When the folks at IBM and Walmart first got together to reimagine how to track and trace the food supply, a few companies signed on to see what would happen and were intrigued by what could be.
I was honored to be a guest on the internal daily feed IBM.TV that explores many topics of interest to its about 352,000 global employees. Naturally, the discussion I had with five IBM “hosts” from different parts of the world centered around COVID-19 and its effects on shoppers and the food supply chain.
Darryn Pollack wrote in his column on Forbes.com how the world’s largest food producer, Nestle, has announced that it will be expanding its use of blockchain technology, through its membership with the IBM Food Trust Blockchain Initiative, to the company’s luxury coffee brand Zoegas in Sweden.
Through blockchain-recorded data, buyers of the coffee—in cooperation with The Rainforest Alliance—will now be able to trace their coffee back to the different origins, which is important in this journey of accountability, traceability and transparency as the alliance independently provides reliable data beyond what is usually disclosed by Nestle. By scanning the QR code on the packaging, consumers can follow the coffee journey from information about farmers, time of harvest, transaction certificate for the specific shipments and the roasting period.
What does this have to do with COVID-19? A lot. If every food company and supermarket retailer, such as founding member Nestle, was using the IBM Food Trust blockchain, we most likely could have alleviated a lot of the panic from both consumers and supermarket buyers and could have planned better for the deluge of hoarding and perhaps even avoided it entirely.
Can you imagine today’s much disparaged toilet paper buyer would have been able to know and track and communicate to shoppers how much was already produced, where it was and how much would be on the store’s shelves on a daily basis?
Building traceability and transparency in complex supply chains isn’t easy, but it is being done and it offers a continuous way to monitor and report the impact to consumers.