IBM elevates blockchain for transparent food ecosystem

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IBM has announced its expansion on the usage of blockchain to foster a safer, more transparent and efficient food system alongside the adoption of its food supply chain network.

The blockchain-based cloud network offers participating retailers, suppliers, growers and food industry providers with data from across the food ecosystem to enable greater traceability, transparency and efficiency.

Blockchain can be used for food transactions, like tracing food back to its source in as little as a few seconds instead of days or weeks. Unlike traditional databases, 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.

“The currency of trust today is transparency and achieving it in the area of food safety happens when responsibility is shared,” 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 better and safer product for consumers.”

Members of the Food Trust

The members of IBM Food Trust have helped build a powerful global business solution that is interoperable and built on open standards. This is designed to enable organizations in the food industry to run their businesses more effectively and provide safer food at lower costs.

They include Carrefour a European retail chain, Leading cooperative Topco Associates, LLC, representing 49 members and reaching over 15,000 stores with 65 million customers per week, Retailer-owned cooperative Wakefern, representing 50-member companies and 349 stores and Suppliers including BeefChain, Dennick Fruit Source, Scoular and Smithfield.

“Blockchain holds the potential to help us be more transparent and transform 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 that maximize shelf life and reduce losses due to spoilage,” said Ed Treacy, Vice President of Supply Chain Efficiencies at the Produce Marketing Association.
Optimizing Food Supply

These newest participants join a movement that is accelerating among retailers and suppliers. For example, Walmart, an early proponent of blockchain technology, recently announced that it will begin requiring its leafy green suppliers to capture digital, end-to-end traceability event information using IBM Food Trust.

Beyond the goal of making food safer, the IBM Food Trust network and accompanying solutions have expanded to focus on optimizing the food supply. This includes generating insights on product freshness, reducing waste and making the supply chain more collaborative and transparent.

IBM is working with services and technology providers to contribute important supply chain, provenance, testing and sensor data to the blockchain ecosystem. Through a library of IBM Food Trust APIs, hardware, software and technology companies can write transaction data directly onto the blockchain network to provide valuable insights.

“The power of IBM Food Trust is in bringing together not only retailers and suppliers but also the rest of the ecosystem touching our food supply,” said Natalie Dyenson, vice president, Food Safety & Quality, Dole. “For example, Dole is working with Centricity, a grower-owned partner, to connect audit data to the blockchain by leveraging the Trellis framework as a standard for the produce industry, using existing formats and processes. By simplifying on-farm and front-office reporting and putting data on the blockchain, IBM Food Trust has helped Dole unlock the value of compliance data across our suppliers and partners in a cost-effective way.”

Governance for Shared a Network

IBM Food Trust uses a decentralized model to allow multiple participating members of the food supply chain (growers, suppliers, retailers), to share food origin details, processing data and shipping information on a permissioned blockchain network. Each node on the blockchain is controlled by a separate entity, 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.

As one of the largest and most active enterprise blockchain networks in production to date, IBM Food Trust members pioneered a comprehensive governance model for the network to help ensure that the rights and information of all participants will be managed and protected appropriately. The governance model ensures every member abides by the same set of rules.

Organizations that upload data continue to own the data, and the data owner is the only one that can provide permission for data to be seen or shared. Important blockchain network management considerations have been addressed, including data entry, membership, interoperability and security and hardware requirements, while providing a consistent way to standardize data.

General Availability

IBM Food Trust is globally available and 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.

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 $100 USD per month whereas suppliers can contribute data to the network at no cost.

The three modules are Trace which allows members of a food ecosystem to more securely trace products in seconds to help mitigate cross-contamination,and reduce spread of food-borne illness and unnecessary waste. The process takes weeks using other methods. Certifications module helps verify the provenance of digitized certificates, such as organic or fair trade. It also enables participants across the ecosystem to easily load, manage and share food certifications digitally, speeding up certificate management by up to 30 percent. Data entry and access module allows members to securely upload, access and manage data on the blockchain.

IBM Food Trust is available as a subscription service for members of the food ecosystem

 

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