Over time, the coffee industry has become increasingly committed to transparency. We try to ask the right questions from our suppliers. We collect information about the coffee and the farm: the processing, farm location, ownership, backstory. We make every effort to ensure that workers are treated well, that wages are fair, that no child labour is used. We ask a lot of questions to ensure that our supply chain is transparent. But what about returning information to origin for the benefit of producers? Blockchain Technology is presenting new ways to achieve better information flow along the supply chain.
Farmer Connect, an initiative envisioned by Sucafina and realised by a now independent company, is working to create a tool that will, by 2020, enable two-way information sharing and deliver benefits to farmers, exporters, importers, roasters, and consumers alike.
Farmer Connect leverages blockchain technology to track a bag of coffee from the moment of delivery to the final cup. Likewise, the technology will create positive impacts along the entire supply chain, beginning with the farmer growing the cherry (who will be able to see where her coffee ended up) and ending with the customer enjoying a cup of truly traceable coffee.
A central step in realising this project is the development of farmer-owned identities with the help of Streetcred ID. This feature will be available by the end of this year. Using Streetcred ID, coffee can be traced to individual farmers, making it possible to track growing conditions, farmer livelihoods and more. True to the heart of the program, these new identities will not only help importers and customers to track back to origin but will also work for the farmers themselves.
Farmers with an identity will be able to record transactions and eventually track historical yields and sales pricing. The application will also, down the road, allow them to see the subsequent prices paid for their coffees, equipping them with more knowledge and potentially better bargaining power and access to finance than before. As farmers, application users will have more access to information than ever before, enabling them to have greater agency over the production and sale process.
Additionally, because the identity and application will allow them to track contracts and payments, creating a digital record of production and income, it could help many farmers access banking and credit systems for the first time. In fact, this is something that the Farmer Connect team is working on now. Down the line, the app will seek to add weather updates and information about the spread of pests or diseases as well as information and suggestions about agronomy practices. This information helps farmers to plan more effectively.
Roasters and consumers will also benefit from the application. With the ability to digitally trace the full supply chain and register commodities to comply with government regulations (pending government acceptance), importers will be able to improve their trading strategies. By the end of 2020, the goal is that they will also be able to enter into agreements with farmers, deliver payments and track coffee movements.
For consumers, the benefits include a better understanding of the story behind the coffee they’re drinking. The “Thank My Farmer” app, a special, customer-facing application currently being tested, will aggregate tracking data to create an interactive map for consumers to explore the journey coffee took to their cup. Consumers will then be able to send money directly to farmers or contribute to crowd-funded sustainability projects, ensuring that their money is going directly to the intended recipient.
Farmer Connect has the capacity to become a significant actor in the coffee supply chain. It has its sights set even higher with the aim of expanding beyond the coffee supply chain to impact farmers and consumers in other global agricultural supply chains as well.
For now, though, Farmer Connect is gearing up to make waves in the coffee industry. The “Thank My Farmer” app will be live for select markets by 2020. We’re excited to continue offering new and improved information and systems as the program progresses. Hungry for more information? Want to achieve better coffee transparency through Blockchain technology? Contact the Farmer Connect team!