Online retail behemoth Alibaba said it would engage PwC consultancy firms in New Zealand, Australia and China to help build a food safety framework using blockchain technology.

Blockchain technologies were originally developed to publicly and irrefutably track the transfer of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

The aim is to use the technology to authenticate, verify, permanently record and provide ongoing reporting in relation to the transfer of ownership and providence of goods, and are now finding much wider application in many industries.

The plan was laid out in a memorandum of understanding signed today among Alibaba, Fonterra and NZ Post at a ceremony in Auckland.

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Alibaba said the aim of the partnership was to develop a framework to lead food quality and safety standards and provide the basis for improvement in food trust practices and integrity.

"It is envisaged that this framework will be piloted in Australia and New Zealand and form the basis of a global supply chain model that will be applied across all of Alibaba Group's markets," Alibaba said.

Alibaba has proposed establishing a Food Trust Framework to mitigate counterfeit food and provide a safe and trusted marketplace.

Fonterra and NZ Post will be involved by providing in market testing across their supply chains, according to the memorandum.

The aim of the partnership is to develop a framework to lead food quality and safety standards and provide the basis for improvement in food trust practices and integrity.

Pilots of the framework would be conducted in Australia and New Zealand and would form the basis of a global supply chain model that would be applied across all of Alibaba's markets.

"The project will enhance traceability models and introduce new technologies to stop the production of counterfeit and fraudulent food products," Alibaba said.

"This will include the development of a pilot blockchain technologies solution model to be used by participants across the supply chain."

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Maggie Zhou, Alibaba's managing director for Australia and New Zealand, said the memorandum was the first step in creating a globally respected framework to protect the reputation of food merchants and to consumers confidence to buy food online.

"Given New Zealand and Australia's exemplary regulatory environments, along with being home to some of the world's most successful food and beverage exporters, it was a natural decision to pilot the programme here," she said.

"We see the New Zealand and Australian markets setting the tone for the rest of the world when it comes to integrity, safety and quality of food supply chains," she said.

Fonterra's chief operating officer Global Consumer and Foodservice, Jacqueline Chow, said the partnership would give Chinese consumers confidence in the products they are buying.

"Connecting our co-operative with consumers and being able to reassure them about the quality and safety of our products is fundamental to being the most trusted source of dairy nutrition," she said.

Alibaba, founded by Chinese business magnate, Jack Ma, is the largest online and mobile commerce company in the world in terms of gross merchandise volume.