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Heavy hitters support blockchain tech push

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ARMONK, N.Y. — Retail giants Walmart and Kroger Co. are among a number of companies teaming up with IBM Corp. to explore how to apply blockchain technology to help bolster consumer confidence in the global food system.

The coalition includes retailers and food companies such as Unilever, Nestlé, Tyson Foods and Dole. They will be aiming to use blockchains, a technology to maintain secure digital records and improve the traceability of their foodstuffs, such as chicken, chocolate and bananas.

These companies see blockchains as an opportunity to revamp their data management processes across a complex network that includes farmers, brokers, distributors, processors, retailers and consumers. One potential benefit — investigations into food-borne illnesses can take weeks but a blockchain-based system has the ability to reduce that time to seconds.

Walmart has already run two blockchain experiments in partnership with IBM. The first involved tracking Chinese pork. The second involved tracing Mexican mangoes.

“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,” Frank Yiannas, Walmart’s vice president for food safety, wrote for the announcement. “It also allows participants to share information rapidly and with confidence across a strong trusted network.”

“Safety is a key value for Kroger, and our partnership with IBM positions us to explore and test blockchain technology as a solution for enhanced food safety across our business,” added Howard Popoola, vice president of corporate food technology and regulatory compliance at Kroger. “Food safety is a universal priority for food retailers and companies. It benefits our customers to have greater transparency and traceability in the supply chain.”


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