Walmart pilots block chain project to trace seafood from India
Walmart Inc. has recently announced that it is piloting block chain technology for end-to-end traceability of shrimp sourced in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh and shipped to select Sam’s Club locations in the U.S.
The pilot project is the first known use of block chain to track shrimp exports from the farmer in India to an overseas retailer. Ultimately, it will help seafood farmers in the region to strengthen the shrimp supply chain and reinforce customer trust in the product, helping promote India as a preferred source of seafood, while also enhancing food traceability and transparency for consumers in the U.S.
Shrimp is India’s largest agricultural export, with the U.S. as its largest market, taking a 46% share of India’s shrimp exports by value in 2018. In Andhra Pradesh, the heartland of shrimp farming in India, the state government is encouraging farmers to improve quality standards and comply with stringent U.S. monitoring programs to win the trust of U.S. retailers and consumers and strengthen shrimp cultivation as a sustainable long-term growth industry. Using block chain technology in the shrimp supply chain supports this effort.
What is block chain?
Block chain is a way to digitize data and share information across a complex supply chain network in a secure and trusted manner. The introduction of block chain in the shrimp supply chain could help improve the quality of information on the product for compliance purposes and for sharing with consumers, providing added traceability beginning at the farm and extending throughout the transportation process. It could also monitor food safety procedures throughout the growth and processing of the shrimp. Block chain could thus add a level of visibility to bring extra peace of mind and value to overseas customers and reinforce India’s status as a trusted source of seafood.
Wide-reaching supply chain
“The possibility of transforming the seafood community with block chain technology exists and organizations need to do the work to test its potential to optimize supply chain processes. As one of the most traded commodities in the world, seafood has a complex and wide-reaching supply chain, which makes testing and further developing technology-assisted traceability programs an important step. It is encouraging to see a retail leader like Walmart participate in seafood block chain testing,” said John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute in the U.S.
Tie-ups for better functioning
For this pilot, the company worked closely with Andhra Pradesh-based seafood processor Sandhya Aqua and U.S.-based supplier Stanley Pearlman Enterprises, Inc. to add the shrimp supply chain to the block chain-enabled IBM Food Trust and create shared value for the entire shrimp farm-to-table continuum. Walmart Inc. has collaborated with IBM on the use of block chain technology to enhance global food traceability since 2017. The two partners have already launched several initiatives to strengthen food safety in the fresh produce supply chain.
First block chain pilot in India
“This end-to-end block chain pilot is the first of its kind in India and has the potential to create long-term economic opportunity for the shrimp farming community in Andhra Pradesh, directly benefiting the farmers through new skills training and development,” said Chowdary Kunam, managing director of Sandhya Aqua.
Support for smallholder farmers
This new block chain pilot supplements an extensive Sam’s Club food safety program that requires suppliers of seafood products, including shrimp, to complete prevention-based certifications like Best Aquaculture Practice (BAP), an internationally recognized standard. To support smallholder farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Walmart Inc. provided funding for the BAP certification training, helping farmers to access market opportunities they may not previously have had.
“We’re committed to doing business in India in a way that helps drive economic opportunity in local communities across the country,” said Paul Dyck, vice president of corporate affairs for Walmart Inc. “Through this pilot we are working with our partners and leveraging our global strengths to provide access to block chain’s innovative technology which will benefit local farmers and producers, help to transform the food system and also provide a quality product that delights our customers and members.”