IBM’s food supply chain network, IBM Food Trust, is now ‘generally available’ for use by retailers, suppliers, growers and food industry providers with data from across the food ecosystem.
The network, which IBM says enables greater traceability, transparency and efficiency, has been testing for the last 18 months, during which its claims millions of individual food products have been tracked by retailers and suppliers.
In addition to the global availability of the system, retail giant Carrefour has announced it will use Food Trust blockchain network to highlight consumers’ confidence in a number of Carrefour-branded products. As a commitment of the retailer’s Act for Food program, the solution is expected to expand to all Carrefour brands worldwide by 2022.
“Being a founding member of the IBM Food Trust platform is a great opportunity for Carrefour to accelerate and widen the integration of blockchain technology to our products in order to provide our clients with safe and undoubted traceability,” said Laurent Vallée, general secretary of Carrefour. “This is a decisive step in the roll-out of Act for Food, our global program of concrete initiatives in favor of the food transition.”
Here’s how it works: Using blockchain for trusted transactions, food can be quickly traced back to its source in as little as a few seconds instead of days or weeks. Unlike traditional databases, the attributes of blockchain and the ability to permission data, enables network members to gain a new level of trusted information. Transactions are endorsed by multiple parties, leading to an immutable single version of the truth.
“The currency of trust today is transparency and achieving it in the area of food safety happens when responsibility is shared,” Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, IBM Global Industries, Clients, Platforms and Blockchain. “That collaborative approach is how the members of IBM Food Trust have shown blockchain can strengthen transparency and drive meaningful enhancements to food traceability. Ultimately that provides business benefits for participants and a better and safer product for consumers.”
In addition to Carrefour, organisations joining IBM Food Trust include:
- Leading cooperative Topco Associates, LLC, representing 49 members, reaching over 15,000 stores and 65 million weekly customers;
- Retailer-owned cooperative Wakefern, representing 50 member companies and 349 stores;
- Suppliers including BeefChain, Dennick Fruit Source, Scoular and Smithfield.
“Blockchain holds the potential to help us be more transparent and transform how the food industry works by speeding up investigations into contaminated food, authenticating the origin of food, and providing insights about the conditions and pathway the food traveled to identify opportunities to maximize shelf life and reduce losses due to spoilage,” said Ed Treacy, Vice President of Supply Chain Efficiencies at the Produce Marketing Association.
These newest participants join a movement that is accelerating among retailers and suppliers. For example, Walmart, an early proponent of blockchain technology, recently announced that it will begin requiring its leafy green suppliers to capture digital, end-to-end traceability event information using IBM Food Trust.
Beyond the goal of making food safer, the IBM Food Trust network and accompanying solutions have expanded to focus on optimising the food supply chain. This includes generating insights on product freshness, reducing waste and making the supply chain more collaborative and transparent.
IBM is working with services and technology providers to contribute important supply chain, provenance, testing and sensor data to the blockchain ecosystem. Through a library of IBM Food Trust APIs, hardware, software and technology companies can write transaction data directly onto the blockchain network to provide valuable insights
“The power of IBM Food Trust is in bringing together not only retailers and suppliers but also the rest of the ecosystem touching our food supply,” said Natalie Dyenson, vice president, Food Safety & Quality, Dole. “For example, Dole is working with Centricity, a grower-owned partner, to connect audit data to the blockchain by leveraging the Trellis framework as a standard for the produce industry, using existing formats and processes. By simplifying on-farm and front-office reporting and putting data on the blockchain, IBM Food Trust has helped Dole unlock the value of compliance data across our suppliers and partners in a cost-effective way.”
Food Trust runs on the IBM Cloud and features enterprise-class security, reliability and scalability. The foundation of the technology relies on Hyperledger Fabric, an open source blockchain framework hosted by the Linux Foundation. In addition, the network includes compatibility with the GS1 standard used by much of the food industry to ensure interoperability for traceability systems.
Participants can select from three IBM Food Trust software-as-a-service modules with pricing that is scaled for small, medium and global enterprises, beginning at $100 per month. Suppliers can contribute data to the network at no cost.
IBM Food Trust is available as a subscription service for members of the food ecosystem to join.