Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Blockchain for Produce: Building on the Foundation of Case Traceability

Traceability is not new to growers and thanks to the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), neither is the concept of making produce traceability visible across the entire supply chain. When the PTI was introduced in 2008 we used the term whole chain traceability; this meant the grower would apply a label with case traceability information on it and at each subsequent step in the supply chain the receiver would scan and record this information on inbound receipts and outbound shipments. Being a voluntary initiative, the major grower-shippers, distributors, and retails supported the initiative. The PTI Leadership council was formed and case labeling specifications were published. Many of the large grower-shippers have converted their internal traceability systems to the GS1 standards-based case traceability labeling of PTI to enable external traceability.

In the early days, several retailers sent letters to their produce suppliers requesting PTI labeling, but compliance was either voluntary or not enforced.  In June of 2013, Walmart stepped forward to notify produce suppliers that they had to have PTI case labels on product shipped to them by January 2014. 

Case Traceability Pyramid
Walmart continues to be the leader in produce traceability within the United States, and they are leveraged the PTI case labels to get there. In July of 2017, they started requiring produce suppliers to provide Advance Ship Notifications (ASN’s) using the PTI case labels to capture which lot numbers were received on each line item of the order. To my knowledge, Walmart is the only major of US retailer that  scans pallet Serialized Shipping Container Codes (SSCC) from ASN’s as part of their distribution center process and PTI case labels as part of their in-store process. In January of 2019, Walmart started requiring all leafy green suppliers to write their shipment  case traceability information to the IBM Food Trust blockchain. Further, they have asked the leafy green suppliers for traceability back to the farm by September. Walmart will require other commodities to be written to the blockchain in the future. They are also engaging other retailers to join the blockchain movement to strengthen food traceability across the retail segment.

Case labeling is here to stay and while other retailers may be slow in getting their systems in place, they are coming. Grower-shippers and distributors will need to either get on board or pack and sell their products through those that have case labeling.

About the author Todd Baggett:
Our founder and CEO, Todd Baggett, is on the PMA Blockchain Committee and is the Co-Chair of the PTI Technology Working Group. He is actively working to help our industry with this transition.

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