Since 2016, interest among supply chains and food industry companies in utilizing blockchain technology to increase efficiency has spiked dramatically. According to reporting by Trust Nodes, media mentions of the blockchain, supply chains, and food were practically non-existent until 2017. Since that time, these terms have appeared together more and more frequently. Now, it's common to see indications by some of the largest companies in the country that they are interested in exploring how blockchain can improve food supply chains. Mega-retailer Walmart (WMT) is among these companies.

Walmart and Mangoes

According to the International Dairy Foods Association, "Frank YIannas, vice president of food safety for Walmart, became a believer in the benefits of blockchain technology when his corporate team reduced the time it took to trace a package of sliced mangoes from more than six days to 2.2 seconds." In this case, blockchain has helped to coordinate many different players along the supply chain, dramatically improving efficiency in the process.

The food and supply chain industries believe that blockchain can be used to keep records securely and perhaps even across companies. They imagine a scenario in which a farmer in California could enter a record into the ledger and a shipper in Boston be able to immediately determine if a cargo capacity has been reached, for instance.

Segmentation to Unity

Yiannas explains that "the way traceability is done today, each segment of the food system does it their own way. Most actually do it on paper or on systems that don't speak to each other, so you can never have a full view of what's happening in the food system." Blockchain could help to integrate those systems, speeding them up and allowing them to be in communication so as to improve flow nationwide. Particularly in the case of paper systems, where one has to search by hand for records, the process is primed for disruption.

A chip with a private key could link up a delivery to a portion of the blockchain ledger, undoing the need for a barcode. These chips could potentially even have GPS functionality, further aiding in the process of tracking. The possibilities for blockchain's improvement of this space seem limitless.

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