Walmart plans to sell leafy greens that are tracked using blockchain technology within the next year.
In a press release published Monday, the world's largest retailer both by revenue and by employee count announced that it told its suppliers for leafy green produce to integrate a blockchain-based tracking system built in collaboration with IBM by September 2019.
According to the letter sent to suppliers, any company working with Walmart must work with the IBM Food Trust network to create end-to-end traceability in two phases. The blockchain platform will make it easier for Walmart to source any food items quickly, with the release noting that tracing such items at present is "an almost insurmountable challenge."
The move comes in the wake of an E. coli outbreak that originated in Arizona earlier this year. While authorities at the Center for Disease Control warned consumers to avoid lettuce grown near the city of Yuma, Walmart vice president of food safety Frank Yiannas noted that it was difficult for customers to confirm where exactly their produce was grown.
He added in a statement:
"None of the bags of salad had 'Yuma, Arizona' on them. In the future, using the technology we're requiring, a customer could potentially scan a bag of salad and know with certainty where it came from."
The first phase of the roll-out will require direct suppliers to create "one-step back traceability" by the end of January. Any companies that have suppliers of their own will then have until the end of September 2019 to integrate the network vertically.
"To assist you in meeting this new Walmart business requirement, we have worked closely with IBM and other food companies to create a user-friendly, low-cost, blockchain-enabled traceability solution that meets our requirements and creates shared value for the entire leafy green farm to table continuum," says the letter.
As previously reported, Walmart has applied blockchain to the food-tracking use case in the past, most notably in a bid to shore up the quality of pig products in China.
Image Credit: photopixel / Shutterstock.com