Last Tuesday

International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat) is exploring how it can use a Blockchain-powered platform called Elenev01, from India, in an effort to see how small Indian farmers can improve their productivity and revenue from selling the crops they are growing.

These improvements are hoped to be achieved by reducing the number of intermediaries involved,and allowing farmers to have more information about price of goods and connecting them with potential retailers, which is increasingly vital as merchants are being asked to prove the provenance of the goods they are selling. 

Blockchain technology is also being used to record and share farm-data as, by having one trusted secure ledger of information, it eliminates the challenges that are so common in the childhood game of “Chinese whispers”. Data and information on crop yields, soil conditions, moisture levels, etc., can easily be misinterpreted, as records are passed from the farm through a chain of different third parties so that, after three of four times, this information can easily be misunderstood from what the actual real data is saying. The Kansa State University has produced a report that offers a summary of some of the above challenges and how Blockchain technology is able to address them. Blockchain technology is able to help agricultural supply-chains to track the provenance of agricultural goods and, using sensors and Internet of Things (IoT), it is possible to monitor the conditions that goods have been kept in, from farm to retailer.

In Sri Lanka, Aon, the global insurance firm, has teamed up with Oxfam and Etherisc to offer insurance to 200 small farmers so they can protect themselves from damage to their crops due to extreme weather. Bojan Kolundzija, the country director of Oxfam in Sri Lanka has said “Allowing farmers to access the blockchain platform is an important milestone that is bringing an effective and affordable risk transfer mechanism to a large portion of the Sri Lanka economy.”

Blockchain technology is able to automate much of the traditional claims process, as the farmer will not need to submit a claim and the insurer will not need to incur the cost of sending claims’ adjusters to inspect the damage. Therefore, the cost of processing and handling the claim is faster, cheaper, and more trust is generated. Thus confidence is created to encourage smaller and often less-sophisticated farmers to protect their livelihoods.

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A Month Ago

Blockchain technology is being used in a variety of ways to help improve efficiency, cut costs, create greater transparency and offer provenance of where goods have come from in the agriculture sector.

Here are four ways through which this is happening:

      -Traceability - Blockchains are helping supply chains and logistics in the agriculture sector to improve traceability. This helps companies to quickly track unsafe products to their original source, so potentially preventing illness and reducing the cost of product recalls. A good example of this is the Walmart venture with IBM to track green leaf products it sources and sells. Frank Yiannas of Walmart has said “that the improved data traceability provided by the IBM platform reduced the time it took to trace a mango from the store back to its source from seven days to 2.2 seconds. That reduction in time enables companies to identify contaminated supply chains and recall affected products before they are consumed and cause illness”. Meanwhile, Irish-based arc-net has collaborated to create a whiskey Blockchain with Scottish distillery Ardnamurchan, which includes information on the water and grain used in the production of Scotch, as well as the identity of the distillers who made the whiskey. Wyoming cattle ranchers, who wanted to know where their beef was being sold, have created BeefChain, which tracks beef along the supply chain, and so enables the end-consumer to have provenance i.e. where the beef they buy has come from.

      -Payments - San Francisco - based Veem is used by tea distributor Tealet, to pay more than 30 different farmers and suppliers in countries across Africa and Asia, using a platform that harnesses Blockchain technology. Fees with which to pay suppliers can be as much as 12%, and international payments can take up to five days. The Veem platform uses Blockchain technology to convert payments from the source currency into the local currency. International payments cost 1.9% and are paid to vendors in one to three days (so it is faster and cheaper using Blockchain technology).

      -Commodity Management - Agricultural commodities business is massive and it can be difficult to collate the volume of data and minimise the time-delays it takes to get paid. Blockchain technology is able to help with these challenges. Australian company, AgriDigital, provides cloud-based agricultural commodity management services recorded onto a Blockchain. In 2016, AgriDigital completed the world’s first “farmer to buyer” wheat sale recorded on a Blockchain. Since then, it has run projects for supply chain provenance, real-time payments, digital escrows and supply chain finance for the food sector. At the end of 2017, Dutch-based Louis Dreyfus Co completed its first agricultural trade, using Blockchain technology, for a sale of US soybeans to China. Documentation, including contracts, letters of credit, and government certifications, were all digitised, and data was automatically matched in real time via a Blockchain platform, which avoided duplication and the need for manual checks. This reduced the time to process documentation to one-fifth of the usual time, and cut overall transaction time from two weeks to one.

      -Sharing information - Companies which buy or invest in agricultural products like to have information about...


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