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Starbucks brews up blockchain solutions

US coffee shop chain Starbucks is working with Microsoft to harness its Azure blockchain service in tracking coffee shipments from across the world and provide consumers with more information on its products.

Blockchain will be used to track beans from “farm to cup” and bring “digital, real-time traceability” to Starbuck’s supply chains, according to an announcement from Microsoft.

Microsoft’s Azure will record all changes along the journey of the coffee on a shared ledger, providing participants with a “more complete view” of the supply chain.

Starbucks will use the information to add a feature to its mobile app, giving consumers details on how the group is supporting its suppliers, where the coffee was sourced and roasted, as well as on tasting notes.

A suite of initiatives

The chain says that it hopes blockchain can also help its commitment to ethical sourcing and benefit its growers too, by providing them with data such as which stores use their beans. According to the release, Starbucks sourced beans from more than 380,000 coffee farms in 2018.

“I firmly believe that by empowering farmers with knowledge and data through technology, we can support them in ultimately improving their livelihoods,” said Michelle Burns, a senior vice president of Starbucks. “This kind of transparency offers customers the chance to see that the coffee they enjoy from us is the result of many people caring deeply.”

Burns added that the firm is in talks with coffee farmers in Costa Rica, Colombia and Rwanda to find out more about how the project can best benefit them.

The initiative is one of a series that Starbucks is jointly developing with Microsoft. The new projects include predictive drive-through ordering using machine learning to gather customer preferences and connecting coffeemakers in stores to the internet. The company hopes that connecting its devices to the cloud will make it easier to be proactive about maintenance of its machines rather than reactive.


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