On Monday 8 October 2018, IBM announced the “IBM Food Trust”, a blockchain based production cloud network which will enable participating retailers, suppliers, growers and food industry providers to see supply chain data in near real time. IBM believes that the network will enable greater traceability, transparency and efficiency in the food chain.

The IBM Food Trust relies on the open source blockchain framework, Hyperledger Fabric and will be made available to users as a subscription service. Through a permissioned blockchain network, the decentralised model will enable multiple participating members of the food ecosystem to share food origin details, processing data and shipping information.

IBM is offering three Food Trust SaaS modules with pricing that is scaled for small, medium and global enterprises. Suppliers can contribute data to the network at no cost.

  • Trace- The trace module allows members of a food ecosystem to more securely trace products in seconds to help mitigate cross-contamination, help reduce spread of food-borne illness and reduce unnecessary waste – a process that often takes weeks using other methods.
  • Certifications- The certifications module helps verify the provenance of digitized certificates, such as organic or fair trade. It also enables participants across the ecosystem to easily load, manage and share food certifications, digitally speeding up certificate management by up to 30%.
  • Data entry and access- The data entry and access module allows members to securely upload, access and manage data on the blockchain.

IBM states that the benefits of the IBM Food Trust are not limited to food safety. The network has also been developed to focus on optimising food supply. This includes generating insights on product freshness, reducing waste and making the supply chain more collaborative and transparent.

Participants of the network include Carrefour. The  European supermarket giant will join existing users of IBM’s blockchain technology, such as Walmart. Walmart already has 25 products from 10 supplier companies on the permissioned blockchain. The products range from poultry and berries to yogurt. It was also recently announced that Walmart is planning to request suppliers of leafy greens to implement real time, end-to-end traceability using the IBM Food Trust technology.

Through a library of IBM Food Trust APIs, hardware, software and technology companies can write transaction data directly onto the blockchain network to provide valuable insights. For example, 3M is working with IBM to enable its food safety diagnostic equipment to communicate with the blockchain network and Emerson is leveraging its advanced cold chain technology to provide temperature-related information on in-transit refrigerated cargo to improve shelf life estimates and food freshness.

To help ensure that the rights and information of all participants are managed and protected appropriately IBM states that it has developed a comprehensive governance model for the network.