IBM Food Trust

IBM Food Trust, IBM

Supernova Award Category: 

Data-Driven Digital Networks (DDNs) and Business Models

The Organization: 

IBM Food Trust is a secure information sharing platform, built by and for the food industry. As one of the first solutions in-production using blockchain, we provide authorized users with immediate access to actionable data and insights – from farm to fork. The history and location of any food item, along with its accompanying information, can be readily available in seconds.

All data is secured on blockchain ledgers, and the solution provides a permission-based, shared view of available data, allowing convenient publishing and controlled sharing. Our integrated capabilities enable guaranteed provenance, instant traceability, certificate management, inventory insights, and supply chain efficiencies. Together, we are enabling a safer, smarter, more sustainable food system.

The Problem: 

Despite the globalization of trade and rapid growth of available food, the standard for handling and tracing food has not modernized. The food system depends on manual and paper-based methods resulting in a lack of visibility and trust.

Foodborne illness is a common and costly public health problem. The World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 10 people fall ill due to foodborne diseases each year. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly 48 million get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases each year.

Beyond safety, consumers increasingly value the kind of information that a system built on IBM Blockchain can provide: Where did this food come from? Who produced it? Where has it been? Is it truly what the label says it is? Is the supply chain sustainable? With blockchain, growers, distributors and retailers can provide consumers digitized certifications of existing organic or fair-trade products along with detailed documentation from different points in the process, from farm to table.

The Solution: 

In 2016, IBM, Walmart and Tsinghua University started a collaboration to improve how food is transported to consumers in China. Using blockchain to build transparency and efficiency in supply chain record-keeping, the pilot explored new approaches to improving food safety. Building on this initial work, Food Trust launched in 2017 on a broader scale. The group built the solution to address food fraud, freshness, supply chain efficiency, waste, and more.

Since then, Food Trust is impacting the food industry around the globe. With the addition of Carrefour, Nestle, Dole, Driscoll’s along with small to medium farms and producers, the Food Trust network is laying the foundation for better management of our global food supply. Using the reliability, security, and power of blockchain technology, we are providing rapid insight into what happened when something goes wrong, reducing waste, and a safer journey from the farm to our local markets and, ultimately, to our dinner table.

The Results: 

Food Trust is one of the first and largest non-crypto blockchain networks in production running millions of live transactions. No other company has more live networks and IBM has learned from our work with clients about the type of governance, data ownership, security principles and shared decision-making to get blockchain right.

As leaders of the food industry, visionary companies are benefiting from our blockchain solution and the community of collaboration it’s fostering. This community is creating transformative change in food’s journey from farm to fork, unlocking untold business value for participating members and newfound levels of trust and transparency throughout the food supply.

The Advisory Council, comprised of a range of industry representatives, helps set the rules of engagement and leads accountability in adhering to the governance agreement for the blockchain community, ensuring that the solution benefits all. The council reviews and ensures the policies meet the needs and values of the global food community across various segments, sizes, and geographies, and more.

Our solution delivers value to the food ecosystem with a combination of governance, standards and interoperability, and technology. With increasing data and complexity in the food system, our solution focuses on delivering safer food, reduced waste, decreased fraud, sustainability, and brand trust. With these capabilities, Food Trust is transforming the food industry.


As of July 2019, the Food Trust ecosystem has 100+ global and diverse ecosystem members with 12M+ transactions representing over 8K products, 6M+ food products on retail shelves, 500K traces conducted to date, and the top 4 food retailers in the United States on our platform.

On top of our direct members, Food Trust is also working with numerous partners providing data, capabilities, and value-added services. Complementing the Food Trust ecosystem, these partners are helping to enable our platform to work with applications built by IBM and other companies.

The Technology: 

Food Trust provides a permissioned, shared view of food ecosystem information, with convenient data publishing and controlled sharing of information. Access controls ensure the organization that owns the data maintains full control over who can access it on the network. Users can locate items from the supply chain in real time by querying food product identifiers. All data is stored on blockchain ledgers, protected with the highest level of commercially-available, tamper-resistant encryption.

Disruptive Factor: 

While other companies are building similar pilots and proofs-of-concept, Food Trust drove a unique approach that focuses on more than the technology. The 5 pillars of Food Trust include the equally significant components of (i) business value, (ii) ecosystem, (iii) governance model, (iv) standards and interoperability, and (v) technology. Each area is influential in the success of the solution and its members. Companies participating in the network are able to do so in a way that aligns to their business values. Every party has a role to play in the food system; consequently, each participant receives a unique benefit to their organization. The ecosystem surrounding our blockchain solution allows participating organizations to scale and grow with the business, from smaller companies to large enterprises. The governance model guilds the use of the solution by the player, including data ownership, access, and permissions. Blockchain solutions require more than the technology for adoption and impact within companies and throughout industries. Food Trust is not only built on a secure and reliable platform, but also recognizes the critical factors for collaboration and action of all in the food system. All these pillars are shaping how we move forward in building the technology, providing a consistent, reliable, and secure access to data and insights.

Shining Moment: 

Golden State Foods and IBM partnered to develop HyperTrust, an extension of Food Trust specifically designed for the restaurant industry and its suppliers and distributors. HyperTrust combines blockchain, Internet of Things and AI to enable a permissioned-based set of modules that bring insight on inventory and freshness for restaurant supply chains. HyperTrust unlocks new insights on supply chain events that could impact inventory positions, conversion efficiency & product exposure.

About Your Organization

We believe in world-changing progress: the full application of intelligence, reason and science to improve business, science and the human condition. For more than a century IBM has been dedicated to every client's success and to creating innovations that matter for the world. We are a community of thinkers, making a lasting impact on our industry and the world.