09 Oct 2018 — French-headquartered retail giant Carrefour has joined the IBM Food Trust blockchain network, adopting the game-changing technology to improve traceability of certain food products with plans to expand to all Carrefour brands by 2022. A number of retailers, logistics firms and growers are working with IBM-developed blockchain technology – and now Europe’s largest retailer is adopting blockchain which will quickly help trace food back to its source within seconds, unlike traditional transactions.
The blockchain-based cloud network offers businesses and food industry providers with data from across the food ecosystem to enable greater traceability, transparency and efficiency.
The network is now generally available after 18 months in testing, during which retailers and suppliers have tracked millions of individual food products.
The move by Carrefour comes just a couple of weeks after Walmart, an early proponent of blockchain technology, announced that its leafy green suppliers would be required to capture digital, end-to-end traceability event information using IBM Food Trust. You can read more on this here. The US retail giant lauds the benefits of the database that can quickly and efficiently identify contamination.
Walmart has been piloting the new technology in collaboration with numerous suppliers and IBM over the last 18 months to demonstrate that meaningful enhancements to food traceability is possible and expects all suppliers to have all systems in place by this time next year.
Rapidly pinpointing potential food contamination is one of the significant virtues of blockchain technology which speeds up food contamination investigations. Enhanced ability to trace food back to its source can help companies and government agencies to identify the source of foodborne disease outbreak and coordinate effective recalls of foods thought to be contaminated.
“The currency of trust today is transparency”
Carrefour stores will initially use the solution to highlight consumers’ confidence in a number of Carrefour-branded products, as part of the retailer’s Act for Food program.
“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 to provide our clients with safe and undoubted traceability,” says 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.”
Although so far there have been few examples of its large-scale application, blockchain is a burgeoning technology and many agile companies within and the food industry are adopting it as a transparency solution. Other industries such as finance and retail are also using blockchain solutions.
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, says IBM, as momentum grows among users and third-party data suppliers on the network.
The IBM Food Trust network has expanded to focus on optimizing the food supply, including generating insights on product freshness, reducing waste and making the supply chain more collaborative and transparent.
IBM Food Trust uses a decentralized model to allow multiple participating members of the food supply chain – from growers to suppliers to retailers – to share food origin details, processing data, and shipping information on a permissioned blockchain network. A separate entity controls each node on the blockchain and all data on the blockchain is encrypted. The decentralized features of the network enable all parties to work together to ensure the data is trusted.
“The currency of trust today is transparency and achieving it in the area of food safety happens when responsibility is shared,” says 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.”
The scale of the food system is so huge, it is virtually impossible for any single entity to track – but blockchain changes that and can increase trust, traceability and security in the supply chain.
In addition to Carrefour, other organizations 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.
IBM says that members joining the growing ecosystem of the IBM Food Trust have helped build a powerful global business solution that is interoperable and built on open standards. It’s designed to enable organizations in the food industry to run their businesses more effectively and provide safer food at lower costs.
“Blockchain helps us be more transparent. It transforms 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,” explains Ed Treacy, Vice President of Supply Chain Efficiencies at the Produce Marketing Association.
IBM 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, according to IBM.
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 US$100 per month. Suppliers can contribute data to the network at no cost.
By Gaynor Selby
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