Retail giant Walmart to track lettuce and spinach from farm to blockchain

In an attempt to further limit the impact of food safety scares and product recalls, US retail giant Walmart is introducing a blockchain database for lettuce and spinach products.

In around a year’s time, Walmart will require over a hundred suppliers of these two leafy vegetables to contribute detailed information about their products into a blockchain to make it possible for the retailer to rapidly pinpoint contamination in the event of a food scare. This move comes after a two-year pilot project of a blockchain database developed by IBM for Walmart and several other retailers exploring similar moves.

Until now, blockchain technology – which initially attracted attention as the technology behind transactions in bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies – has generated a lot of excitement and experimentation in various industries, but there have been few real-world applications. Brigid McDermott, vice president of IBM Blockchain, describes the Walmart initiative as “the first real instance of doing this at scale”.

Blockchain will strengthen Walmart’s positioning

This move will strengthen Walmart’s positioning by emphasizing the quality of its fresh food to its customers, as well as that it is taking the issue of food safety seriously. Additionally, it could save the retailer considerable time and money in the case of a food-borne illness, since it will enable the retailer to track the source of the problem in a matter of seconds rather than several days. Only the affected food then has to be isolated and discarded, rather than having to recall and destroy the entire stock of the at-risk product. Walmart is said to be focusing on leafy green vegetables first because, along with beef, they tend to have the highest incidences of contagion.