IBM is growing its food supply chain network, IBM Food Trust with the addition of Carrefour. Plus, this food safety network is now generally available after 18 months in testing, during which millions of individual food products have been tracked by retailers and suppliers.
“Being a founding member of the IBM Food Trust platform is a great opportunity for Carrefour to strongly accelerate and widen the integration of blockchain technology to our products in order to provide our clients with safe and undoubted traceability,” said Laurent Vallée, general secretary of Carrefour. “This is a decisive step in the roll-out of Act for Food, our global program of concrete initiatives in favor of the food transition.”
IBM Food Trust and Carrefour
IBM Food Trust is a blockchain-based cloud network. It offers participating retailers, suppliers, growers and food industry providers data from across the food ecosystem to enable greater traceability, transparency and efficiency.
The ecosystem of network participants continues to grow. Carrefour has announced it will use the IBM Food Trust blockchain network to strengthen its commitment to food excellence action. As a leading retailer – with more than 12,000 stores in 33 countries – Carrefour stores will use the solution to highlight consumers’ confidence in a number of Carrefour-branded products. The expectation is that this solution will expand to encompass all Carrefour brands worldwide by 2022.
When using blockchain for trusted transactions involving food, users can quickly trace details back to the source in as little as a few seconds (instead of the days or weeks that this takes now). Unlike traditional databases, the attributes of blockchain – with its ability to permission data access – enable network members to obtain trusted information online. Because multiple parties endorse transactions, this delivers an immutable single version of the truth.
Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, IBM Global Industries, Clients, Platforms and Blockchain said: “The currency of trust today is transparency and achieving it in the area of food safety happens when responsibility is shared.
“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 a better and safer product for consumers.”
IBM Food Trust
The members of IBM Food Trust have helped build a powerful global business solution that:
- is interoperable
- builds on open standards
- enables the food industry to run their businesses more effectively
- provides safer food at lower costs.
In addition to Carrefour, organisations joining IBM Food Trust include:
- Topco Associates, LLC, representing 49 cooperative members, reaching over 15,000 stores and 65 million weekly customers
- retailer-owned cooperative Wakefern, representing 50 member companies and 349 stores
- suppliers, like BeefChain, Dennick Fruit Source, Scoular and Smithfield.
These 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 are expanding to optimise the food supply. This includes:
- generating insights on product freshness
- reducing waste
- making the supply chain more collaborative and transparent.
“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 to maximize shelf life and reduce losses due to spoilage,” said Ed Treacy, Vice President of Supply Chain Efficiencies at the Produce Marketing Association.
IBM Food Trust uses a decentralized model for multiple participating members of a food supply chain – from growers to suppliers to 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. All data on the blockchain is encrypted. The decentralised features of the network enable participants 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 this network to ensure the management and protection of all rights and information of all participants. The governance model assures every member observes and operates via the same set of rules. Blockchain network management considerations have been addressed, including data entry, membership, interoperability and security and hardware requirements. These provide a consistent way to standardise data.
“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.”
Technology base and availability
IBM Food Trust is now available globally. It runs on the IBM Cloud with its enterprise-class security, reliability and scalability.
Its foundation 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 appropriate to small, medium and global enterprises.
- a ‘Trace’ module enables members of a food ecosystem to trace products in seconds. This assists with mitigating cross-contamination, avoiding the spread of food-borne illness and reducing unnecessary waste
- a ‘Certifications’ module helps verify the provenance of digitised certificates, such as organic or fair trade. This enables participants across the ecosystem to load, manage and share food certifications digitally as well as speed up certificate management by up to 30 percent
- a ‘Data entry and access’ module which allows members to upload, access and manage data on the blockchain.
IBM Food Trust is available as a subscription service for members of the food ecosystem. The least expensive begins US$100/month. Suppliers can contribute data to the network at no cost.
Enterprise Times: what does this mean
An important aspect of IBM Food Trust is that organisations which upload data continue to own the data. The data owner is the only ‘entity that can provide permission for data visibility or sharing. This is a rational approach.
Indeed, what stands out is how well the IBM Food Trust blockchain approach fits Enterprise Times’ five criteria against which to assess possible blockchain initiatives. Blockchain glamour may lie in fancy fintech solutions; the practical is happening in and across logistics and supply chains – like with IBM Food Trust. And we may all end up healthier for it.