Why a Walmart VP had a ‘religious conversion’ to blockchain

Frank Yiannas, Walmart’s vice president in charge of food safety, detailed the revolutionary benefits of the electronic ledger technology at MIT's 'Business of Blockchain' conference.

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Frank Yiannas, Walmart's vice president in charge of food safety, was once a "major skeptic" and "non-believer" in blockchain, the electronic ledger technology platform on which bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are built.

"I always advise people: if you're a skeptic, stay in it; read, learn and more than that, try to do some work in it," Yiannas said. "And, I've come around and I've become a believer. For me..., it's more like a religious conversion. The more I got into blockchain, the more I thought this is the solution."

The problem Yiannas wanted to solve? How to track the origin of every piece of fruit, meat or vegetable sold by a worldwide retailer of food with 12,000 stores – and tens of thousands of suppliers.

"There are these big, mighty food companies, but they have a weakness," Yannas told attendees at the "Business of Blockchain" conference at MIT this week. "I think the food system has one major Achilles' heel. Their Achilles' heel is a lack of transparency."

Walmart and nine other food retailer giants including Dole, Driscol, Tyson, Nestle and Unilever teamed up with IBM to pilot a cloud-based blockchain technology as a unifying electronic ledger. The ledger was built using Hyperledger Fabric, an open-source blockchain platform run under the Linux Foundation's Hyperledger group.

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