IBM and nine major food manufacturers and retailers have formed a consortium to explore how blockchain technology can improve the safety and transparency of the food supply chain. The collaboration includes Tyson Foods, Wal-Mart, Dole, Driscoll’s, Golden State Foods, Kroger, McCormick, McLane Co., Nestle, and Unilever.

IBM and its partner companies will work to identify new areas of the food sector that can benefit from blockchain technology. Multiple IBM pilot projects and production networks that demonstrate the positive impacts of blockchain on food ecosystems will serve as the basis of the consortium’s work.

Scott Stillwell, Tyson Foods
Scott Stillwell, Ph.D., senior vice-president of food safety and quality assurance for Tyson Foods

“We’re excited about the possibilities that come with this technology and are glad to collaborate with IBM and others,” said Scott Stillwell, Ph.D., senior vice-president of food safety and quality assurance for Tyson Foods. “Producing safe food is critical to our business; it appears blockchain can help provide trust not only about the origin of food, but also about how that food moved through the supply chain.”

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and IBM previously have worked on pilot projects that use blockchain technology to track mangoes in the United States and pork in China as the products move through the supply chain. In June, the companies reported that early trials in the United States and China showed that blockchains may successfully trace food products from suppliers to retail and ultimately to consumers. Farm origination details, batch numbers, factory and processing data, expiration dates and shipping details were digitally connected to food items and added to the blockchain network at each step of the farm-to-fork process.

Frank Yiannas, Wal-Mart
Frank Yiannis, vice-president of food safety at Wal-Mart

“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,” said Frank Yiannis, vice-president of food safety at Wal-Mart. “It also allows all participants to share information rapidly and with confidence across a strong trusted network. This is critical to ensuring that the global food system remains safe for all.”

In addition to forming the collaboration, IBM announced the company’s fully integrated, enterprise-grade production blockchain platform, which will enable multiple parties to develop, govern, operate and secure blockchain networks.

Marie Wieck, IBM Blockchain
Marie Wieck, general manager for IBM Blockchain
“Unlike any technology before it, blockchain is transforming the way like-minded organizations come together and enabling a new level of trust based on a single view of the truth,” said Marie Wieck, general manager for IBM Blockchain. “Our work with organizations across the food ecosystem, as well as IBM’s new platform, will further unleash the vast potential of this exciting technology, making it faster for organizations of all sizes and in all industries to move from concept to production to improve the way business gets done.”