IBM Unveils CPG Blockchain Consortium

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IBM Unveils CPG Blockchain Consortium

IBM Blockchain tool and consortium release

A group of companies from across the global food supply chain have announced a major blockchain collaboration with IBM intended to further strengthen consumer confidence in the global food system.

The consortium includes Dole Food, Driscoll's, Golden State Foods, Kroger, McCormick & Co., McLane Co., Nestle, Tyson Foods, Unilever and Walmart, who will work with IBM to identify new areas where the global supply chain can benefit from blockchain.

Many of the critical issues affecting food safety — such as cross-contamination, the spread of food-borne illness, unnecessary waste and the economic burden of recalls — are magnified by lack of access to information and traceability, according to a media release announcing the collaboration. It can take weeks to identify the precise point of contamination, which can lead to further illness, lost revenue and wasted product. 

Blockchain is ideally suited to help address these challenges because it establishes a trusted environment for all transactions. In the case of the global food supply chain, all participants — growers, suppliers, processors, distributors, retailers, regulators and consumers — can gain permissioned access to known and trusted information regarding the origin and state of food for their transactions.

This can enable food providers and other members of the ecosystem to use a blockchain network to trace contaminated product to its source in a short period of time to ensure safe removal from store shelves and stem the spread of illnesses.

The consortium's manufacturers and retailers are now coming together with IBM to further champion blockchain as an enabling technology for the food sector. Together, they will help identify and prioritize new areas where blockchain can benefit food ecosystems and inform new solutions. This work will draw on multiple IBM pilots and production networks in related areas that successfully demonstrate ways in which blockchain can positively impact global food traceability. 

Beyond food supply chain applications, blockchains are now being used to transform processes and streamline transactions for everything from flowers, real estate and trade finance to education, insurance and medical services.

To accelerate this adoption, IBM is introducing the first fully integrated, enterprise-grade production blockchain platform, which aims to allow more organizations to quickly activate their own business networks and access the capabilities needed to successfully develop, operate, govern and secure these networks. The IBM Blockchain Platform is available via the IBM Cloud.

The platform addresses a wide range of enterprise pain points, including both business and technical requirements around security, performance, collaboration and privacy. It includes innovation developed through open source collaboration in the Hyperledger community. 

The integrated platform allows multiple parties to jointly develop, govern, operate and secure blockchain networks to help enterprises accelerate blockchain adoption.

In parallel trials in China and the U.S., IBM and Walmart recently demonstrated that blockchain can be used to track a product from the farm through every stage of the supply chain right to the retail shelf — in seconds instead of days or weeks.

These trials also demonstrated that stakeholders throughout the global food supply chain view food safety as a collaborative issue rather than a competitive one and are willing to work together to improve the food system for everyone.

"As an advocate for greater transparency in the food system to benefit customers, Walmart looks forward to expanding on our initial work by collaborating with others to accelerate exploration on how this technology can be used as a more effective food traceability and food safety tool," said Frank Yiannas, Walmart's vice president of food safety. "Blockchain technology enables a new era of end-to-end transparency. ... It also allows all participants to share information rapidly and with confidence across a strong trusted network." 

To help meet the increasing demand for a skilled technical workforce trained in blockchain, IBM is also making available a wide range of free resources including software, training and professional partnerships  to more than 1,000 universities. Offerings include six months of access to the IBM Cloud to use the blockchain cloud sandbox.

IBM is working with select universities including Baruch College/CUNY, Fordham University, University of Arkansas, State University of New York at Buffalo and University of British Columbia to fund research grants, develop customized curricula and host workshops and hackathons.