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Walmart is ready to send blockchain to some food suppliers

After several years of testing, Walmart Inc. is ready to request the use of blockchain technology from its US suppliers, marking one of its biggest commercial uses.

As of September 2019, Walmart and its Sam & # 39; s Club division will require fresh and leafy vegetable suppliers to implement end-to-end product traceability in real time using a digital ledger developed by International Business Machines Corp. .

The world's largest retailer plans similar mandates for other suppliers of fresh fruit and vegetables by next year, according to Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety.

"It's becoming a business requirement, it's part of our supplier agreements," Yiannas said in an interview. The goal is to speed up response times in the case of diseases and food-related recalls.

Walmart's move shows that IBM's huge bet on the blockchain, the technology that supports Bitcoin's digital currency, is starting to bear fruit. With the green mandate, more than 100 companies will be required to use the blockchain service from IBM at Walmart.

A larger number of suppliers will join the expansion of the mandate. While IBM offers service users a free tier, many are required to pay a fee, which will start at several hundred dollars a month for a company with less than $ 50 million in revenue, according to Brigid McDermott, the company's vice president.

Search for a scale

"What matters is that you're climbing," he said in an interview. "You have a path towards critical mass".

IBM is working on food traceability with 10 other companies, including Dole Food Co., Unilever NV and Driscoll & # 39; s Inc., a berry supplier. The IT giant holds a 32% market share of over $ 700 million for blockchain products and services, said WinterGreen Research Inc. in January and has 1,500 field employees.

Walmart is going ahead with its blockchain project even though many other companies are stuck. The company tracked 25 random products – very few of them green-leafed – using blockchain from the start of 2018.

"What convinced us that this is a solution, and we would like to scale it, is the ability to track food at the speed of thought," said Yiannas. "When there is a fright or a recall of food, you can not wait days or weeks".

Copyright 2018 Bloomberg.

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