In a letter sent to all Walmart’s leafy greens suppliers, it has announced that it will be launching a Blockchain enabled Food Traceability Initiative. The world’s largest retailer told its suppliers that they will need to integrate a Blockchain enabled tracking system built with IBM by September 2019. Blockchain-based food traceability systems have been available for a few years however this marks the first time a top retailer is using this technology.
IBM’s Blockchain enabled food traceability system
The letter does not go through the specifics of the system however IBM’s website provides an overview of what we can expect from their solution. IBM Food Trust™ is built on the blockchain. The system uses Hyperledger; a private, permissioned blockchain developed by the Linux Foundation. This allows all approved network participants to contribute to a safer and more sustainable food eco-system. The system allows digitisation of transactions in real time. This allows the data to provide a more efficient way of working across the supply chain. From the leafy green growers to the processors, shippers, retailers (Walmart), regulators, and finally the end consumers.
In the letter to Leafy Green suppliers, Walmart describes that the food is not 100% safe. In fact, this year, the United States experienced a large, multistate outbreak of E coli O157:H7 linked to romaine lettuce. All in all, the outbreak resulted in 210 confirmed cases, caused 96 hospitalizations, and tragically 5 deaths. Securely tracing products in seconds, not weeks, it can mitigate cross-contamination, the spread of food-borne illness, unnecessary waste and the economic burden of recalls.
When dealing with produce such as Leafy Greens. Walmart would want to get these on the shelf as soon as possible all while ensuring freshness. the Blockchain system will allow unprecedented, real-time visibility into supply chain data. With this data, Walmart will be able to improve freshness, increase shelf life and reduce product loss.
A popular topic in mainstream media is food waste. It is in Walmarts best interest to maximise shelf life, optimise the supply chain and provide quick all helping to reduce waste. If Walmart is seen to be combating food waste then it will future proof the business in regards to this growing issue.
Similar to reducing waste, sustainable farming is becoming an increasing issue. With the new Blockchain system, Walmart will be able to identify inefficiencies, ensure quality of goods, track the authenticity of products and certify provenance across the entire supply chain.
Walmart deciding to use IBM’s Blockchain Enabled Food Traceability system is again another step towards the adoption of Blockchain technology. Obviously, this adoption is staying clear of dealing with Crypto-currencies such as WaltonChain, VeChain, and TE-Food. This could be for a number of reasons such as legislation and to avoid dealing with start-ups in favour of an established SaaS business. However, everyone interested in Crypto and Blockchain should be watching with keen interest as eventually this could become the norm within Food traceability in retail.
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