Walmart, JD.com, IBM and Tsinghua University National Engineering Laboratory for E-Commerce Technologies have formed the Blockchain Food Safety Alliance.
The companies will create a standards-based method of collecting data about the origin, safety and authenticity of food, using blockchain technology to provide traceability in the supply chain.
They said it will encourage accountability and give suppliers, regulators and consumers greater insight and transparency into how food is handled.
IBM is also part of a consortium including Dole, Driscoll’s, Golden State Foods, Kroger, McCormick and Company, McLane Company, Nestlé, Tyson Foods, Unilever and Walmart to identify areas where the supply chain can benefit from blockchain.
Pilot tracing pork and mangoes
IBM will provide its IBM Blockchain Platform and expertise and Tsinghua University will share expertise in technologies and the Chinese food safety system.
IBM and Tsinghua will collaborate with Walmart and JD to develop and roll out the technology to suppliers and retailers that join the alliance.
Craft brew on the Blockchain
Ireland Craft Beers and arc-net have created a beer brand that will be placed on a Blockchain platform so consumers can trace the product’s ingredients from source.
Arc-net has uniquely marked each bottle of Downstream IPL. Customers need to scan a QR smart code on the label to be taken to a dedicated online area.
Kieran Kelly, CEO of arc-net, said its platform gives Ireland Craft Beers the opportunity to tell the story behind their brand.
“The new era of transparency on the blockchain helps to ensure the people and process behind the craft brewing process is made available. In a crowded market, products on the arc-net blockchain now have a voice.”
Liam Brogan, co-founder and director of Ireland Craft Beers, said: “More than ever, consumers want to know where their food and drink comes from, so capturing and sharing production, process and product data with customers is central to having a brand that is trusted and respected.”
IBM, Walmart and Tsinghua University have piloted blockchain to trace items, including pork in China and mangoes in the US, as they move through the supply chain to store shelves.
Testing by Walmart showed that applying blockchain reduced the time it took to trace a package of mangoes from the farm to the store from days or weeks to two seconds.
“Through collaboration, standardization, and adoption of new and innovative technologies, we can effectively improve traceability and transparency and help ensure the global food system remains safe for all,” said Frank Yiannas, VP, food safety and health at Walmart.
The work in China will look at how blockchain technology can help improve processes such as recalls and verifications and enhance consumer confidence due to greater transparency.
Companies that join the alliance will be able to share information using blockchain technology and be able to choose the standards-based traceability that suits their needs and legacy systems.
Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, IBM Industry Platforms, said blockchain holds promise in delivering the transparency needed to help promote food safety across the supply chain.
“By expanding our food safety work with Walmart and Tsinghua University in China and adding new collaborators like JD.com, the technology brings traceability and transparency to a broader network of food supply chain participants.”
Yongli Yu, president of JD-Y, JD.com’s supply chain research unit, said: “Throughout the world, and particularly in China, consumers increasingly want to know how their food is sourced, and JD is dedicated to using technology to promote complete transparency.”
Unilever, Sainsbury’s and Provenance work
Meanwhile, Provenance is leading a collaboration of start-ups that will supply the technology to test whether blockchain can help unlock financial incentives that improve transparency and sustainability in supply chains.
The group, which includes Landmapp, FOCAFET Foundation and Halotrade will work with partners including the Department for International Development (DFID), Unilever, Sainsbury’s, Sappi and banks Barclays, BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered.
It will be led by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) on the year-long project.
The project will link financial incentives to sustainability claims and supply chains using a shared data system for tea farmers in Malawi.
Keith Weed, Unilever’s chief marketing officer and head of sustainable business, said: “This innovative new technology will help us to increase sustainable sourcing, enhance the livelihoods of the smallholder farmers we work with around the world, and help to make sustainable agriculture mainstream.”
Blockchain EU prizes
In other news, the European Commission will award five prizes of €1m each as part of the Horizon Prize on "Blockchains for Social Good".
Prizes will be awarded to those that use blockchain technology for support of fair trade, transparency in production processes, decentralising data governance and enhancing privacy, enabling accountability and contributing to financial inclusion.
It encourages the development of scalable, efficient and effective tools using Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT).
Detailed rules will be available in February 2018 and deadline for applications is 25 June 2019.
Finally, Internet of Things Inc. has formed a new subsidiary, Blockchain of Things and is pursuing strategic initiatives and acquisitions where Blockchain and IoT come together.
The initial focus of the subsidiary includes Supply Chain Management (SCM) targeting logistics; food safety; software and B2B RFID users.