Walmart and Kroger Join IBM on Major Blockchain Collaboration
Kroger and Walmart, as well as other companies across the global food supply chain, have announced a major blockchain collaboration with IBM intended to strengthen consumer confidence in the global food system. The retailers will work with IBM to identify new areas where the global supply chain can benefit from blockchain. The consortium also includes Dole, Golden State Foods, McCormick and Company, Nestlé, and Tyson Foods.
Every year, one-in-ten people fall ill and 400,000 die due to contaminated food.* Many of the critical issues impacting food safety such as cross-contamination, the spread of food-borne illness, unnecessary waste and the economic burden of recalls are magnified by lack of access to information and traceability. It can take weeks to identify the precise point of contamination, causing further illness, lost revenue and wasted product. For example, it took more than two months to identify the farm source of contamination in a recent incidence of salmonella in papayas.**
Blockchain is ideally suited to help address these challenges 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.
Kroger and Walmart are now coming together with IBM to further champion blockchain as an enabling technology for the food sector. 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.
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. These 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.”
New IBM Blockchain Platform
IBM is introducing the first fully integrated, enterprise-grade production blockchain platform on the IBM Cloud, as well as consulting services, that will allow more organizations to activate their own business networks and access the capabilities needed to 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. 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 addition to food safety, IBM is advancing other blockchain supply chain initiatives using the IBM Blockchain Platform for an automated billing and invoicing system. Initial work to use blockchain for invoicing is underway starting with Lenovo. This will provide an audit-ready solution with full traceability of billing and operational data, and help speed on-boarding time for new vendors and new contract requirements.
Expanding the Blockchain Ecosystem Across Academia and the Start Up Community
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 Columbiato fund research grants, develop customized curricula and host workshops and hackathons. For technologists who want more in-depth guidance, IBM has refreshed its blockchain training and educational materials on developerWorksfor Hyperledger Fabric 1.0.
Interest in Hyperledger Fabric continues to grow and Boldstart Ventures is launching Fabric Foundry the first accelerator dedicated to this framework. IBM is one of several companies providing support and resources to the fund to advance the growing community supporting Hyperledger.