Walmart and Sam’s Club have sent letters to their suppliers of fresh leafy greens, asking them to trace their products all the way back to the farm using blockchain technology. The initiative, designed to improve transparency and food safety, is expected to be fully implemented by September 2019.
The change will provide real-time, end-to-end traceability for affected products. Traditional methods of tracking the supply chain rely on paper trails, meaning it can take days to track down where an item originated, while the new method will work almost instantly. The recent contamination and recall of romaine lettuce illustrated the drawbacks of current record-keeping systems.
“It was difficult for consumers to know how to determine where their lettuce was grown,” said Frank Yiannas, VP of Food Safety at Walmart in a statement. “None of the bags of salad had ‘Yuma, Ariz.’ on them. In the future, using the technology we’re requiring, a customer could potentially scan a bag of salad and know with certainty where it came from.”
The technology will help Walmart identify, research and react to food safety concerns while also improving transparency. Walmart has been working with IBM to digitize its food supply chain, helping the retail giant process the nearly 70,000 food products carried by a typical grocery store.
Retailers aren’t limiting their use of blockchain to food: DeBeers is using the technology to authenticate its diamonds, while Overstock.com has been pushing development of blockchain as a service through its subsidiary tZERO. Blockchain also holds potential for international commerce; some experts have predicted that it could reduce the cost of cross-border payments by as much as 3%.