Food supply chain tracking and authentication, to truly understand provenance, is critical to finding and helping to address sources of contamination in the food supply chain worldwide.
In October, Walmart, IBM and Tsinghua University signed an agreement to explore food supply chain traceability and authenticity using blockchain technology. The project comes as Walmart announced its new Food Safety Collaboration Center in Beijing.
The goal is to improve the way food is tracked, transported and sold to consumers across China harnessing the power of blockchain technology designed to generate transparency and efficiency in supply chain record-keeping.
Scientists from IBM Research – China are among the leading edge technologists at IBM now in the forefront of the rapid evolution of blockchain. Working alongside top talent in transaction security and authentication technology from Tsinghua University and with Walmart’s expertise in supply chain, logistics and food safety, they are creating a new model for food traceability, supply chain transparency and auditability using IBM Blockchain.
Blockchain provides a permanent record of transactions which are then grouped in blocks that cannot be altered. It could serve as an alternative to traditional paper tracking and manual inspection systems, which can leave supply chains vulnerable to inaccuracies.
When applied to the food supply chain, digital product information such as farm origination details, batch numbers, factory and processing data, expiration dates, storage temperatures and shipping detail are digitally connected to food items and the information is entered into the blockchain along every step of the process.
The information captured in each transaction is agreed upon by all members of the business network; once there is a consensus, it becomes a permanent record that can’t be altered. Each piece of information provides critical data that could potentially reveal food safety issues with the product. The record created by the blockchain can also help retailers better manage the shelf-life of products in individual stores, and further strengthen safeguards related to food authenticity.
Across ecosystems, business model changes enabled by blockchain can bring strengthened trust and transparency, and a new nexus for value exchange. Whether it is individuals looking to complete transactions involving multiple parties, or enterprises collaborating across multiple organizational silos — wherever there are documents or transactions that are required to be confirmed, settled, exchanged, signed or validated, there are frictions that can be eliminated to unlock greater economic value using blockchain technology.
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