Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has announced a partnership with IBM Corp. to use "blockchain" software technology to improve its track and trace capabilities on food shipments in China.
Working in collaboration with China's Tsinghua University, the partners will track shipments of meat, vegetables, and other products through the Chinese supply chain in an effort to improve food safety and reduce contamination.
Blockchain technology can provide better supply chain transparency than manual, paper-based approaches by creating a secure, digital record of transactions that preserves the chain of custody as goods flow from suppliers to distributors to retailers. That process is particularly important in food logistics, where expired or counterfeit products can pose safety risks to consumers.
Also known as distributed ledger technology, blockchain is a shared, immutable software record for recording the history of transactions, IBM says. Until recently, the technology was known primarily for being the foundation of the bitcoin online electronic currency, but has recently been adopted for business use in industries such as finance, banking, and healthcare.
"Advanced technology has reached into so many aspects of modern life, but it has lagged in food traceability, and in particular in creating more secure food supply chains," IBM's Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, industry platforms, said in a release.
Walmart will use the technology in its recently opened Walmart Food Safety Collaboration Center in Beijing.