American Retailer Target to Launch Open Source Blockchain for Supply Chains


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In May 2018, Target Corporation, the eighth largest retailer in the United States, began working on an open source blockchain project for supply chain tracking called ConsenSource. According to a post released by Joel Crabb, the retail giant will also support the Hyperledger Grid, a project initiated in large part by Cargill, one of the company’s leading food suppliers.

Cutting Costs with Blockchain

According to an official blog post released on April 22 by Joel Crabb, VP of architecture, the company will also support the Hyperledger Grid, a project initiated in large part by Cargill, one of the company’s primary food suppliers, together with Intel and Bitwise IO.

In the post, Crabb expresses his enthusiasm for the technology by explaining how it can be a new tool to solve a long-standing challenge: Ensuring multiparty trust across enterprises doing business together.

Their goal is to speed up transactions using a more transparent system, cutting costs, and giving benefits to all participants.

The ConsenSource project has been primarily focused on verifying suppliers for the company’s paper manufacturing arm. But now, the company is trying to speed up the development of their DLT technology by opening their career page announcements to include blockchain engineers and systems developers.

According to the job post, the primary responsibilities of a blockchain engineer will be the development of distributed ledger systems, protocols, smart contracts, CLI’s, and RESTful APIs in an open source environment.

Crabb also described the problems encountered by implementing such technologies. In the first, disparate users need to agree on which data is stored in the database as well as how the system will be operated and governed.

That is the reason why the consortium decided to opt for an open source initiative. All participants agreed that open source projects are better suited for the ambitions of ConsenSource.

Hyperledger Secret Member

Unlike many other companies, Target has maintained a low profile concerning its blockchain initiative. However, this decision does not mean they are not investing resources in it.

In 2016 they hired Aarthi Srinivasan, an ex-JP Morgan and IBM employee, as the director of product management for personalization, machine learning and blockchain. From December 2018, Target began working secretly with Sawtooth, a Hyperledger implementation to track the provenance of food and other assets. In particular, Target has contributed to the project by integrating the identity verification from another Hyperledger project called Indy.

The project is still far from the production phase, despite developer activity on their GitHub repositories.

However, Target is not the only retail giant looking to tap into the potential of blockchain technology. A stark rival, Walmart, is using the best-known Hyperledger implementation known as Fabric to track food and assets on a network called Food Trust.

The retail company is devoting much of its energy to research and development, but it will still take time to see the results. Crabb nonetheless remains positive, stating:

“Maturity in this space will take time, but we will only get there when enterprise partners like Target and Cargill dive in together.”

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