Starting in September 2019, Walmart and its Sam’s Club division will require suppliers of fresh, leafy greens to implement real-time, end-to-end traceability of products back to the farm using a digital ledger developed by International Business Machines Corp. The world’s largest retailer plans similar mandates for other fresh fruit and vegetable providers within the next year, according to Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety.
“It’s becoming a business requirement, it’s a part of our supplier agreements,” Yiannas said in an interview. The goal is to speed up response times in case of food-borne illnesses and recalls.
Walmart’s move shows that IBM’s huge bet on blockchain, the technology that underpins the digital currency Bitcoin, is starting to pay off. With the leafy-greens mandate, more than 100 companies will be required to use IBM’s blockchain service, according to Walmart.
More vendors will join in as the mandate is expanded. While IBM offers users of the service a free tier, many are expected to pay a fee, which will start at several hundreds dollars a month for a company with less than $50m in revenue, according to Brigid McDermott, a company vice president.