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UPS ships U.S. beef to Japan, traces movement via blockchain

UPS ships beef from the U.S. to Japan (Photo: Pexels)

There have been a steady stream of blockchain-based pilot projects within the supply chain landscape. Today, UPS announced a collaboration with agri-tech solutions provider HerdX of the successful delivery of a blockchain-verified beef shipment from a U.S. farm to Japan. UPS heralded this to be a significant step forward in quality assurance and traceability in the beef industry, which incidentally was also the first time HerdX shipped beef on the back of a blockchain network. 

The excessive fragmentation of the logistics market in terms of the volume of stakeholders has led to opacity within the market, as businesses work in silos and continue to have blindspots all across the supply chain, severely affecting their operational efficiency. 

To an industry that is distressed with a perpetual lack of visibility and transparency, blockchain may be an antidote. Blockchain is a decentralized ledger that effectively makes every stakeholder within the network equally responsible as custodians of the data that flows within it. The data in the blockchain network is immutable and can only be edited with the explicit approval of all the stakeholders within the ecosystem. 

The logistics industry was quick to begin blockchain pilots, understanding fully well that blockchain had the wherewithal to get all the stakeholders within a particular supply chain to toe the line, while ushering never-before-seen levels of transparency and visibility into shipment movement. 

“Blockchain verification for international air freight shipments is complex and requires a great amount of expertise in customs and freight forwarding. Getting it right has implications for many industries, such as restaurants, food & beverage, and retail,” said Romaine Seguin, the president of UPS Global Freight Forwarding. “We’re committed to upholding HerdX’s industry-leading quality assurance and traceability standards for all customers eyeing international growth moving forward.”

The beef shipment originated from a Kansas farm, and it was put in a UPS temperature-sensitive air freight container that contained sensors that monitored and recorded the shipment’s temperature throughout its journey to Japan. The data derived from the sensors were fed in real-time to HerdX’s blockchain verification platform. 

After the beef shipment landed in Japan, it was transported to a contemporary steakhouse where invited guests were given a menu that featured beef dishes with QR codes. Going forward, upon scanning the codes, diners will be able to gather information on the shipment’s journey from the farm to the fork, which essentially helps them verify the quality of the beef being served. 

“It’s an exciting time to be entering the Japanese market with a much-needed, innovative solution to a pervasive industry issue,” said Seguin. “We hope our relationship with HerdX will catalyze an expansion of service offerings for our international shipping customers.”

To expedite the use of blockchain in the supply chain industry, it is vital to create data standards that help businesses to easily develop pilots without burning a lot of cash in the process. Standardization also helps immensely with interoperability, which will be crucial for different blockchain networks to interact seamlessly in the future. 

The Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA) is looking to achieve standardization, having published its inaugural set of royalty-free blockchain data standards earlier this year. These standards can be leveraged by any company looking to create a blockchain platform within the logistics space. BiTA is the largest consortium of its kind in the world, with nearly 500 members spread across 25 countries and collectively generating over $1 trillion in annual revenue.