A group of leading companies across the global food supply chain today announced a major blockchain collaboration with IBM intended to further strengthen consumer confidence in the global food system. The consortium includes Dole, Driscoll's, Golden State Foods, Kroger, McCormick and Company, McLane Company, Nestlé, Tyson Foods, Unilever and Walmart, who will work with IBM to identify new areas where the global supply chain can benefit from blockchain. Together they will help identify and prioritize new areas where blockchain can benefit food ecosystems and inform new IBM solutions. This work will draw on multiple IBM pilots and production networks in related areas that successfully demonstrate ways in which blockchain can positively impact global food traceability.
According to the IBM press release, blockchain is ideally suited to help address the challenges of food traceability because it establishes a trusted environment for all transactions. In the case of the global food supply chain, all participants - growers, suppliers, processors, distributors, retailers, regulators and consumers - can gain permissioned access to known and trusted information regarding the origin and state of food for their transactions. This can enable food providers and other members of the ecosystem to use a blockchain network to trace contaminated product to its source in a short amount of time to ensure safe removal from store shelves and stem the spread of illnesses.
"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, 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."
To accelerate its adoption, IBM is introducing the first fully integrated, enterprise-grade production blockchain platform and consulting services to allow more organizations to quickly activate their own business networks and access the vital capabilities needed to successfully develop, operate, govern and secure these networks. The IBM Blockchain Platform is available via the IBM Cloud.
Extensively tested and piloted, the platform addresses a wide range of enterprise pain points, including both business and technical requirements around security, performance, collaboration and privacy, the company said. It includes innovation developed through open source collaboration in the Hyperledger community, including the newest Hyperledger Fabric v1.0 framework and Hyperledger Composer blockchain tool, both hosted by the Linux Foundation. The integrated platform allows multiple parties to jointly develop, govern, operate and secure blockchain networks to help enterprises accelerate blockchain adoption.
In parallel trials in China and the U.S., IBM and Walmart recently demonstrated that blockchain can be used to track a product from the farm through every stage of the supply chain, right to the retail shelf, in seconds instead of days or weeks. The trials also demonstrated that stakeholders throughout the global food supply chain view food safety as a collaborative issue, rather than a competitive one, and are willing to work together to improve the food system for everyone.
"As an advocate for greater transparency in the food system to benefit customers, Walmart looks forward to expanding on our initial work by collaborating with others to accelerate exploration on how this technology can be used as a more effective food traceability and food safety tool," said Frank Yiannas, vice president, food safety, Walmart. "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. 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."
“As a customer and partner with IBM for more than forty years, Golden State Foods is pleased to collaborate with IBM and this group of trusted food companies," said Guilda Javaheri, chief technology officer. "IBM has deep experience and a commitment to business processing and security needs, which are exactly the skill sets needed to bring blockchain to full maturity for food safety and all associated transactions."
"Safety is a key value for Kroger, and our partnership with IBM positions us to explore and test blockchain technology as a solution for enhanced food safety across our business," said Howard Popoola, Kroger's vice president of Corporate Food Technology and Regulatory Compliance. "Food safety is a universal priority for food retailers and companies. It's not a competitive advantage; it benefits our customers to have greater transparency and traceability in the supply chain."
"We're excited about the possibilities that come with this technology and are glad to collaborate with IBM and others," said Scott Stillwell, Ph.D., senior vice president of food safety and quality assurance for Tyson Foods. "Producing safe food is critical to our business; it appears blockchain can help provide trust not only about the origin of food, but also about how that food moved through the supply chain."
To help meet the increasing demand for a skilled technical workforce trained in blockchain, IBM is making available a wide range of resources including software, training and professional partnerships free of charge to more than 1,000 universities in the IBM Academic Initiative. Offerings include six months of access to the IBM Cloud for use of the IBM Blockchain cloud sandbox to help students hone development skills.
IBM is also working with select universities including Baruch College/CUNY, Fordham University, University of Arkansas, University at Buffalo and University of British Columbia to fund research grants, develop customized curricula and host workshops and hackathons.
For more information about IBM Blockchain, visit https://www.ibm.com/blockchain.