Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

IBM Food Trust™ Frequently Asked Questions

IBM Food Trust is a collaborative network that includes growers, harvesters, processors, importers, wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers, retailers, and others, enhancing visibility and accountability across the food supply chain. Built on the IBM Blockchain Platform (Hyperledger Fabric), this solution connects participants through a permissioned, immutable and shared record of food provenance, transaction data, processing details, and more. IBM Food Trust™ benefits all network participants with a safer, smarter, and more sustainable food ecosystem. The digitization of transactions and data provides a more efficient way of working across the supply chain.

Technically known as Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), the process is more commonly referred to by the name of one of the prime examples of DLT – namely blockchain. A ‘blockchain’ is a decentralized, tamper evident distributed record or “ledger” of transactions in which the transactions are stored in a permanent way using cryptographic techniques. The movement of goods from one place to another is accompanied by parallel movements of paper. Blockchain allows much of the transactional trade documentation to be digitized and shared in real time across the relevant distribution chain.

Q. What data is required for entry into the IBM Food Trust platform?
A. IBM Food Trust requires and incorporates three types of data:

Data is uploadable through automation or ‘semi-automation’ using spread sheets. Attachments (pdf, jpeg, etc.) are also uploadable. The diagram below shows some typical data and data collection points and mechanisms:

Q. How is data verified?  How do you ensure data integrity before transaction is committed to blockchain?
A. Data returned by the solution (IBM) includes metadata about how & where it was written to the blockchain. Using this metadata, the encrypted asset can be retrieved from the blockchain and verified against the data returned by the solution. To ensure the integrity of the data from the time of submission to our IBM Food Trust connector endpoint through to the blockchain, the owner can sign the data (details can be found here: https://github.com/IBM/IFT-Developer-Zone/wiki/Cryptographic-Signing-of-Data ) using a private key which only they hold.

Q. How does the platform deal with offline transaction where internet connection is spotty or non-existent?
A. IBM’s connector API requires an internet connection to submit data, but the ingestion of the data happens asynchronously. If the connection is spotty, the client could cache the transactions and submit them as a batch when connectivity is available. If there is no connection, the client would need to provide the data to someone that has internet connectivity to perform the upload to IBM Food Trust.

Q. What device or tool do you require to successful complete upload your information?
A. You will need a computer with internet to access IBM Food Trust.

Q. Are there costs associated with set-up?
A. Yes, there are costs associated with set-up. Costs vary depending on the manpower or technology needs (gap needing to be closed). There are still infrastructure and data collection gaps in the supply chain in the “first and last mile”, due to either lack of hardware, access to the internet or need for increased labor.  

Q. Is there Linkage to standalone data management systems?
A. No, there is no linkage to standalone data managements system.  The intent of the global companies involved in blockchain is to eliminate systems that duplicate work and require companies to have multiple systems. The long-term goal is for the different blockchain systems to be interoperable (like credit cards), and IBM recognizes more than one blockchain provider will exist.

Q. Is the Blockchain platform separate from EDI?
A. Yes, Blockchain is separate from EDI.  However, Blockchain can leverage the data in EDI systems via APIs to eliminate double work / double data entry. Longer term, EDI may be replaced by Blockchain based solutions.

Q. Is data encrypted before transaction entry into blockchain ledger?
A. No, data is not encrypted before transaction entry. However, IBM supports all data signed by the client using their keys before it is sent to IFT, which enables you to verify the data displayed is exactly the same as the data sent from the client’s. Only an authenticated and registered user is able to submit data to IFT. Additional information on this is available at https://github.com/IBM/IFT-Developer-Zone/wiki/Cryptographic-Signing-of-Data

Q, Who has access to data?  How is access to the data determined along the blockchain? 
A. There are different options available on who can access your data. These options are determined during set up (permission based). 

IFT offers three permissioning modes:

  1. ‘Private’ (no organization can see the data except the organization that uploaded)
  2. ’Restricted’ (only one hop, visibility is restricted to only parties that directly send and receive goods from another party)
  3. ‘Linked’ (can go multiple hops, visibility is linked to all parties of a supply chain that send and receive goods).

Ideally, you have your suppliers join IBM Food Trust at the same time, although some companies will manually input the data provided by their suppliers.

Experience and Current Projects
Q. What are the benefits to farmers and processors?
A. The benefits to farmers and processors are the ability to provide confidence of certified or sustainable product to the end consumer. Given current consumer demand drivers, in many cases this translates to a higher margin product. Consumers are also able to learn about the product journey and farmers/processors where their products are sourced from, potentially compensating farmers directly or building a relationship with them.

Q. Is there a case study available for the seafood industry?  What about a seafood pilot program?
A. Yes, IBM has conducted to date a Blockchain / IBM Food Trust pilot with S Group in Finland (retail cooperative). The Ecuadorian shrimp company, Sustainable Shrimp Partnership (SSP) also joined the IBM Food Trust ecosystem. IBM is in conversations with multiple players in the seafood industry and has initiated a seafood supply chain Pilot with National Fisheries Institute, funded by Seafood Industry Research Fund (SIRF).  https://sirfonline.org/  

Q. What is the on-going subscription costs for the modules after the one time onboarding fee?
A. Subscriptions are based on a tiered system which are based on the business size rather than transaction based:

  • For Trace module:Less than $ 50 million in revenue is approx. 100/monthly subscription rate
  • $50 million to $1 billion in revenue is approx. $1,000/monthly subscription rate
  • Over $1 billion in revenue is  approx. $10,000/ monthly subscription rate
  • Data Entry only is free (must be a Network Partner with a subscriber)

Q. Does NFI have a formal relationship with IBM?
A. Yes, NFI is an official IBM Business Partner.

Q. Is there a subscription discount for NFI Members?
A. Yes, NFI Members register with the NFI IBM Business Partner (#a3pii); and purchase a one year subscription to receive a 15 percent discount.

Q. As an NFI Member, what is the benefit of having my supply chain partners sign up for a subscription via NFI?
A. The benefit of NFI Members encouraging their supply chain partners to sign up for an IBM Food Trust subscription via NFI allows partners to join, enter data, and begin benefiting from Food Trust capabilities. Full participation within the supply chain is not required for the blockchain to work, but the more partners’ on boarded, the more value there is available in the solution. Member referrals provide ongoing support to NFI and SIRF.