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The potential way forward in melon traceability

Although the melon industry has a demonstrated need, the adoption of traceability systems industrywide is still in its infancy.

Walmart and the IBM Blockchain have successfully implemented a hyperledger fabric to trace 25 products from 5 suppliers. They have found success with products such as mangos, strawberries, and leafy greens.

Traceability reduces tracking time from a Walmart store to its source from days or weeks to seconds. Mangos lead the way in the fruit industry by reducing tracking to the source from 7 days to 2.2 seconds. The traceability system also allows Walmart to track sustainability and compliance data across suppliers.

For the melon supply chain to maintain traceability, recordkeeping must be consistent at all levels of the supply chain. Each facility must comply and keep accurate records.

The issues in traceability within the melon supply chain emerge as the product moves from producer to packing house, where it has the potential to mix with other products.

This can be overcome with a common format for product coding, but it must be uniformly implemented through every step of the supply chain. The challenges to traceability come from the various stops the melons make throughout the supply chain and digital records that must mirror stickers and print traceback codes.

Whole-chain traceability in melons can use data gathered at each node of the supply chain to improve food safety and sustainability, while limiting the negative impacts of food safety and disease events.

Fragmented supply chains pose special problems as firms risk exploitation of proprietary information by other members of the supply chain.

However, traceability for the melon supply chain has the potential to increase the number of viable technologies to improve food safety, as it provides a complex case study in an industry at high risk for recalls and contamination.

This high risk in the melon supply chain may drive down the cost barrier associated with RFID and traceability implementation as the potential ROI is higher than in less risky food supply chains.

Challenges in the melon industry are significant, but the potential benefits to society, consumers, and the business of traceability systems are also significant and arguably essential.

This is multi-part feature adapted from the January/February 2020 issue of Produce Blueprints.

Hannah Stolze is associate professor of marketing and supply chain management at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL, and has a PhD in business administration with a concentration in logistic and marketing.