Visit a farm and you see farmers with tricky ecosystems, seasonal issues and a whole lot of a complicated supply chain process. Agriculture, an industry employing over one billion people while generating more than $1.3 trillion worth of food every year. There have been discussions on how blockchain can revolutionize the agriculture industry in the way how this emerging technology is impacting other industries as well. Blockchain technology’s potential in the agricultural sector lies in being able to improve the current processes: from data sharing between players, to crop protection, food contamination prevention, etc pitching in farming over one-step ahead.
Ever brought an organic apple from a market and wondered, “Is this actually organic, or did they just put the sticker on it and charge me more?”
Currently, we have to trust that our food is what the label claims, coming from where they tell us it came from, but often times we don’t. Some are aware of the advertising gimmicks that food companies use like- labeling something like a “cheese product” even though it doesn’t contain actual cheese.
The whole process of agriculture, right after it leaves the farm passes through many hands and processes as it gets to your final dinner table. Ever wondered who assures the quality? How credible is the quality assurance process? Besides, how else can you verify the quality of the food that is currently on your plate?
Devising a suitable system allowing all parties to track and pay for the delivery of goods is one of the agriculture sector’s main challenges. Currently, much of the process depends on third-parties, responsible for coordinating the logistics and delivery of goods.
Sellers often have an agent tasked with ensuring that the goods are safely delivered. Buyers, on the other hand, typically rely on an agent recommending payment and audits of the delivery. Having so many different parties involved results in higher costs and makes the entire process much more time-consuming.
Moreover, there are cases of consumers finding unhygienic elements in their food. Who to blame in the whole context? The farmer? The guy who put the items on the truck? Blockchains help reduce these issues by adding transparency and trust to the supply chain by tracking the journey of the food from farm to factory to your table – even including checkpoints of accountability along the way.
Farming Better With Blockchain
What if you could check the quality of food before you eat it? It could become a possibility with blockchain in executing contracts and tracking information transparently.
Smart contracts could trigger and execute specific actions once the data has been saved on the blockchain while enhancing the quality of the farming process and the crops produced.
The blockchain technology employed in agriculture would be able to record when and where a particular variety of crops were planted, what fertilizers were used when the crop was harvested, and where it grew. The decentralized ledger technology would help in keeping tabs on the abundant commodities while reducing cases of illegal harvesting and shipping fraud.
Farmers are often exposed to unpredictable weather conditions. Using blockchain to monitor and predict such changes can be crucial in improving crop survival, maintain prices, and even save jobs.
By tracking a product‘s journey from seed to store shelf, blockchain technology would shed light on the supply management aspect, making it clearer where it was transported to and by whom. In the meantime, that would help farmers and retailers prove that the products claiming to be organic or free-range actually are!!
If blockchain tech came into the picture, the whole process would be simplified to one distributed ledger, meaning buyers could interact with sellers more quickly and the time is taken to settle a payment be significantly reduced. In addition, companies would save paying hefty agent fees and farmers while farmers take home a larger share of sales.
Blockchain, coupled with other technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) would help maximize crop production. For example, sensors on IoT devices could gather data on the water level, soil temperature, fertilizer use and send it to the blockchain.
Best Way Forward Or Too Much On The Plate?
Blockchain technology might show great promises within agriculture and supply management, but in order to explore its potential implementation, we need to understand what the industry challenges are while speculating on whether the technology is really is the best way forward.
Indeed, blockchain in agriculture deserves growing attention. So then what’s preventing it from attaining its full fruition?
One area in agriculture that blockchain will have difficulty implementing is the supply chain. The whole process would require a network of sensors and tagging technologies that are simply not yet in the place. Efforts are underway to set them up, but achieving smooth interoperability will be quite a task since everything needs to be synchronized.
Blockchain technology itself is also deemed a complication, making it difficult to convince farmers to integrate. There is a glaring lack of awareness, made even worse by the absence of training programs to help growers understand the technology and consequently invest. Most farmers may not be adept at using technology.
It’s also doubtful whether cryptocurrencies, blockchain’s payment system, can be used in food supply chains due to its volatility arising from speculation and price fluctuations.
Scalability is another issue. Current agricultural technologies cannot sustain the high transaction speeds required for blockchain to work, especially when it comes to large-scale projects.
Blockchain Agri Platforms For The Win
AgriDigital: AgriDigital has a cloud-based commodity management solution in marketing for the global grains industry. It connects grain farmers, buyers, site operators, and financiers through a single platform, allowing them to contract, deliver and make payments securely and in real-time.
AgUnity: AgUnity provides a pathway to financial inclusion for the world’s poorest farmers. The AgUnity App helps small farmers plan, trade and track everyday transactions. This is a way for farmers to cooperate, store value, save money and easily buy products and services.
BanQu: based on the Ethereum blockchain, it allows farmers to use their mobile phones to record their personal information and transaction history which are verified by a network of friends, family, agribusiness partners, etc, with a pilot project in DR Congo. These digital identities can then be used to apply for credit and open the world of financial services.
Shamba Records: Kenyan agri-tech startup Shamba Records has built a blockchain-based platform that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and big data to collect farmers’ harvest records, process payments, and issue credit. The platform provides users with features such as data collection and mapping, payment aggregation, smart contracts, and bulk SMS, making farms more efficient and collecting information that can allow them to access financial services.
One of the most logical applications of blockchain lies within agriculture that is plagued by several challenges. With rising consumer consciousness towards food safety, blockchain applications can play a vital role in solving many agriculture-related problems.
Through blockchain’s application in agriculture, we can expect an efficient product, fair pricing, efficient supply and improved product tracking. It will also enable farmers to do real-time management of their stock.