Unilever, Nestlé and Tyson join blockchain pioneers

24 August 2017

Firms including Unilever, Nestlé, and Tyson Foods are collaborating to integrate blockchain into their supply chains. 

The group of more than 10 companies will work with computing giant IBM to help develop its corporate blockchain platform for use in the food supply chain.

The hope is to use the technology to improve visibility so that in the event of an incident, such as a contamination, firms can trace the source and take dangerous products off the shelf in the shortest amount of time.

Marie Wieck, general manager at IBM Blockchain, said: “Unlike any technology before it, blockchain is transforming the way like-minded organisations come together and enabling a new level of trust based on a single view of the truth.

“Our work with organisations across the food ecosystem, as well as IBM’s new platform, will further unleash the vast potential of this exciting technology.”

Blockchain is a form of distributed ledger where multiple copies of the same database are stored across different computers. These constantly communicate with each other, verifying the integrity of the database and sharing ‘blocks’ of new information.

The technology is well known for its role behind the digital currency Bitcoin, but is also well suited for use in supply chains as it allows multiple parties across the chain – growers, packers, shippers, retailers and consumers –  to instantly review and update the same ledger securely while allowing changes to be tracked. 

As well as improving food safety, IBM also wants to use blockchain to automate billing, invoicing and auditing.

IBM has already piloted its blockchain technology with Walmart – also a partner in this latest collaboration – to verify the integrity of pork supply chains in China. The tech firm is now looking to scale up its platform.

Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart, said: “Blockchain technology enables a new era of end-to-end transparency in the global food system – equivalent to shining a light on food ecosystem participants that will further promote responsible actions and behaviours.

“It also allows all participants to share information rapidly and with confidence across a strong trusted network.”

The technology has also been used by other companies. One social enterprise is using it to verify that seafood supply chains are slavery free.

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