Not too many people think about the potential impact that blockchain will have on the future of agriculture, but this sector has already seen some significant progress thanks to blockchain technology. How big could the impact of blockchain in agriculture become? Agriculture is now a multi-trillion dollar industry. Even with this growth, there are also many challenges currently facing the industry. For example, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, around one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted every year.
With current issues like food shortages, food security, and climate change, blockchain can play a vital role in the optimization of farming practices and also create new potential market opportunities. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest blockchain projects in this sector to date and how they aim to shape the future of agriculture.
On May 3, 2018, Cardano (ADA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Ethiopia Ministry of Science and Technology. Although it isn’t known when the implementation of this agreement will start, the Cardano project team has stated that it plans to implement its blockchain technology on Ethiopia’s national agtech platform by the end of 2018.
The platform will track the shipments of coffee, the nation’s largest export, and other agricultural goods all the way from farms to wholesale buyers. By placing coffee exports on the blockchain, it will be easy to verify the origins of coffee products. Additionally, Cardano’s parent organization, IOHK, plans to offer free courses for 100 Ethiopian students to learn Haskell, the programming language utilized by Cardano’s blockchain platform.
BlockGrain is an Australia-based, blockchain/SaaS solution for the grain supply chain. Even before the project’s token sale began, it received support from the Queensland government’s Advance Queensland initiative. The project’s goal is to eliminate the need for tedious data entry, manual dockets, and spreadsheets. While the project does focus on the supply chain logistics and smart contracts for the shipping process, BlockGrain also does much more. For instance, the software helps farmers log info about all inloads and outloads for farmers’ silos, sheds and silo bags. In addition, it provides a variety of other features like precise blending algorithms to calculate accurate outloading.
So far, BlockGrain 1.0 has been tested for two harvests. The release of BlockGrain 2.0 will include new features and increased functionality. BlockGrain offers accessibility for iOS, Android, and desktop. While the project is first focused on gaining adoption domestically in Australia, it’s easy to see how it could be applied to make the global agricultural system more efficient.
PavoCoin is an IoT blockchain solution for the agtech ecosystem. Pavo has already been implemented in almond and walnut farms across California. It works by using in-ground and above ground sensors to collect data on temperature, humidity, soil, CO2, moisture, and other important factors. Future sensors will also check for luminosity, contaminants, and water quality (pH, ORP, and salinity). Current systems can be installed within a few hours by a Pavo engineer. However, the plan is to make the product’s installation process easy enough for anyone to complete within a few minutes.
Pavo’s technology can be applied to help farmers know when and how to best distribute water to crops, something that is much-needed in the water scarce farming lands of California and other regions throughout the world. Also, sensors will give Pavo’s SaaS platform subscribers access to data from other farmers on the system from throughout the world, which could provide valuable insights on how to best optimize farming practices. Much like BlockGrain, Pavo can also be conveniently accessed via iOS and Android apps.
Food Security Issues and Blockchain Solutions
Food security remains a global issue. While the above-mentioned projects already add a lot of value in terms of crop yield optimization and supply chain management, these and other agriculture-focused blockchain projects could help solve all sorts of food security issues. As mentioned in a previous post, Zhong An has developed a chicken tracking system to ensure high-quality poultry is produced in China to prevent the possibility of another incident similar to the KFC and McDonald’s food security issues of 2014.
When looking at the U.S., for instance, widespread food security incidents are also quite frequent. For example, in April 2018, Walmart, Food Lion and other grocery store chains recalled more than 206.7 million eggs due to a salmonella outbreak. As of May 6, 2018, an E. coli outbreak affecting romaine lettuce in 26 states has led to 121 sicknesses, 52 hospitalizations, and 1 death.
The main issue is that it’s difficult to track down the source of these food security problems. The number of affected shipping locations and products seems to expand over time. Oftentimes, this means that contamination warnings occur too late. Therefore, many people unknowingly consume affected products.
Blockchain-backed agriculture systems could help reduce the likelihood of these large-scale food security issues. For instance, grocery stores and restaurants would be able to scan blockchain-enabled RFID tags to check whether their products have been affected by such outbreaks. Another promising possibility is that future blockchain/IoT sensor projects will be able to not only make traceability easier after an outbreak has occurred, but also detect the presence of harmful bacteria in agricultural products before they even leave the farm.
While blockchain in agriculture is still in the early stages of implementation, a few projects are working to ensure that agricultural products of the present and future are much improved in many ways. Adding blockchain-based supply chains will help reduce waste and optimize shipping. Blockchain-based farming will help farmers optimize crop production and tackle food scarcity issues. For people throughout the world, the impact of blockchain in agriculture could have several major benefits. Technology-driven agriculture could potentially make agricultural products not only cheaper, but also verifiably safer to consume.