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UK systems integrator aims to untangle Ukraine supply chain

Nick Booth catches up with someone who has the answers to making trade across borders happen more smoothly, with it being pitched as an answer to help Ukraine ease the flow of grain exports

One of the pressing problems caused by the Ukraine-Russia war was the challenge of getting large amounts of grain out of warehouses and into the open market.

Answers to that problem came from across the world, and in the UK, WA Chump & Sons Associates has devised a “frictionless borders” proposal to ease the supply chain problems faced by the Ukrainian grain export sector.

Founder Andrew Bird explained the story behind the name and the technology: “The name seems to sum up the civil service response we get on most dealings.”

Bird advised the Cabinet Office in his capacity as CEO of systems integrator GSM (as was) about border systems, but was frustrated by the response to Brexit issues.

The good news, for Bird at least, is that he has now found a new use for his designs. His new company is exploring how to use the “rejected” concept to smooth the flow of grain from Ukraine via road and rail.

“I’m told the biggest issue is all about the paperwork and administration required making it untenable,” he said. “This solution could eliminate all of these issues. In simple terms, a looming global food shortage and supply issue could be alleviated.”

Bird’s customs proposal for the UK was given short shrift when he presented it to the Cabinet Office in the prelude to the Brexit referendum. Soon afterwards, the public unexpectedly voted to leave the EU. Even though the result was unexpected, a Remain vote was never a betting certainty and Bird was confused that Britain was left unprepared for life outside the EU, with no systems in place or even a plan.

GSM had offered a free consultation and devised a contingency plan – just in case. Bird had to wait over a year to find out why the civil service was so unprepared. A freedom of information request revealed that no customs clearance systems had been reviewed – at all.

It’s not as if GSM had no credibility as a system builder and problem solver. Its blockchain expertise and systems integration know-how was commended by the US Food and Drink Administration for its creative solution to America’s food traceability challenges. Bird is not claiming to have achieved this alone – he worked with two US partners – but if the regulators of the most vital sector of the world’s most powerful economy think you’re OK, that is quite a testimonial.

Creating such a system for a new customs border between the two Irelands would be a challenge, but it was nothing that hadn’t been achieved before. The entire history of a cow, for example, could be documented automatically. Everything from the fields it grazed in to its Phyto-sanitary history is recorded. Its diet and drug treatment are all meticulously recorded and the information transferred between nodes of a cloud computing complex as its geo-location shifts.

Moving this information between customs systems would not be an insurmountable challenge, Bird told the committee. The IoT, the cloud and blockchain see everything, know everything and can recall it in perfect order.

Sadly, Bird was never given the chance by the UK government to show how technology could make a difference. Hopefully, he will find a more receptive audience in Ukraine.

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