US retail giant Walmart Inc. on Friday said in a statement that it is piloting blockchain technology for end-to-end traceability of shrimp sourced in Andhra Pradesh and shipped to select Sam’s Club (American chain of membership-only retail warehouse clubs owned and operated by Walmart Inc.) locations in the US.
The pilot project is the first known use of blockchain to track shrimp exports from the Indian farmer to an overseas retailer. This 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 US.
Shrimp is India’s largest agricultural export, with the US 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 US monitoring programs to win the trust of US retailers and consumers and strengthen shrimp cultivation as a sustainable long-term growth industry. Using blockchain technology in the shrimp supply chain supports this effort.
Blockchain is a way to digitize data and share information across a complex supply chain network in a secure and trusted manner. The introduction of blockchain 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. Blockchain 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.
“The possibility of transforming the seafood community with blockchain 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 blockchain testing," said John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute in the US.
For this pilot, the company worked closely with Andhra Pradesh-based seafood processor Sandhya Aqua and US-based supplier Stanley Pearlman Enterprises, Inc. to add the shrimp supply chain to the blockchain-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 blockchain 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.
“This end-to-end blockchain 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.
This new blockchain 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 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 blockchain’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."