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Blockchain will prevent more food from going to waste.


The prediction

Within five years, we’ll eliminate many of the costly unknowns in the food supply chain. From farmers to grocery suppliers, each participant in the food ecosystem will know exactly how much to plant, order, and ship. Food loss will diminish greatly and the produce that ends up in our carts will be fresher—when blockchain technology, IoT devices, and AI algorithms join forces.

What's happening today

Currently, 45 percent of fruits and vegetables go uneaten, due to a chaotic distribution system that cares little about spoilage. The imprecise nature of today’s supply chain (from farmers and shippers to food-packers and grocers) often leads to perishable produce being thrown away. Farmers often have to rely on guesswork to make planting and harvesting decisions. Sellers also predict customer demand and behavior based on incomplete information.


Solutions for the future

A blockchain-enabled food supply chain enhanced by IoT devices and AI computing could move us closer to zero-waste food consumption. IoT sensors could be used to track fruits, vegetables, or any other food items on the long journey from field to grocery store. AI-enhanced, real-time data could also help retailers learn more about consumer eating patterns. For example, how does visible freshness affect what produce shoppers buy? At what point in its life cycle does a box of strawberries lose its appeal? Based on the answers AI provides, retailers can adjust buying cycles to ensure those strawberries get onto shelves at exactly the right time (and at the right price).

In the future, produce at the point of sale may be fresher, because both farmers and suppliers know exactly how much to grow and how much to order to meet demand.

Developments at IBM Research

IBM Food Trust and Blockchain

Launched in October 2018, IBM Food Trust is a highly secure digital ledger that utilizes blockchain technology to connect every member of the food supply chain through accurate, shared information. It’s the first and only network of its kind—and within five years, it has the potential to transform our food ecosystem. IBM researchers are also working on taking blockchain to the next level by combining it with IoT sensors and AI algorithms, making seed-to-plate food tracking more accurate and reliable. In the near future, When linked to the blockchain via IBM Food Trust, these sensors could allow everyone from farmers and shippers to food-packers and grocers to know exact, real-time inventory counts. So if carrots are flying off the shelf in Minnesota, a shipper in California could know about it immediately and send more on their way. AI algorithms could also learn from the enormous mass of data flowing through the system to predict consumer demand, optimizing estimates for the retailer and automatically placing shipment orders at each location in the supply chain.

The blockchain and IBM Food Trust will bring far greater precision to an inexact science, by minimizing the guesswork involved in planting and harvesting food. With these tools, we can look forward to a future when nothing goes to waste on our plates.