As the Research Partner of Distributed:
Trade, Chain Business Insights is providing this
early access into its exclusive research on blockchains’ role in supply chain
applications. At Distributed: Trade,
we will present highlights from our research and lead a panel of blockchain
innovators to offer a technology response to business issues.
IBM is working toward the
beta launch of a food-provenance service based on blockchain technology. An
outline of its planned offering, which has yet to be formally launched, has
emerged recently as a result of presentations by company executives at supply
chain industry events.
Dubbed simply “Food Safety Solution,” the service, which
should be available in beta at the end of this year, is targeting a wide range
of entities that make up the food supply chain ecosystem, including growers,
food processors and distributors, as well as logistics providers and retailers.
Within the food supply chain, the issue of food safety is a challenging one, impacted
by an industry modus operandi that is based on manual processes, paper records,
limited sharing of information and a lack of trust between participants that
drives numerous costly audit processes.
With its service, IBM is actually looking to address a range of issues that
impact the food supply chain in different ways, including:
Traceability back to the grower/food producer, which is especially important
when foodborne illnesses occur. Such incidents need to be dealt with quickly in
order to minimize broader supply chain impacts.
Improving food freshness and reducing food waste, the former being demanded
increasingly by consumers, and the latter an imperative given global population
Transparency of food through a supply chain as consumers become increasingly
interested in where their food comes from and how it has been produced and
processed, with an eye on sustainability, organic production and reducing the
use of slave labor.
Reducing food fraud and complying with increasing record-keeping and
authenticity regulations, which significantly add to costs for those
transporting food through its supply chain.
IBM’s planned service would be based on its blockchain platform, which
leverages the open-source Hyperledger Fabric blockchain engineered for
performance and security. Running on its Bluemix cloud service, the food safety
offering would be provided on a software-as-a-service basis, with some services
free to use and others requiring monthly subscriptions and per-use payments.
Overall, the delivery and pricing model are designed to make the service
available to smaller players, such as local farms and specialist processing
IBM expects for participants to interact with its service via applications
running on mobile devices as well as through integration with existing systems
via application programming interfaces. The information captured could include
trade documents, certificates of authentication, and inspection and ownership
records that combine to provide an end-to-end provenance for food.
Beyond providing an immutable record of food supply chain documentation, the
service can also improve communications between participants, manage product
recalls and provide alerts when products might be nearing expiration dates.
Big Blue’s focus on food supply chains likely
draws on proof-of-concept and pilot projects that it has been undertaking in
recent months with retailer Walmart. For those trials, the companies have partnered
to track the supply chain of pork in China and mangoes in the U.S. At a recent
investor event, Walmart noted that its use of blockchain technology has shortened
the time it takes to trace the origin of food from days to minutes.
When the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), a U.S. federal agency that regulates futures and options markets, issued a formal request for input on Ethereum, the Ethereum community took it upon itself to create a response.