Previously, when dozens of people across the country got sick from eating contaminated romaine lettuce, Walmart did the most sensible thing: It cleared every shred off its shelves just to be safe. However, Walmart & IBM are envisioning a fully transparent 21st century digitized food system. Walmart announced that it would be using a blockchain, the type of database technology behind Bitcoin, to keep track of every bag of spinach and head of lettuce.
When another food-borne illness hits – like the E. coli outbreak affecting romaine , the retailer would only have to discard the food that was actually at risk.
Walmart’s embrace of the blockchain highlights how difficult it still is for grocers, including the nation’s largest, to keep track of their food. Last year, Walmart conducted an experiment to trace the source of sliced mangos. It took seven days for employees to locate the farm in Mexico that grew the fruit. With the blockchain software developed by IBM, the mangos could be tracked in a matter of seconds.
No Cryptocurrency or Bitcoins involved!
The blockchains being tested by companies, including the version adopted by Walmart, generally have nothing to do with Bitcoin or any cryptocurrency — they are entirely new databases with no coins involved. And unlike the Bitcoin blockchain, which can be viewed by anyone, only certain people will be able to view and access the Walmart database.
The system that Walmart is using, IBM Food Trust, has been developed for consumer companies, including Dole, Wegmans and Unilever, to track products moving through the supply chain.
How the blockchain will work
At each stop along the way, people handling produce for Walmart will make an entry on the blockchain, signing off when they receive it and then when they move it onto the next person in the chain. IBM and Walmart say they are already tracking other products like yogurt and poultry on the system.
[via New York Times]