Walmart Inc., which is a US-based and one of the largest retail corporations in the world, was developing a blockchain-based food safety program through collaboration with IBM. Walmart is going to require all of its outlets that supply leafy green vegetables to record their sales information on its proprietary blockchain-enabled solution by September next year.

This new supply chain management system requires many time-consuming manual processes to be completed before the processing of the order. Also, there are a lot of intermediaries, or third-parties, which are involved in managing the current supply chain network.

As a result of these operational inefficiencies which do not permit items to be tracked effectively, there were a lot of serious problems like the E. coli romaine outbreak. Even though most of the Escherichia coli bacterium is not harmful, this particular strand had the responsibility for five deaths, and 200 people were hospitalized after they were infected.

Blockchain food supply management

The proponents of blockchain technology believe that the lettuce or any other item that is transported on a supply chain can be more traceable and the transactions which are involved can be more transparent if they are registered on the distributed ledger.

A blockchain-powered model which has the purpose of ensuring food safety in the supply chain process could probably require each entity which handles food directly to be assigned to a node. With this approach, a network of nodes, which consists of all food handlers, may be managed on a blockchain.

This type of digital supply chain model may probably make it easier and a lot quicker to check if infected food items were sold before causing some severe damage.

A blockchain-powered food safety system

Walmart, as well as IBM,  was working on developing blockchain-based supply chain management software for the past 12 month period. A lot of distributed ledger technology or DLT experts believe that digitizing legacy supply chains is one of the highest use cases for the technology.

The proprietary blockchain-enabled Food Trust solution of IBM has the purpose of creating a food ecosystem which is built on trust and transparency. Commenting on the food safety initiative, the senior vice president for the Global Industries and Blockchain of IBM, Bridget van Kralingen, said that they built the IBM Food Trust solution with the use of IBM Blockchain Platform. It is a tool or capability that IBM has created to help companies grow, govern, as well as run blockchain networks.

She added that the IBM blockchain platform has been built with the use of Hyperledger Fabric. As it was described on its official website, Hyperledger Fabric is a DLT-based smart contract engine which is supported by the open-source Linux Foundation. It allows consensus on a blockchain, as well as some other different membership services to be plug-and-play PnP.

Track infected foods before selling them to consumers

Transferring the food tracking process to a blockchain-based supply chain can actually reduce the time which is needed to identify the food source from 7 days to 2.2 seconds, as Walmart stated. Clearly, this is going to allow companies to track infected food before it is sold to the consumer.

One of the potential challenges with a blockchain solution could be that people might not know how to manage data with the use of the new technology. But, the representative of Walmart, named Molly Blakeman, stated that the only thing which users are going to be required to do is to upload data to their blockchain network.

Blakeman explained that IBM is going to offer an onboarding system which orients users with the service quickly. For example, think of when you get a new iPhone – the instructions are easy to understand, and you will be soon up and running. That is the purpose here. Essentially, suppliers are going to need a smart device and internet, to participate.


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