If you get your news from the leading crypto blogs, you’d think that the crypto and blockchain technology only revolves around the banking and fintech sector. But one field that has silently been reaping massive benefits from the technology is the farming industry. Farmers are a community that is perennially caught in debt circles owing to various systemic issues prevalent in the contemporary industry.
Why is the farming community lagging behind?
The Agricultural industry lags far behind when it comes to innovation and use of technology. Farmers are often bullied and exploited by financiers and distributors who refuse to reveal the real retail prices to swallow a big part of the earnings. However, with the blockchain technology’s ability to offer secure and easily accessible transactions empower the farmers and allow them to maximize the profits of their hard work. The technology can also help remove the middlemen involved in the process and thus reserve a huge chunk of their hard-earned profits for themselves.
There are already many startups that have realized the problem and have been working towards creating some crypto and Blockchain-based feasible solutions. In particular, three main areas in farming have been using technology and still have a lot more room to benefit from the efficiency and transparency of Blockchain. These include operations involving mobile payments, transaction fees, and credits, second is provenance and absolute clarity, and the last is real-time supervision of supply chain, financing, and transaction monitoring.
Blockchain and crypto projects in farming
To start, we touch upon the problem of lack of access to affordable financing for the farmers all across the globe. In this regard, several startups have popped up in the niche to improve agricultural financing, which employs blockchain technology to enhance funds access for farmers both in developed and developing countries.
In this regard, Wala is a blockchain mobile financial services startup focusing on the farming sector financing in Africa. The company operates through a strategic partnership with Block Commodities and FinComEco and offers 100,000,000 Dala token loans (approx. USD 10M) to 50,000 small scale farmers to facilitate their farming activities based in countries like South Africa, Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi, and Zimbabwe.
The key objective is to help the farmers in buying fertilizer, which is necessary to maximize the value of their agricultural output. And the payment is powered by blockchain technology platforms, allowing affordable and accessible financial services that are so rare in the industry.
Wala has also created another partnership with Spazapp, an e-commerce platform targeting small merchants and helping them manage and purchase new inventory from wholesalers, and Mvendr, which is a mobile point-of-sale service aimed at small merchants. This entire network collectively empowers the farmers with the capability to conduct transactions with over 100,000 merchants throughout Africa while enhancing the capabilities of consumers, merchants, and suppliers within the farming industry.
When it comes to improving the ease of transactions, several startups can be mentioned. Most notably, BitPesa, founded in November 2013 by Elizabeth Rossiello in Nairobi, Kenya, is a digital foreign exchange and payment platform that utilizes Blockchain to allow swift and cost-effective transactions for farmers in Africa. The platform enables transactions in multiple currencies, meaning farmers in different countries can seamlessly trade with each other while enjoying the benefits of the blockchain solution.
Another Bitcoin-based company, Rebit from the Philippines, has also presented solutions to streamline financial services for the farming industry. They allow the users to send and receive money and even bills in real-time, cost-effectively through a decentralized ledger that ensures complete transparency.
When it comes to improving the transparency of supply chains, the fairly new awakening of the world to the need for clean, healthy, organic foods goes a long way in justifying the need for Blockchain-based solutions. Because customers are now interested in knowing the sources of their food to ensure that it meets the quality standards, the ease of access and transparency of Blockchain can be leveraged to offer a solution.
A UK-based Agri-ledger was launched as a social enterprise project that employs distributed ledger technology and also uses a mobile app to facilitate agricultural producers. Agri-ledgers’ mobile app allows the farmers to monitor transactions in the supply chain from acquisition to the point of sale. And with an incorruptible framework, the data is safe from any mishandling or malpractice.
The app creates an even playing field for the farmers and co-ops, as it records and transacts the complete framework of integrated services and leverages the Blockchain-based supply chain solution to provide the much-needed efficiency and traceability in the farming industry.
Furthermore, two more startups by the names of FarmShare and Provenance have already developed solutions to improve supply chain transparency. Using Blockchain and open data, the platforms gather and disseminate critical product information and its supply chain journeys on a publicly accessible yet safe ledger.
Farmers profit from the real-time supply chain supervision concerning financing and transactions, since taking a crop from the farm and putting it on the aisle involves a lot of monetary transactions amongst farmers, financiers, and retailers. The public ledger allows the farmers to track every purchase along the way, and enables them to know whether their product has been sold or not, making the payment procedure a lot simpler.
The solution also offers the ability to verify business and supplier connections while enhancing supply chain integrity. Buyers can simply scan a blockchain barcode with their smartphones to reveal details on product origin and can also find out more information about the certifications associated with a product.
While currently, there are many useful projects operating in the sector, the true potential remains to be realized. To give farmer full control over their finances and get them out of their perennial debt status has been a long sought after dream for centuries since the start of the industrial revolution that revolutionized the field. But, even after so many generations and centuries, farmers especially the smaller ones continue to be buried under more and more debt. Cryptocurrencies and blockchain might be their best chance in decades to overcome these systemic issues hampering their progress.