IBM says blockchain will enhance global food safety

22 August, 2017, 22:39 | Author: Becky Perry
  • IBM Strawberry Trace

Wal-Mart Stores, Kroger Co. and a host of food suppliers on Tuesday said they would collaborate on a blockchain initiative with IBM created to strengthen safety in the food chain.

Large enterprises in the food supply industry, including manufacturers, distributors and retailers, are working with IBM to apply blockchain technology to the global food supply chain in an attempt to improve food safety.

Every year, one in 10 people become ill and 400,000 die globally due to contaminated food, according to the World Health Organization.

Other companies involved include Dole, Driscoll's, Golden State Foods, Kroger, McCormick and Company, McLane Company and Tysons Foods. Multiple IBM pilot projects and production networks that demonstrate the positive impacts of blockchain on food ecosystems will serve as the basis of the consortium's work.

Without a blockchain system, it can take weeks or even months to identify the problem and can cause severe economic damage to many companies.

IBM said this can enable food providers and other members to use a blockchain network to trace contaminated product to its source in less time to ensure removal from store shelves and reduce the spread of illnesses. "It also allows all participants to share information rapidly and with confidence across a strong trusted network", said Walmart food safety vice president Frank Yiannas.

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In parallel trials in China and the US, IBM and Walmart recently demonstrated that blockchain can be used to track a product from the farm through every stage of the supply chain, all the way to the retail shelf, in seconds instead of days or weeks. Naturally, each of the food retailers emphasised security in their reaction; Scott Stillwell, SVP of food safety and quality assurance for Tyson Goods said that producing safe food was "critical" for their business.

Some fascinating developments are already underway, including projects that use blockchain technology to trace diamonds, wine, coffee beans, cotton, avocados and fish.

"Safety is a key value for Kroger, and our partnership with IBM positions us to explore and test blockchain technology as a solution for enhanced food safety across our business", Howard Popoola, Kroger's VP of corporate food technology and regulatory compliance. It supports the Linux Foundation's Hyperledger Fabric and Hyperledger Composer technologies for building blockchain-based applications.

"We're asking companies to join to help evolve the solution and guide and steer its direction", said Brigid McDermott, vice president of blockchain at IBM. A blockchain is basically one comprehensive, universal receipt.

An architecture that IBM said operates on more than half of today's global transactional systems and allows updates to be made to the network without downtime interruptions to operations. In fact, even under court order IBM can not access the blockchain ecosystem's encrypted data, the company said.

"Unlike any technology before it, blockchain is transforming the way like-minded organizations come together and enabling a new level of trust based on a single view of the truth", said Marie Wieck, general manager for IBM Blockchain, in the announcement of the food chain effort.

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