Blockchain is the backbone of cryptocurrencies, but the past two years have seen an explosion of use cases for the technology outside of the crypto world. KPMG’s latest “The Pulse of Fintech” report revealed not only increased attention for blockchain-focused companies from investors but also a burgeoning area of interest for those companies – supply chain management.
Now Walmart and their Sam’s Club subsidiary have announced that a blockchain-based food safety system, IBM Food Trust, will soon be implemented with a segment of their dealers. By September 2019, all leafy greens suppliers to the companies will be required to upload their information to the system as part of a real-time tracking initiative.
IBM has worked to develop blockchain solutions for multiple industries in recent years. Until now, supply chains have consisted of multiple manual processes that make tracking issues and specific incidences difficult. Blockchain provides the advantages of digitization, with increased transparency that would make it significantly easier to track issues, like the E. coli outbreak from contaminated romaine lettuce that killed five people earlier this year.
According to TechCrunch, “each node on the blockchain could represent an entity that has handled the food on the way to the store, making it much easier and faster to see if one of the affected farms sold infected supply to a particular location with much greater precision” – speeding up a process that previously took around 7 days to roughly 2.2 seconds.
IBM Food Trust was developed with the understanding that each party on the supply chain might have a different way of uploading information the blockchain, “from paper to Excel spreadsheets to sophisticated ERP systems.” Walmart spokeswoman Molly Blakeman told TechCrunch that suppliers don’t need to have an expert-level understanding of blockchain – they simply need to know how to get their data onto the application. “IBM will offer an onboarding system that orients users with the service easily,” said Blakeman, comparing the process to setting up a new iPhone. “Essentially, suppliers will [just] need a smart device and internet to participate,” Blakeman added.
Walmart is not the only major corporation to work with IBM Food Trust, as Nestle, Unilever, Tyson, and more have come on board since 2017. Frank Yiannas, Walmart’s vice president of food safety, called the decision a “smart, technology-supported move that will greatly benefit [Walmart’s] customers and transform the food system, benefitting all stakeholders.” A world where infected food can be intercepted well before it reaches consumers is here, as blockchain has yet again made good on some of its promise for real-world applications.
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