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Nestle trials public blockchain for dairy supply chain

Consumer goods giant Nestle, which has already joined major supermarkets and food producers in exploring the potential of blockchain, has announced plans to use public blockchain technology to improve its dairy supply chain.

Forbes magazine reports that the Swiss company has signed an agreement with Australia-based start-up OpenSC to bring its blockchain-supply chain work to the next level. OpenSC is a joined venture between the World Wide Fund For Nature Australia (WWF-Australia) and corporate investment and incubation firm Boston Consulting Group Digital Ventures

Nestle blockchain lead and supply chain digital transformation manager Benjamin Dubois said the agreement “is complementary to what we do with IBM with Food Trust (IFT). We were looking at a solution to increase a step further than IFT in terms of transparency for our supply chain.”

Nestle was a founding member in 2017 of the IFT blockchain operation, which aims to improve food product traceability. In April this year, Nestle and French retailer Carrefour teamed up to provide customers the ability to track its popular Mousline mashed product throughout the supply chain.

Nestle also announced plans earlier this year to publicise data on its top 15 commodities in a bid “to reach full supply chain transparency”.

Greater transparency

The newest initiative, with OpenSC, aims for even greater transparency, testing out the use of a public blockchain. “Something that allows full disclosure, without any Nestle control, where the data is uploaded by every actor along the value chain and is available for anyone and anywhere to take on this data,” said Dubois. This would allow consumers to make judge the sustainability factors of Nestle’s supply chain.

The initiative will begin by tracking dairy products from their New Zealand origin, to Nestle’s Middle Eastern sites. The group also plans to similarly track “palm oil in the Americas, although we’re still figuring out the small details,” says Dubois.

Nestle blockchain lead Dominique Schmitz says the trial for tracking dairy products is set to go live later this year. If the tests proves successful and the public’s response is positive, the aim is to branch out to other commodities.

Journey to the customer

A public blockchain format allows consumers to access a greater pool of independently available information about the process and journey products go through in their lifetime, prior to reaching the hands of customers. Dubois wants the Nestle-OpenSC collaboration to provide such added independent data to consumers and industry professionals.

The new public blockchain approach will differ from Nestle’s work with IBM’s permissioned blockchain operation, which “not everyone can participate at the moment, and especially the public,” said Dubois. “You have to join the consortium and the solution to be able to participate.

“With a public solution, we see that it’s much easier for people to participate. The aim is not one replacing the other, it's really to complement. The Food Trust solution is very much a business-to-business (B2B) solution. It can handle the scale of Nestle, but for specific use cases where the commitment of the group is full transparency, we see a public solution as something that can enable us to reach that goal.”

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