Taiwan e-commerce platform turns to blockchain for traceability

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags: Milk, Taiwan

An e-commerce platform that connects food vendors with farmers in Taiwan has launched OwlChain, which it claims is the world's first blockchain food provenance system of its kind. 

The development of blockchain, a tamper-proof digital technology used to record transactions between sections of the supply chain, has been causing excitement in traceability circles. It is designed to deliver an effective means to register each step on the route to market.

OwlTing Market, OwlChain’s platform, builds partnerships with local farmers and food suppliers. It’s founder, Darren Wang, a Google alumnus from Taiwan and founder of several tech startups, returned from Silicon Valley to build OwlTing.  

Headquartered in Taipei, OwlTing operates globally with branch offices in Kuala Lumpur for the Asean market and America, and plans to expand to Tokyo and Bangkok later this year.

"I am doing this new business to provide fresh milk and healthy foods for my kids​," he says, adding that he personally selected each of OwlTing’s new vendors.

"We are extremely meticulous when it comes to food. Products with additives, artificial colouring or flavouring cannot be sold on OwlTing​.” 

This seemingly cumbersome approach has, however, identified more than 1,500 farmers and merchants in Taiwan alone. The business appears to have captured the imagination of consumers, more than 20% of whom are now recurring subscribers.

An incentive programme that allows users to earn rewards with social recommendations has helped gain a customer retention rate of 70%, with users returning to place orders each fortnight on average. OwlTing has also created a new distribution channel for farmers in Taiwan. 

"Farmers can earn more money by working with us​," said Wang, "With increased income and better brand awareness, they can reinvest in their businesses, creating more jobs and better products​."  

One of these, Changhua-based Chu-En Farm, was able to purchase more than 30 pregnant milk cows after working with OwlTing Market for 10 months, and increased milk production capacity by 15%. 

"OwlTing consumers prefer natural  organic food ingredients and they are willing to pay for high quality at reasonable prices​," said Wang. 

While most e-commerce platforms charge farmers with annual fees to list their products, OwlTing farmers pay no annual fees and are only charged a low commission for each product sold on our platform. We want to help farmers earn more, so they can invest in their future​.” 

His company’s technology also includes OwlTing Map, which integrates detailed dairy and fruit product profiles with geophysical info, allowing consumers  have a “god's-eye view​" over high-quality producers and place orders on a map. AI chatbots were also developed for handle customer inquiries via Facebook.  

Mounting concerns on the safety of food in Taiwan have triggered a new focus by private companies and the public sector for better traceability and quality control. Having been an investor in several blockchain startups, Wang came up with the idea of using Ethereum blockchain technology to revamp food provenance systems. 

OwlChain uses blockchain technology to create a tamper-resistant food provenance and has opened its API to vendors around the globe. More local vendors are expected to join the platform, including Taiwan Agricultural Global Marketing, Sinhong Soy Sauce, Ming-Chuan Dairy Farm and With Heart Meat Shop.  

In the future, OwlChain plans to develop more solutions for other segments, such as fine ingredients, importers/exporters and logistics service providers. All of these will collaborate to build an open supply chain provenance system that can shed light on each step of the production and distribution processes. 

"Blockchain-based supply-chain network services are getting more attention from internet and financial technology investors around the world​," says Thomas Hu, founder and chief executive of Kyber Capital and a strategic investor in OwlTing.  

[OwlTing] has proved once again Taiwan's leading talent for Blockchain innovations.  Kyber will continue to help OwlChain commercialise and expand to global markets​."

Related topics: Business, South Asia, Industry growth

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