Walmart used blockchain to reduce product traces from days to seconds

Challenge

When an outbreak of a food-borne disease happens, it can take days, if not weeks, to find its source. Better traceability could help save lives by allowing companies to act faster and protect the livelihoods of farmers by only discarding produce from the affected farms.

Approach

Walmart thought that blockchain technology might be a good fit for the decentralized food supply ecosystem. To test this hypothesis, the company created a food traceability system based on Hyperledger Fabric. Walmart, together with its technology partner IBM, ran two proof of concept projects to test the system. One project was about tracing mangos sold in Walmart’s US stores and the other aimed to trace pork sold in its China stores.

The Hyperledger Fabric blockchain-based food traceability system built for the two products worked. For pork in China, it allowed uploading certificates of authenticity to the blockchain, bringing more trust to a system where that used to be a serious issue. And for mangoes in the US, the time needed to trace their provenance went from 7 days to… 2.2 seconds!

Results

Walmart can now trace the origin of over 25 products from 5 different suppliers using a system powered by Hyperledger Fabric. The company plans to roll out the system to more products and categories in the near future. In fact, it has recently announced that it will start requiring all of its suppliers of fresh leafy greens (like salad and spinach) to trace their products using the system.

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