IBM has teamed up with a group of food giants, including Walmart and Unilever, to develop a new solution that will help to address food safety issues using the blockchain technology. Other companies that joined the project include Tyson Foods, Dole Food Company, Nestle, Kroger, McCormick & Company, Driscoll’s and McLane Company.
With the use of the IBM Blockchain Platform, food businesses will be able to monitor food supply chains and quickly identify the source of contaminated produce, thus preventing the spread of illnesses. All participants of the food supply chain will be given an access to trusted information about the food, including its origin, condition and movement.
“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 of IBM Blockchain. “Our work with organizations across the food ecosystem, as well as IBM’s new platform, will further unleash the vast potential of this exciting technology, making it faster for organizations of all sizes and in all industries to move from concept to production to improve the way business gets done.”
According to the World Health Organization, one in ten people fall ill every year and 400,000 people die because of the contaminated food. For instance, it took more than two months to discover the source of the salmonella outbreak back to imported papayas from one Mexican farm.
Such food safety issues as unnecessary waste, cross-contamination, and the spread of foodborne illness are getting worse as suppliers have no access to data. Currently, it can take weeks to trace the point of contamination. The new solution is expected to solve these challenges, ensuring transparency, traceability, and safety of the food supply chain.
Meantime, Walmart and IBM have been working together to view how the blockchain technology can improve the movement of food products. The companies partnered earlier this year to run trials in China and the US. In June, Walmart said the technology helped it to reduce the time necessary to track the supply of mangoes from the farm to the retail shelf to a couple of seconds. Earlier, the company said, the process took around seven days.
“Blockchain technology enables a new era of end-to-end transparency in the global food system – equivalent to shining a light on food ecosystem participants that will further promote responsible actions and behaviors,” said Frank Yiannas, vice president, food safety, Walmart. “It also allows all participants to share information rapidly and with confidence across a strong trusted network. This is critical to ensuring that the global food system remains safe for all.”
IBM is now actively exploring the blockchain technology and its use cases across various industries. A few days ago, it partnered with port operator PSA International and shipping company Pacific International Lines to develop blockchain solutions to improve interactions between suppliers and distributors. Last month, the IT giant in partnership with Borsa Italiana started testing the technology for issuing private shares of small and medium enterprises in Italy.