The Rise of Blockchain Technology in Agriculture

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Blockchain appeared in our lives as a modern technology that promises ubiquitous financial transactions among distributed untrusted parties, without the need of intermediaries such as banks. Several ongoing projects and initiatives now illustrate the impact blockchain technology is having on agriculture and suggest it has great potential for the future.

 

As blockchain technology gains success and proves its functionality in many cryptocurrencies, various organisations are attempting to harness its transparency and fault tolerance to solve problems in scenarios where numerous untrusted actors get involved in the distribution of resources. Two important areas are agriculture and the food supply chain.

Blockchain for agriculture

In December 2016, the company AgriDigital successfully executed the world’s first sale of 23.46 tons of grain on a blockchain. Since then, over 1,300 users have been involved in the sale of more than 1.6 million tons of grain over the cloud-based system, involving US$360 million in grower payments.

The success of AgriDigital has served as an inspiration for the potential use of this technology in the agricultural supply chain. Agriculture and the food supply chain are closely linked, since agricultural products are used as inputs in multi-actor distributed food supply chains. Indeed, the global food chain is complex, bringing together farmers, warehousing, shipping companies, distributors and grocers.

Not only is the system inefficient, it is also imprecise. When you buy a vegetable at your local grocery store, the brand listed on the sticker may have no idea which farm the vegetable came from. The initiatives where blockchain technology could be used to solve real-life practical problems fall into two categories: supporting small-scale farmers, and food safety and integrity.

Supporting small-scale farmers

Supporting small-scale farmers and small cooperatives is currently by far the best way to improve efficiency in developing countries. There are several initiatives pursuing this path, three of which stand out in particular. AgriLedger describes itself as ‘a Mobile App that records and transacts incorruptible truth using blockchain technology’. It uses distributed cryptoledger and mobile apps to create a circle of trust for small farmer cooperatives in Africa.

The American organisation FarmShare focuses on creating new forms of property ownership, community cooperation, and locally self-sufficient economies. It aims to use the blockchain to ‘tokenize shares, incentivize volunteers, optimize resource sharing and minimize food waste’. OlivaCoin is a platform for the trade of olive oil. With its own cryptocurrency and traceability system, it aims to support olive oil producers by reducing overall financial costs, increasing transparency and giving them easier access to global markets.

Read the full article by Andreas Kamilaris, Francesc Xavier Prenafeta-Boldú and Agusti Fonts featured in Issue 88 of CTA’s ICT Update. 


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