In recent years, creating visibility into supply chains through technology that enables traceability has become integral for most industries across the world.
Tracking and tracing food items at every step of the supply chain is an important way for retailers as well as suppliers to comply with food safety regulations. Companies that implement track and trace solutions in the fresh produce industry will be able to access and obtain critical produce information at every step of the farm to table journey, allowing them to prevent any issues of contamination and save their food items from being discarded because of other unmonitored problems that occur along the way.
Governments have begun to understand and see this shift across industries, and are beginning to capitalize on the security and traceability value that technologies like blockchain can offer, especially in the agricultural industry. As of August 2020, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed a set of amendments to current organic agricultural products’ USDA regulations. This proposal includes incorporating the use of digital ledger technology for supply chain traceability.
The USDA is focused on protecting organic supply chain integrity, and fostering trust in the USDA organic label at the consumer and at the industry level. And in order to strengthen that trust, they aim to significantly advance their end to end traceability, improve and fortify the control systems of organic produce and put into effect USDA approved organic regulations. The proposal of amendments aims to cover this supply chain protection by reinforcing production oversight and enforcement, as well as the handling and sales of products.
The Agricultural Marketing Service said they will rely on the use of blockchain in order to improve supply chain visibility and traceability as well as to identify authentic organic products. This comes after their mention of the success of the Walmart Food Traceability Initiative, a partnership between Walmart and IBM which employed blockchain technology to successfully track and trace food items like pork, mangoes and leafy greens. They also acknowledged the Bumble Bee Foods’ partnership with SAP, which also uses blockchain technology to effectively trace yellowfin tuna. Given the success of the Walmart Food Traceability Initiative, the employment of digital ledger technology could also serve to build a strong infrastructure that would support the USDA with secure, verifiable and transparent organic produce tracking, ultimately providing real time insights into all layers of the supply chain.
Post their partnership with Walmart, IBM announced an extension of their blockchain network the IBM Food Trust, that has now successfully been adopted by Nestlé, Carrefour and CHO, a Tunisian olive oil producer, truly making its mark in the global food industry. Another notable international use of blockchain for this purpose has been achieved by the French retailer Auchan’s food traceability initiative. Auchan unveiled its blockchain based food traceability initiative across multiple countries in 2018, after thoroughly testing out “FoodChain” in Vietnam, a food traceability system created by the German start up TE-FOOD.
Many industries have achieved traceability and established provenance using blockchain based solutions. National and state governments are now starting to explore the potential of blockchain technology to establish food traceability.