Thanks to a blockchain-based collaboration between Walmart and IBM, people in China will soon be able to trace the journey of their food, from farm to store, using nothing more than their smartphones.
According to a report by the South China Morning Post, Walmart announced the food quality collaboration with IBM last year, to develop blockchain-powered traceability solutions which will enable customers to scan quick-response codes on food products with their smart phones, and determine the origins of the products.
The initiative to use technology for ensuring food quality and safety is a welcome step as customers in China have grown increasingly suspicious about the quality of products, following a string of scandals including a contaminated baby milk formula incident several years ago.
Now, on the first anniversary of the Walmart ‘Food Safety Collaboration Center’ in China, Walmart’s vice-president for food safety, Frank Yiannas, reaffirmed the company’s commitment to the project and provided progress updates.
According to Yiannas, following successful pilots in China and the US, Walmart’s 400-store network across mainland China is “in active conversation to accelerate the progress” of implementing blockchain tech to trace the origins of food products.
While speaking to South China Morning Post at a forum in Beijing on the day of the anniversary, Yiannas said:
“Blockchain technology is a game changer in the food industry and China is probably the place to scale its adoption as the Chinese government is already interested in tracing (the supply chain of food) and Chinese consumers are so tech-savvy.”
The DLT-based technology developed in collaboration with IBM stores data in a unified storage platform, which decreases the time required to trace the origins of a product. This is expected to be a significantly useful feature in the case of contaminated products, as it can ensure rapid product recalls, thus reducing customers’ exposure to tainted goods. Yannis stated:
“The process of finding out where the food is first produced, how many times it changes hands between different wholesalers, brokers before reaching our dinner tables, can be very complex. By tracking how and where the food we sell is produced, blockchain provides new levels of transparency and accountability – responsible systems result in safer food.”
The food industry is one of the many sectors where blockchain tech (which is at the core of cryptocurrencies) is bringing about a revolution. The healthcare industry is also looking into the potential of DLT tech to change the way medical data is stored, shared, and managed.