Knowing where your food comes from, and whether is it really Halal, are issues that more and more people are concerned with. People want to know what ingredients are in their food products, whether there are genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in what they consume and the halal aspects of their food. Essentially, food consumers now want to know about food traceability
Enter OneAgrix, an online, cross-border marketplace that focuses on the halal market. One Agrix is different from other marketplaces in that they focus on the business-to-business (B2B) marketplace for halal food products.
We spoke with OneAgrix founder and CEO, Diana Sabrain where she explained how OneAgrix aims to tackle the problems of food traceability, halal authenticity and.enabling ease of cross-border payments for international trade.
Taking Control In Food Traceability: Identifying Food Fraud
People now consume food that is grown across oceans from us and processed along the way. The production of food items are now long, with as many on average as six stages involved, from the sourcing of raw materials, food production, food processing, and packaging, to storage, to wholesale distribution, and to the final retail shops.
At any of these six stages, the possibility of fraud cases exists, leading to a compromise in food safety. Risks become bigger when cross-border trades are involved.
In cross-border trade, the issue of food fraud is quite common in counterfeit, document tampering, tampering of packaging at food exchanges. These occur when companies used outdated, paper-based systems and manual verifications.
Hence, it is really crucial for food manufacturers to ensure that their brands are protected against such fraudulent practices as they operate on slim profit margins. End-consumers want to know where their food comes from if it’s really safe to consume and businesses want to protect their brands.
How Blockchain Solves the Fake Food Problem
We’ve all heard of horror stories in China, where children died from consuming fake baby milk formula bought from their unsuspecting parents. The issue of counterfeit food products is real, and the problem is not limited to China.
Blockchain is THE technology that could solve such a problem. The technology is based on a shared, digital platform where users can share information across a network. This system enables users to look at all transactions simultaneously and in real-time.
The main advantage of blockchain is that once information is added to the blockchain, it is distributed within the network and it becomes permanent. It cannot be hacked, manipulated, or corrupted in any way.
This technology can deliver transparency, traceability, and trust that the food industry is in need of.
Is It Really Halal?
With blockchain technology, buyers are also able to confirm the authenticity of the halal certification of their food products. OneAgrix works with an international array of Halal certification bodies that are able to verify the certification fo the food products, as well as laboratories that test for the ‘halalness’ of the products.
How OneAgrix Started: Lessons From Competitors
“If Alibaba works as an e-commerce for the B2B market, why not have one for the global Halal market?” “After all, the Halal global food market size is estimated at $1.3 trillion, and the market is too fragmented.” That was the starting point for OneAgrix, according to Diana Sabrain.
“The agri-food sector is one of the last sectors to use advanced technology.” Hence, the founders, Diana Sabrain and co-founder, Raihan Ali, saw that as an opportunity to enter the market.
However, there are already three other B2B Halal e-commerce marketplaces, notably, DagangHalal, Zilzar, and AladdinStreet, which are Malaysian-based. Today, only DagangHalal is still operating, albeit at a loss.
OneAgrix learned from the mistakes of competitors. “In my background in the commodities sector, I could see what they couldn’t. That is how to handle [cross-border] payment and logistics. We studied models from Alibaba, Tradekey [which are global B2B marketplaces], we realized we needed to solve the payment issue first before we solve the Halal issue.”,
Leveraging On Synergy
Waiting for the right time to start was an important factor for OneAgrix’s model. “In terms of the technology 3-4 years ago, it wasn’t available like it is now. So we did not go into the market immediately, but worked quietly in the background to build the platform, by making contacts, and looking into which technologies to integrate.”
OneAgrix works with established technology partners, TraceLabs, for its blockchain technology and Escrow.com for its cross-border payments. In this way, they cut down on their development time and costs.
It was only after OneAgrix is able to solve the cross-border payment issue, did Rushdi Siddiqui, former CEO of Zilzar, came on board as an advisor to OneAgrix, and later on, Salama Evans, leading Halal industry expert.
“At OneAgrix, we really believe in collaboration. I’ve reached out to competitors, urging them to work together [with us]. Halal certification boards are interested to work with us, although they are restricted by their regulations.”
“We will see [each other] more as synergy partners rather than competitors. There is no single country or a single company that can solve the entire Halal problem. All the different Halal hubs, or marketplaces, have to come together and interoperate. Consider that by 2030, there will be 2 billion Muslims globally, that’s one-quarter of the world population.”
“Maybe you can serve one market and we will serve another market, and we share each other’s platform and share data so that if your customer wants certain products that we don’t have but your platform has, we can recommend. So there’s actually no loss.”
“Everyone can actually benefit and win.”