Wouldn’t it be great if all we consume had an immutable record of its origin on a blockchain food tracking system?
Walmart has been working with IBM on a food safety blockchain solution for all suppliers. Eventually, leafy green vegetable suppliers will be uploading data to the blockchain by September this year.
Blockchain for food tracking is becoming a reality
Most supply chains rely on manual data entry processes. This makes it difficult and time-consuming to track down an issue should one like the E. coli romaine lettuce problem from last spring rear its head. By placing a supply chain on the blockchain, it makes the process more traceable, transparent and fully digital. Each node on the blockchain could represent an entity that has handled the food on the way to the store. Hence, this makes it much easier and faster to see if one of the affected farms sold infected supply. Moreover, users can also narrow down a problem to a particular location with precision.
Walmart has been working with IBM for over a year on using the blockchain to digitize the food supply chain process. In fact, the supply chain is one of the premier business use cases for blockchain (beyond digital currency). Walmart is using the IBM Food Trust Solution, specifically developed for this use case.
Auditing the Supply Chain
Before moving the process to the blockchain, it typically took approximately 7 days to trace the source of food. With the blockchain, it drops to 2.2 seconds. That substantially reduces the likelihood that infected food will reach the consumer.
One of the issues in a requiring the suppliers to put their information on the blockchain is understanding that there will be a range of approaches from paper to Excel spreadsheets to sophisticated ERP systems all uploading data to the blockchain. Walmart spokesperson Molly Blakeman says that this something they worked hard on with IBM to account for. Suppliers don’t have to be blockchain experts by any means. They simply have to know how to upload data to the blockchain application.
After working with it for a year, the company thinks it’s ready for broader implementation with the ultimate goal of making sure that the food that is sold at Walmart is safe for consumption, and if there is a problem, making auditing the supply chain a simple process.