Safer, cheaper and more sustainable food: RBO leverages blockchain and AI to develop digital marketplace

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Royal Blue and Orange International Trading (RBO) is an innovative food and logistics platform that aims to improve the speed, efficiency and cost of shipping food ingredients from-farm-to-fork. We spoke to founder and CEO Sukai Ceesay about her vision for the future of the food chain.

RBO is a business-to-business digital trading platform that promotes ‘conscious’ and ‘ethical’ ingredient sourcing using blockchain and artificial intelligence technology.

Purchasing power for social good

The marketplace supports the sourcing of the ‘best quality’ and most cost-effective food ingredients and logistics with end-to-end verifiable social and environmental impact.

The system aims to benefit each link in the supply chain, from farmers and food producers through to consumers. “Our end-to-end, conscious and ethical flow of food ingredients, equipment and logistics platform using blockchain and AI will give every farmer and food manufacturer a chance to grow their business and show their product for what it is,”​ the food tech entrepreneur said.

It helps link small- and medium-sized enterprises who currently don’t benefit from volume-driven pricing and purchasing power, leveraging economies of scale.

“SME restaurants and food suppliers struggle to get real value when shipping or importing their products – and that impacts their ability to compete in the food industry where larger enterprises have huge purchasing and negotiation power,”​ Ceesay, who previously worked in supply chain management for Domino’s Pizza, explained.

“There are companies that are smaller and are not able to negotiate for high volumes. Based on our network we can offer them that chance,”​ she told FoodNavigator.

Ceesay says for farmers the benefit is simple: ‘sales’ at a ‘fair’ price.

Connecting ethical business

For larger companies, Ceesay said there is another benefit on offer – reassurance that they are purchasing ethical commodities.

RBO requires companies participating in the marketplace to disclose details on the ethical nature of their products. RBO then validates these claims to ensure they are accurate.

There are some clients who are conscious about ethical and sustainable products and they are able to get validation,”​ she explained. “In the grand scheme, everyone is yelling and screaming about what they are making and whether it is sustainable. We validate before we accept suppliers. We have developed our own validation system that we believe is cheat proof.”

Ceesay continued: “Every company is looking for cost reduction, but we want to align with companies that have similar values, who are looking for conscientious and ethical solutions, food security, no slave labour, no child labour, dealing fairly with farmers.”

Blockchain for food safety and security

Ceesay believes that blockchain is an important technology that can provide traceability across every link in the chain. This gives companies participating in RBO’s platform assurances not only over the ethical nature of the ingredients they are sourcing but also over their quality and safety, she suggested.

Ceesay added that the RBO team’s experience in different areas of the industry means ‘we know how people are cheating’.

“There is a big need for a lot of companies who are looking for food security and quality. This need is not just in Europe, it's everywhere.

“The simple disclosures on our marketplace are integral for food security [and the] ethical flow of logistics and finances…from product origin, to channels traveled, traceability and verification.​ It will make the supply chain more transparent and drive down unit costs for its participants.”

Dismissing the idea that blockchain solutions are only as secure as the people inputting the data, Ceesay explained that the data nodes ‘cannot be interfered with’.

“Whatever you put in the nodes as trusted is something that everybody participating can see. If the truth is established from the beginning and each node is seen by everyone having a wrong node will send a message to someone that something is wrong. Everybody is participating in that environment would have to accept the fault to be fact.”

Big plans: Future growth and financing

RBO currently has clients in 95 countries. It supplies the Quick Service Industry is a global approved supplier for three unnamed multinational chains and ‘several’ local food companies.

The start-ups operations are currently focused on Europe, the Middle East and Africa – but the concept is global, Ceesay explained. And RBO has ambitions expansion plans with a target to launch in ‘all markets’ by mid-2020.  

“There is no question of our scale, it is a matter of when.”

RBO just won a grant from Cogoport Europe and is collaborating with Milvum to support its growth. The company is also in the midst of an investment round to raise €6m and has seen a good level of interest from both strategic and venture capital investors, Ceesay revealed.

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