Adding value to Uruguayan artisanal cheese thanks to digital technology

By Jorge Meza, Senior Policy Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, Interim FAO Representative in Argentina and Uruguay.

FAO is supporting the development of blockchain technology in Uruguay which is helping in artisanal cheese production in Uruguay © FAO/Marine Gonzalez


Traceability in production allows for real-time knowledge of important economic, health, and environmental aspects of products. For this reason, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is supporting the development of traceability in Uruguayan artisanal cheese production.

In this context, blockchain technology is adopted in Uruguay through a pilot initiative. Thanks to this digital methodology, data from each step of the production process are recorded in interconnected blocks that cannot be modified or manipulated, creating an immutable and transparent chain of information. This way, a technological platform is generated that allows for making decisions to reduce costs, improve quality, and increase the value of Uruguayan artisanal cheeses.

To make further progress with this new technology, the National Milk Institute (INALE), with FAO’s technical cooperation, established an agreement with the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) at the ORT University of Uruguay. Within the framework of this agreement, 25 producer families - including the Merlo family - and other institutions and organizations are working together to identify the different actors involved in the chain and the challenges they encounter with regards to capacity, infrastructure, governance, and costs.

By designing measures and interventions to overcome these challenges and obtain a prototype of blockchain technology adapted to local needs it can be implemented under real conditions. This design will be user-centered, with easy-to-use interfaces for all interested and involved parties.

Cheese production in process. Blockchain technology allows buyers to know more about the production methods and environmental footprint by scanning a QR code. © FAO /Marine Gonzalez

If the supply chain is evaluated and controlled transparently, in real-time, and with the least human intervention possible, there will be not only economic benefits but also benefits for consumers´ health and for the environment thanks to a real increase in efficiency and safety in the production process.

Through the application of this technology, those who buy artisanal cheese will be able to access the product's history, including production methods and even its environmental footprint, by scanning a QR code. This system could be used in the future for cheese certification processes.

FAO, along with partner organizations, is working with 25 cheese producing families to see how the technology works on the ground © FAO /Marine Gonzalez

One of the priorities of the country cooperation framework between FAO and Uruguay for 2021-2025 is the integration of digital information and communication technologies in programs and policies related to agri-food systems in order to improve market opportunities, productivity, and resilience, especially for the most vulnerable communities.

We started with a pilot in a small sector, artisanal cheese, and further strengthening production traceability in general, which might very well improve other agro-pecuniary or agro-industrial chains and make agri-food systems more sustainable.

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