Blockchain technology is most known for how it is used in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, but two French retailers are making use of it to add a new degree of traceability to their supply chains.
The technology stores records of transactions across multiple servers rather than a single database. Each node in the blockchain is controlled by a separate entity.
This means that the record is immune to being tampered with, since if a change was made to it on one server it would then differ from the copies elsewhere. In a world of global supply chains and multiple suppliers, this open record of transactions could bring much more certainty to the technology.
Auchan: Visibility from farm to fork in France
Having conducted trials of its blockchain tracking solution in Vietnam, Auchan is introducing it in its European markets of France, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
The technology will allow those involved in the supply chain to record information about the products at each stage of its life and input these into one distributed and open database.
Consumers will be able to scan a QR code on a product at the point of purchase and access all of the information about the product’s journey to them.
The interface takes the form of a B2B application for operations in the logistics chain, a B2C application for consumers and an inventory management tool for authorities to check certificates issued by farms.
The initial launch will see the technology used in France to track the supply chain of organic carrots, before being expanded to potatoes and chicken in December and February respectively.
In Italy it will be used to track tomatoes and chickens, in Spain for pork products and exotic fruits and for chickens in Portugal.
Auchan has been testing the technology in the Ho Chi Minh City region since 2017 with help from Te-Food, a German start-up, and public authorities.
The technology is currently being used with 18,000 pigs, 200,000 chickens and 2.5 million eggs, and will soon be used for aubergines, mangos and durian fruit.
Carrefour: Building a global traceability standard
Fellow French retailer Carrefour, meanwhile, is a founding member of the IBM Food Trust platform, which launched recently after 18 months of testing.
Similar to the Auchan model, growers and suppliers can share food origin details, processing data and shipping information on a single network.
It contains facilities for more quickly tracing products and verify the provenance of digital certificates.
Other founding members include cooperative Topco Associates and Wakefern, as well as suppliers BeefChain, Dennick Fruit Source, Scoular and Smithfield.
The French retailer plans to expand the technology to all of its brands worldwide by 2022.
Carrefour’s collaboration with IBM follows US retail giant Walmart’s work with IBM to implement blockchain, which has been taking place since 2017. In September, it announced that all suppliers of leafy green vegetables would be required to upload data to its blockchain by September 2019.
Its goal is to make it easier to prevent the spread of pathogens such as E.coli and salmonella.
In the wake of outbreaks, customers generally have to throw away all potentially affected products, whereas using blockchain they can trace the precise origin of their product.
It says that tracing contaminated foods to their source previously took seven days but now takes only 2.2 seconds.
Image credit: IBM