| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Oct 19 IBM, U.S. retailer
Walmart and Tsinghua University on Wednesday announced a
joint effort to track the movement of food products in China
using blockchain technology to improve food safety in the
world's second-largest economy.
Blockchain technology, which powers the digital currency
bitcoin, enables data sharing across a network of individual
computers. It has gained popularity worldwide due to its
usefulness in recording and keeping track of assets across
practically all industries.
Chinese food safety practices have raised concern about
contamination in China and in countries where Chinese food
products are imported, and the new project aims to trace the
movement of meat, vegetables and other products.
China's government has identified food authentication and
supply chain tracking as a critical step to quickly find and
eliminate sources of contamination.
With blockchain, the movement of food products can be
digitally tracked from suppliers including farms to the store
shelves and ultimately to consumers.
IBM said this could be done on the blockchain, which
provides a permanent record of transactions that cannot be
altered. This would serve as a viable alternative to traditional
paper tracking and manual inspection systems, IBM added.
"Advanced technology has reached into so many aspects of
modern life but it has lagged in food traceability, and in
particular in creating more secure food supply chains," said
Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, industry
platforms, at IBM in New York.
When applied to the food supply chain, product information
such as farm origin details, batch numbers, factory and
processing data, expiration dates, storage temperatures and
shipping details are digitally connected to food items, and the
information is entered on the blockchain at every step of the
process, IBM said.
The information in each transaction is agreed upon by all
members of the business network. Once a consensus is reached, it
becomes a permanent record that cannot be changed, IBM said.
The record created by the blockchain can also help retailers
like Walmart better manage the shelf-life of products in
individual stores, further strengthening safeguards related to
The world's largest retailer also announced the opening of
the Walmart Food Safety Collaboration Center in Beijing in
response to China's initiatives on food safety, and said
blockchain technology would be a major part of the program.
Walmart said it will be using IBM Blockchain based on the
Linux Foundation's Hyperledger Project, which is an open source
software project that builds blockchain tools.
Tsinghua University, located in Beijing, will serve as an
academic partner and advisor on the blockchain project.
(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Will Dunham)