IBM and Chef Aarón Sánchez Bring Food to the Blockchain

Chef Aarón Sánchez showed us how food can hit the blockchain and our bellies.

Jan 15, 2020 at 4:00 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 12:08 p.m. UTC

Chef Aarón Sánchez and IBM teamed up at CES 2020 to create a vision of a blockchain-based food chain. IBM's Food Trust project, of which Sánchez is a part, aims to allow growers, grocers and cooks to track their food from seed to plate.

The system, said IBM General Manager of Blockchain Services Jason Kelley, uses the blockchain simply because it is the cheapest way to get everyone –  from the farmer in the field to a tech-loving chef like Sánchez – to connect. Rather than forcing each participant to run massive data stores or buy expensive gear, this blockchain allows for most of the interaction to happen using 3D-printed hardware and cellphones.

Sánchez is the founder of the restaurant Johnny Sanchez in New Orleans and a judge on the television show MasterChef.

Originally aimed at managing food supply chains for big corporations like Nestle, the new tech allows for farmers to optically or chemically scan their products using simple electronics. Then, as the food moves from farmer to supplier to kitchen, everyone involved can confirm the product matches the description. In fact, IBM showed off how its technology can "read" the colors in olive oil and help identify the manufacturer. One manufacturer, CHO, is already shipping its blockchain-tracked oil to Whole Foods stores.

We spoke with Kelley and Sánchez at CES 2020. In fact, Sánchez cooked with blockchain-tracked produce including kale and scallops.

"For me, I felt like there were a lot of nameless ingredients, in the sense that I didn't have the connection to the farmer necessarily," said Sánchez. "Blockchain allows you to have a direct connection and a conversation through technology."

Sánchez served his blockchain-infused food at the event, showing us that the path to mass adoption may be through our stomachs.

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