IBM Food Trust

Safer and More Efficient Food Supply Chains through Data Sharing

The problem

Globalisation means we can now buy food from across the world in our local shops. In order to enable this, food manufacturers and retailers operate long, complex supply chains delivering fresh produce to consumers every day. Behind the scenes, suppliers are constantly working to balance fluctuating consumer demand with the growing and harvesting cycles, and racing to transport perishable items around the world quickly and safely.

Good data collection and the sharing of this data through the supply chain could make the process more efficient, less wasteful and safer, delivering environmental and commercial benefits to all participants. To date, however, issues of trust, competition and lack of data connectivity have created barriers to unlocking those benefits.


The Solution: IBM Food Trust

IBM Food Trust has developed a blockchain data sharing platform intended to make food supply chains more effective. It can connect farmers, processors, distributors, and retailers in order to share data such as availability, food item location, certifications, safety tests and temperature exposure. It uses a permissioned, shared record of food system data. Retailers or food manufacturers process this data and make it available to supply partners according to pre-agreed permissions. Data usage is exercised in line with the Food Trust’s governance agreement set out by an advisory council.

In most cases, the retailer or food manufacturer initiates the data sharing activities. Typically, they co-ordinate and drive the commercial aspects of the initiative and derive the biggest benefit, so are willing to pay for access to the platform to support data driven actions.

IBM Food Trust can be thought of as a technology driven data stewardship service.

The world’s largest food manufacturer, Nestle, and US retailer Walmart have been early adopters of IBM Food Trust. Nestle are slowly rolling out the platform across their products, with brands such as Zoégas coffee, Mousline purée and Guigoz infant formula being fully integrated into the platform. Walmart have also reported using the platform to contain an E.Coli outbreak in a Romaine lettuce supply chain.

This example illustrates how data sharing across a supply chain can unlock commercial benefits for participants. Better data availability and sharing could commercially benefit most supply chains. This represents a large potential opportunity for data stewardship services especially if those benefits can be distributed to all participants.


Key Benefits

  • Supply chain efficiencies
  • Reduced food waste
  • Improved food safety
  • Easier food item traceability
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