With any new tech, whether it catches on or fades away after the hype largely depends on whether it’s adopted by influencers. In this case, it’s exciting to see Walmart (and Sam’s Club) embrace blockchain by setting forth a new mandate that requires its produce suppliers to incorporate blockchain into their farm-to-store tracking systems. This story originated from Reuters.
Another large company to begin looking for ways to use the tech is Nestle.
Walmart officials say that a big motivator for this move is the fact that there have been several disease outbreaks in the past few years related to food products, including stories of people dying because of contaminated lettuce. Presumably this secure method of tracking would improve the ability to track origins of produce, pinpoint where issues arise, and prevent unsafe foods from being as wide spread. And in cases where it occurs, it would be easier to track its source and hold suppliers more accountable.
Over 100 companies will be required to use this system, says Walmart VP of Food Safety Frank Yiannas. This should dramatically improve efficiency, since current methods can take up to 7 days at a time and often involve pen and paper, he says. His team established that timeline in a recent test where they attempted to track a shipment of mangoes back to the farm they came from. It was clearly not a quick process.
What is particularly interesting about this development is that the CDC consulted with Walmart to improve produce tracking so that they too could better manage food-borne illness.
With all the talk a year or so ago about how much power it consumes to create new data in the blockchain, a major player like Walmart making this move should create positive pressure to refine that system. Obviously when it comes to produce shipment tracking by one of the largest retailers in the U.S. there will be a massive amount of data involved. Operating at this scale will require careful planning, and quite likely for the tech to evolve.