IBM has embraced the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain and agritech and created a solution to track food ingredients from farm to fork.

These technologies are useful in helping achieve a “safer, smarter, and more sustainable food ecosystem”. Traceability in the supply chain remains a global concern. The issue was recently highlighted again by an outbreak of Cronobacter infections linked to infant formula. A global shortage of this essential commodity has not only led to desperate efforts by new parents to obtain it, but has led unscrupulous people to create and sell harmful fake products.

Blockchain based solutions are also seen as a way to identify genuine organic and fair-trade-derived produce, and identify where polluted and tainted produce has come from, been shipped to and consumed.

IBM’s Food Trust blockchain solution helps to make the food supply chain more transparent and traceable in a secure manner. Benefits include:

1. Creating a more efficient food network

Inefficiency in the food system is a global problem that’s been exacerbated by the pandemic. The numerous participants in the supply chain create endless opportunities to lose efficiency and profits which, in turn, affects consumer pricing, the carbon footprint, food waste and food freshness.

2. Building a sustainable food network

Across the globe, consumers are demanding to know more about their food – where it came from, the effect of production methods on our planet, and how workers and animals were treated in the process. Sustainability is no longer a bonus; it’s imperative for consumers who demand it, for brand loyalty and for future business models.

3. Improving food safety across the supply chain

Food recalls are a safety problem and a threat to profitability. Last year, Food Safety magazine counted 337 food safety recalls in the United States. The companies surveyed put costs at up to US$30 million per incident, which included direct costs plus indirect costs such as fines, lawsuits, lost sales and brand damage.

4. Freshness and the ability to accurately judge remaining shelf life

Demand for fresh food has been increasing around the world since before the pandemic. However, Covid means people shop for groceries less often so require supplies to last longer. With Australian food supplies also being hit by natural disasters, the importance of more-efficient management of a diminished supply is exacerbated.

5. Eliminating the chance for fraud and errors

The complexity of today’s global food system means food fraud continues to thrive. It’s a global business exceeding US$50 billion dollars annually and as long as there is a profit to be made (and there is), everything from honey and milk to fish and olive oil is at risk of adulteration. Regardless of the level of safety or where the vulnerability occurred, suppliers are largely liable for the impact, but everyone in the food industry suffers.

6. Driving food waste out of the supply chain

With up to a third of all food produced ending up in the bin, global efforts to reduce food waste are gaining momentum, but lacking traction. It is estimated that more than one billion tons of food ends up in landfills globally each year. End-to-end tracking helps diminish this by helping to identify waste hot spots for remediation.

While these are all global issues, recent fire, flood, drought and the pandemic have brought home these issues to Australians who have been to a food shop in recent times.

Case studies

One IBM Food Trust user is Antonello Produce in Australia, which required end-to-end traceability from the farm, through the distributor to the consumer.

The challenge

Antonello Produce needed to align the supply chain to respond immediately to new information. That was difficult due to incorrect information about product varieties, incorrect labelling and relevant product data, which was mostly paper based and very difficult to obtain in a timely fashion from growers, suppliers, agents and others.

The solution

A pilot with Food Trust demonstrated instant end-to-end traceability which quickly led to Antonello Produce pushing all of its growers and suppliers to use the blockchain solution within a year.

The results

Antonello Produce cut trace times down from weeks to seconds and achieved significant efficiency gains. It anticipates this initiative will deliver incremental growth with retail customers.

Other IBM Food Trust case studies can be viewed in these short videos.

How IBM Food Trust works in the seafood industry

Tracking coffee from plantation to cup with Food Trust

End-to-end food-chain tracing will be self-evident to organisations that operate in primary industries, logistics and storage and consumer sales.

Find out more about IBM Food Trust.

IBM was a sponsor of IoT Impact, Australia’s premiere IoT conference.