Local Minneapolis favorite Izzy’s Ice Cream is thinking about the future. They’re expanding, and they want to continue to do so. In the food and restaurant industry, recalls can happen, and Izzy’s is investing in the cyber security side of running an ice cream company to ensure they’re ready to handle anything that might come up.

This past summer, Izzy’s co-owner Jeff Sommers hired U of M Senior Neal Choksi through the SciTech Internship Program. Working as a Data Integration Engineering Intern, Choksi led the research and strategic planning around what it would take to get Izzy’s involved in the IBM Food Trust; An ecosystem within the food production industry that utilizes blockchain technology to improve transparency, standardization and efficiency throughout the food supply chain.

“When Jeff and I met a few weeks ago and he explained his vision for the future of Izzy’s and all the technology it would utilize, it was really exciting,” Choksi said, recalling how their endeavor began. With his background in mechanical engineering and economics he knew he had quite a task ahead of him.   

To start, Choksi took classes to become a Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI). He then conducted independent blockchain research and consulted with IBM experts to build out Izzy’s blockchain strategy. Without the work and research that Choksi devoted to this project, Izzy’s wouldn’t have been able to pursue their Food Trust dream.

“We need to be focused as a company on A, B and C,” Sommers said, “and so there’s really no bandwidth traditionally to go look for a solution to something like this. We would normally reach out to a consultant and come back with an $80K quote that we can’t afford.” Having a skilled engineer like Choksi working on this for them, “gives us a chance to participate where we wouldn’t be able to otherwise.”  

How to Track Ice Cream
As his title would imply, a lot of it came down to the data. Choksi broke down cost and implementation, and integrated all of the data that Izzy’s already collects, such as the temperature of milk when it arrives, tracking the history of individual ingredients that go into each flavor and tracing where each product goes after the ice cream is made.

“The goal is incorruptible data,” Sommers explained. All of this comes together through the Food Trust, allowing Izzy’s to better increase their food safety. If the need arises, they’ll be able to precisely track the whereabouts of their product, recall any damaged goods faster if they need to, and increase overall brand trust, thanks to the data involved. 

“When we go to sell our product to future partners, they’re going to see that we’re in the IBM Food Trust and that’s going to be a real assurance point for them to partner with us,” Sommers said. “Neal will be the one to get us there.”

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