in the protein sector such as pork and beef producers. We’ve also been asked to look at honey and olive oil and other food groups where we can add serious value to their respective supply chains. 

I also want to help artisan producers who want to increase their value and are exporting produce into high-end retail in the UK.

Saving farmers time and money

From case studies, we can take four hours per day out of a farmer’s activity through the use of our platform. The benefit to the farmer is an efficient use of his time.

We’ve also engaged with all supply chain members, and the biggest value is to the consumer. We did some industry stats, and we found that the target audience for food provenance and traceability is very much with the millennials. 72% said that they would pay a small increase to know where their food comes from. 21% of that segment said that they want to know about animal welfare.

Our CFO Barry Millar is a chartered financial analyst, and together we took the approach of how we could add value to an organisation’s enterprise value. The bottom line is that we can increase the value of a company, a brand or a product and we do this both by saving money and helping differentiate them on the global stage.

arc-net food traceability

How do you make money?

It’s a cloud-based service. For example for pigs or cows, it’s on a per asset basis e.g. a sow and her progeny – or a mother and her calf. We track that asset from when it’s born and gather all the information across the supply chain. It’s a very simple cost effective model.

What about funding?

We recently received a seed investment of £2 million which is one of the largest investments on the island of Ireland. Dr Richard Steeves (pictured above on the left) is a captain of industry. He sold his business for $2 billion, and now has a number of vested interests. 

As an extremely passionate individual, Dr Steeves has a formula for success. For a small company such as ourselves – to have the ability to plug into that formula – it’s just exceptional, and we are delighted to have him as our chairman and as someone who can help us create and execute our vision and mission for the short medium and long term.

We have grown our team to 20 and have made the commitment to increase that number to 50.

What size is the global market?

In 2015 the global market within the brand and product traceability was worth $3 trillion – in 2016, we estimate that to be $4.8 trillion and growing. Traditional methods and traditional services are no longer fit for purpose. Whenever you see the market growing at double digits year on year, the market needs to re-think where the problem exists.

What piece of business advice would you share?

Don’t be afraid to go out there and break stuff, and listen intently. Observe your market and your customers. Focus intently on what you want to achieve and push boundaries beyond what you think is possible.

Interview by Brendan Byrne.

READ MORE: How to attract investors to your business.