Indoor produce grower BrightFarms uses IBM Food Trust

Built on IBM Blockchain on IBM Cloud
by Catherine Palmer
4-minute read
brightfarms

We’ve all seen the headlines. E. coli outbreaks have caused massive romaine lettuce recalls over the past several years, impacting the entire US, causing illness and prompting consumers to throw away millions of pounds of potentially usable food. The whole country avoids romaine lettuce for weeks while investigators struggle to determine where the E. coli outbreak originated and retailers are left with millions of dollars in damages.

The complexity of the typical supply chain, in which produce from multiple farms is combined and shipped across the country, makes it difficult to trace the issue quickly. Romaine, once a favorite lettuce on American dinner tables, has seen a 20% drop in sales since 2018.

BrightFarms was founded to simplify and decentralize the supply chain for greens, and to provide consumers with a more sustainable choice. “If you look at what’s happening today in terms of climate change and the volatility in growing, with excessive drought and excessive rain, it’s becoming harder and harder to rely on California to be our salad bowl,” says Abby Prior, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, BrightFarms.

The company establishes greenhouse farms across the US that supply local retailers with fresh leafy greens. “We grow everything sustainably, pesticide free and non-GMO,” Prior adds. “We are also reducing the carbon footprint for salad greens here in the US. We grow with less water, less land and less fuel than products coming from the West Coast. And we are a mission-driven company focused on the health of the planet and the health of people.”

Brightfarms packs, ships and delivers greens in as little as

24

hours of harvest

The IBM Food Trust™ platform traces all producs in

>1

minute

In the event of a recall, with IBM Food Trust, we would be able to trace our product within seconds.
Abby Prior
Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, BrightFarms

All of BrightFarms’ greens are grown, harvested, packed and shipped from greenhouse farms that are located in or extremely close to the metropolitan areas they serve. The company packs, ships and delivers greens in as little as 24 hours of harvest. “We’re delivering greens to consumers almost as quickly as if they grew them in their backyard,” says Prior. BrightFarms’ distribution model, in which a single greenhouse farm serves only local retailers, makes it much easier for the business to trace the path of its products should a safety issue arise. However, when BrightFarms began partnering with Walmart, it had an opportunity to add more safeguards through the IBM Food Trust to its existing food safety strategy.

BrightFarms baby romaine leaves
BrightFarms packaged mixed greens on a table
We are also reducing the carbon footprint for salad greens here in the US. We grow with less water, less land and less fuel than products coming from the West Coast. And we are a mission-driven company focused on the health of the planet and the health of people.
Abby Prior
Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, BrightFarms
Food safety goes high-tech
We are also reducing the carbon footprint for salad greens here in the US. We grow with less water, less land and less fuel than products coming from the West Coast. And we are a mission-driven company focused on the health of the planet and the health of people.
Abby Prior
Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, BrightFarms

As part of a mandate from its partner Walmart, BrightFarms began using IBM® Blockchain technology through the IBM Food Trust network. “As BrightFarms’ food-facing manager, I couldn’t agree more with Walmart’s decision to use this technology,” says food safety expert, Jackie Hawkins, Senior Manager of Food Safety, BrightFarms. “It gives us this additional layer of protection for our already advanced food safety programs.”

Using the IBM Food Trust platform’s Trace module, BrightFarms gathers data about every step along the growing, packaging and delivery process. The company uses IBM Blockchain on IBM Cloud® to keep data safely encrypted and uploads data to the IBM Food Trust platform through each stage of the process, from the moment seeds are planted until packaged greens arrive at the retailer. Once the greens are on the shelves, the retailer can continue to add data to the platform as well, including how long the greens have been in the store and at what temperature they are being stored.

BrightFarms also tracks key performance indicators (KPIs) on the cloud to help it determine which crops produce the highest yields. “Over time we can look at low- and high-performing crops, which in turn allows us to focus only on the highest yielding and most successful crops,” says Hawkins. “We don’t want to put all these resources, water and nutrients into crops that don’t have a great yield.” All of the company’s efforts lead to safer and more sustainable greens for its customers.

Deeper insights enhance safety and freshness

Because BrightFarms has such a simple supply chain, providing greens from a single farm to the nearby retailers, it already has a great deal of control over — and insight into — the supply chain. However, if a product were compromised, the company could determine the exact location of the affected product almost immediately. “In the event of a recall, with IBM Food Trust, we would be able to trace our product within seconds. It would take us longer to type the search data into the platform than it would to actually find where that product is,” says Prior. Plus, because the Food Trust platform gives such precise information about the location and status of all products, in the event of a recall, there would be minimal unnecessary waste.

The IBM Food Trust platform has given BrightFarms’ procurement team deeper insights into its inventory management system. “As BrightFarms continues to expand, we’ll have a larger supply of produce. And it’s important for us to provide our consumers with the freshest produce we have available. The IBM Food Trust Fresh Insights module will be able to help with that in the future,” says Prior. Insights from the IBM Food Trust platform will also help minimize food waste and increase crop yield, which will help keep costs down for customers.

As BrightFarms continues to grow, it anticipates that the IBM Food Trust platform will help it provide the insight and visibility consumers need. “The IBM Food Trust platform provides enhanced transparency and trackability for our supply chain,” says Hawkins. “The platform provides our consumer and retail partners with the assurance and trust that’s needed in today’s market.”

BrightFarms logo
About BrightFarms

Founded in 2011, BrightFarmsExternal Link is a leading grower of leafy greens, with controlled environment farms across the mid-Atlantic and midwestern US. BrightFarms finances, builds and operates local greenhouse farms in partnership with supermarkets, cities, capital sources and vendors, enabling it to quickly and efficiently eliminate time, distance and costs from the food supply chain. Headquartered in New York, the company has approximately 180 employees.

Solution components
BrightFarms logo
About BrightFarms

Founded in 2011, BrightFarmsExternal Link is a leading grower of leafy greens, with controlled environment farms across the mid-Atlantic and midwestern US. BrightFarms finances, builds and operates local greenhouse farms in partnership with supermarkets, cities, capital sources and vendors, enabling it to quickly and efficiently eliminate time, distance and costs from the food supply chain. Headquartered in New York, the company has approximately 180 employees.

Solution components