Walmart recently opened its Food Safety Collaboration Center in Beijing. The new initiative means the multinational is collaborating with IBM and Tsinghua University to improve food quality through the supply chain. It means the food safety partnership is utilizing blockchain technology to provide better food tracking and consumer safety.
Three Organizations Aim to Leverage Blockchain to Provide Better Food Quality
The traditional process of tracking food quality through the supply chain can be a difficult task. Over the years there have been many recalls involving contamination, bad ingredients, and uninspected crops. Many people believe rather than outside regulation the problems can be handled directly from the production and manufacturing process.
Safety issues have run rampant within the supply chain, and Walmart’s Food Safety Collaboration Center aims to fix this problem.
Working in unison with IBM and Tsinghua University, the groups are building a new model for “food traceability, supply chain transparency, and audibility.”
The collaborative effort will be utilizing the IBM and Linux Foundation-led Hyperledger Project architecture. By harnessing a distributed ledger framework, food production can be digitally tracked in an immutable environment. The tracking entails storage temperatures, expiration dates, farm origination details, batch numbers, and much more relevant data about food being delivered worldwide.
Frank Yiannas, Vice President, Food Safety, Walmart said during the announcement:
“As advocates of promoting greater transparency in the food system for our customers, we look forward to working with IBM and Tsinghua University to explore how this technology might be used as a more effective food traceability solution,”
Walmart Will Utilize The Hyperledger Project to Harness On Supply Chain Consensus
With the Hyperledger fabric, all of the food item information is entered into the blockchain throughout every step in the supply chain. The organizations believe each piece of data will be critical to food safety issues globally.
IBM says the information being broadcasted is agreed upon by businesses within the network forming a consensus. After the agreement is finalized, the data becomes a permanent record of the entire process.
“Advanced technology has reached into so many aspects of modern life, but it has lagged in food traceability, and in particular in creating more secure food supply chains. Our collaboration with Walmart and Tsinghua University is a step of global significance to change that,” said Bridget van Kralingen, Senior Vice President, of IBM’s Industry Platforms. “Food touches all of us, everywhere, so we are experimenting in China with Walmart and Tsinghua given the size and scale of food consumption in this country.”
The distributed ledger record keeping will also give significant advantages to retailers. Merchants will be able to identify shelf-life and other safeguards when managing their store’s food products. The organizations also say that each business participating in this blockchain prototype has significant benefits to offer.
IBM says they are working with China and scientists worldwide to push the evolution of blockchain technology. Tsinghua University is focused on in-depth research of food safety and believe this is a crucial subject for everyone globally. Walmart says they offer a background of expertise when it comes to food safety, logistics, and the supply chain.
Blockchain: A Tool That Provides Quality Assurance For Food Suppliers and Consumers
Professor Chai Yueting from Tsinghua University believes China’s rapid growth has led to greater challenges to assure “food sold in the country is safe to eat.” The university is also collaborating with IBM on protocols and projects such as Green Horizons to incorporate environmental issues.
The initiative in Beijing hopes to create better quality food that is monitored efficiently through its distribution. Currently, the traditional system still relies on cumbersome paperwork, and inefficient data on products that have led to a myriad of health issues and recalls worldwide. Walmart, IBM, and Tsinghua University believe they have the resources and tools to solve these problems and blockchain will be integral to the process.
What do you think about Walmart’s food safety collaboration? Let us know in the comments below.
Images via Shutterstock and Walmart’s Food Safety Collaboration Center
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