Walmart is launching a Blockchain platform for tracing lettuce and spinach from farmers to its stores’ shelves all over the USA. The project is dubbed as the Walmart Food Traceability Initiative. It is designed to be instrumental in enhancing the quality of the products through a transparent and open-source supply chain. Since Walmart consists of two components, Sam’s Warehouse Club and the stores including supercenters, the initiative will be applying to all of them.
It Is All For Quality Assurance
The Blockchain idea was conceptualized after Walmart shoppers fell sick after consuming romaine lettuce. The unfortunate accident brought about a heated debate over quality assurance and consumer protection. The issue of contention was largely exacerbated when reports emerged that the causal factor was E-coli. The store management hence decided to clear the shelves and step up a research on a strategy of quality assurance.
Although the US has cutting edge mechanisms for quality assurance in manufactured products, it is difficult to monitor veggies directly as farmers usually supply directly to stores. With the threat of E-coli outbreaks, this becomes a risky affair. A Blockchain platform, therefore, enables the store attendants to trace the product to farmers and regulatory authorities to pinpoint affected farmers and intervene before a larger population is exposed to emerging life-threatening diseases.
Joint Partnership With Blockchain Experts
Walmart sourced for outside collaboration to develop the new Blockchain platform. The joint initiative was with Cincinnati based Kroger Co. and other CPGs. On the other hand, the platform providers are the New York-based IBM and Armonk. The primary task of the initiative is to identify areas in the supply chain that could benefit from DLT technology.
Frank Yiannas, the Food Safety VP at Walmart says that the main focus of the initiative is to link data with other data points. He adds that this is a strategy for enhancing safety, affordability, and sustainability of food supply chain within the internet of things model. Frank further adds that transparency is the end goal rather than traceability.
Implementation Will Take Two Years
The project that is currently underway started in August last year. It is expected to yield conclusive results by September 2019. From then, the 100 suppliers of veggies to Walmart and the other shops will be required to input details about their farm produce on the public ledger.
By the standard features of Blockchain, it will be impossible for farmers to falsify information as the network will have permission blocks that notify other users about an entry. Direct suppliers will be required to start using the platform in January 2019. They will be part of the trial sessions. Other suppliers will start using the platform by September 2019. Later on, this Blockchain will be scaled upwards to incorporate suppliers of other products.
Walmart Will Influence Other Retailers
Walmart has 11,700 stores in 28 countries. In the US alone, it has 4,177 stores where 3, 275 are massive superstores. Therefore, the initiative will influence other companies that rely on a trustworthy supply chain to adopt Blockchain technology to stay competitive.