Blockchain in Agriculture
Blockchain in agriculture is perhaps one of the most exciting opportunities of the modern world and can pave the way to the solution of a global problem.
While the world is dynamically shifting towards an increasingly digital form, one decidedly analog human need remains fundamental and key to our existence – food. And although humanity has evolved to a point of creating technologies that once sounded like stories from a sci-fi novel, the world remains at a critical juncture when it comes to hunger. Poor quality control, inadequate supply chain management, and other factors prevent agriculture from succeeding at its core mission – to provide the world with healthy, safe, and reliable food products.
Because of its multifaceted properties, blockchain technology can have a significant impact on addressing these challenges.
The struggles of the agriculture sector today
For thousands of years, agriculture has been instrumental in building human civilization, yet it continues to face pressing issues even today. To put it in numbers, one-third of people in the world did not have access to adequate food in 2020.
Why? There are numerous factors at play here..
Economic slowdowns, mistrust, conflict of interest, or quality concerns are all influential. Consumers and food producers face a number of challenges, such as a lack of transparency for food system partners and the lack of trust and connectivity between them. Consumers are often forced to rely on producers without having full access to food data. All of this leads to deteriorating confidence in the quality of production, mistrust, and conflicts.
Today, there is an urgent call for a transformation in agriculture and a modern approach that meets the needs of our interconnected and highly digitized society. The agricultural sector is in desperate need of a solution that can improve food safety, enhance food quality, and offer full transparency and traceability of the supply chain. This is where blockchain could be the answer that we’ve been looking for.
Blockchain in agriculture: The benefits
The potential of blockchain in agriculture is virtually limitless. While we are yet to explore the full scope and power of the technology, the agricultural sector is already starting to get a taste of how blockchain can influence current processes and fill missing gaps.
With a healthy lifestyle mentality, consumers today demand full, transparent information about the food they consume. Some of the most popular demands include data on food quality certificates, place of origin, harvest dates, producers, production standards, and more. But most importantly, there is a need for original, tamper-proof information that consumers can trust.
In blockchain, once a block of data is verified and part of the chain, it becomes immutable and timeless. The use of blockchain technology in agriculture makes it possible to track every product with full accuracy and transparency from production to delivery and inbetween. In other words, consumers can see everything about a product from farm to table, verify which certified farm their food came from, and more.
Blockchain can also tackle the security gap in agriculture by:
- Enhancing data transparency
- Providing data traceability
- Guaranteeing food safety
- Monitoring quality
As a decentralized solution, blockchain doesn’t rely on a single entity for data verification or control, meaning that there is no ‘single point of failure’. Consumers and stakeholders can easily trace information from production to distribution and sale. Moreover, every transaction is verified via public–private-key cryptography, leading to major improvements in security. The transaction records on the blocks cannot be changed after being approved in the chain as they are linked to each other. This further strengthens security and provides reliability.
Supply chain improvement
The agricultural sector’s existing supply chain is notoriously complicated and obscure. To reach their final destination, shipments go through a lot of different phases. It’s a challenge for farmers to track where their products will be sold, for what price and how many products were actually sold. All of this leads to vulnerabilities and farmers are forced to allow traders to control prices and order quantities.
Blockchain technology can be the solution to rectifying this imbalance. The technology can record transactions in real-time and offer up-to-date supply and demand data to all involved parties. Blockchain also omits the need of middlemen and agents by making it possible for people from different countries to due diligence each other and conduct transactions.
Without the use of blockchain, farmers often have to wait for weeks to receive payments for the goods they’ve provided. To make things worse, wire transfer costs are usually unrealistically high, leading to money losses. Blockchain in agriculture can dramatically reduce costs and make payments faster via the use of blockchain-based apps. These apps can operate on the backbone of smart contracts and can offer affordable, safe, and instant peer-to-peer fund transfers. Smart contracts can even make payments automatic if certain criteria are met.
How can blockchain be used in agriculture?
Even if blockchain technology hasn’t reached its ultimate form yet, there are undoubtedly many opportunities for its application in agriculture. Let’s look at a few use case examples of blockchain in agriculture.
Coupling blockchain technology with IoT can lead to a marriage that could completely reshape the food production industry. By relying on data across the different production stages, blockchain and IoT can optimize essential resources for farming, such as water, labor, and fertilizers. Data can be collected from crop and soil monitoring, distribution processes, and retail and hashed and saved on blockchain. Some examples of types of information include:
- Soil temperature and pH
- Pesticide use
- Wind monitoring
- Quality control
- Bill data
Once this information is stored on a distributed storage platform or blockchain, there will be no central authority in control of the system. The blockchain data will make use of smart contracts to allow certain actions and facilitate the exchange of information. Every participant in the agricultural market will be able to access this information, leading to improved efficiency in crop production.
Food supply chain
The existing supply chain in agriculture poses one major threat – the inability to track the food’s source and guarantee its safety. This often leads to tons of food production being thrown away every year. Blockchain presents a new opportunity to transform the agricultural supply chain and bring trust and transparency to the table. The technology can help reduce food fraud by relying on a few steps.
And solutions are already on their way. Ripe is one of the examples of technologies designed to provide a transparent digital food supply chain in agriculture using blockchain. But how?
IoT sensors can generate information like crop quality, seed type, the conditions in which the crops have been grown, and more. The information can later be tracked and accessed by all consumers, vendors, and other involved parties as the blockchain technology is fully decentralized and transparent. Network information can easily be traced by consumers, verifying the quality of the food and guaranteeing food integrity.
Avoiding weather catastrophes
One of the most vital components of successful food production is predicting and controlling weather conditions that allow crop survival. Furthermore, there’s an urgent need for accurate information on the conditions in which the crops have been grown to detect potential problems or opportunities. This will also lead to a better understanding of price differences in food distribution.
To prevent weather catastrophes, blockchain can be utilized to store data received from Agricultural Weather Stations. Farmers can access the data and take preventative measures to avoid crop losses and guarantee successful production patterns.
For example, Worldcover already relies on blockchain technology and satellites to monitor and record information about rainfall, helping farmers avoid risks.
Agricultural financial control
To sustain balanced and fair agricultural financing, there’s a need for full transparency, credit history, and contract enforcement. Blockchain in agriculture can offer fairness by guaranteeing transparency and shared control access. The first step is for stakeholders to share data across every phase of production. For example, every transaction can be stored on the blockchain, allowing transparency for all involved parties.
Blockchain can also help auditors perform effective audits by providing verification on recorded transactions. The need for financial reports from farmers will be omitted, as the transactions can be accessed directly using blockchain ledgers.
Blockchain in agriculture also opens a world of opportunities when it comes to payments. One of the most common problems in agriculture is the slow payments and inability of farmers to receive their money quickly and efficiently. Furthermore, there are additional fees for wire transfers, putting more pressure on an already difficult scenario.
The technology can enable transparent peer-to-peer transactions, eliminating the need for intermediaries such as banks. Rather than placing trust on one authority, the trust is baked in the system, underpinned by cryptography and the blockchain architecture. This solution can dramatically cut down transaction costs and strengthen the relationship between producers and consumers.
Companies like AgriChain are already starting to exploit this potential, providing peer-to-peer agricultural transactions.
The best is yet to come
Blockchain technology does have its challenges, especially considering that it’s still in its early form and bound to be put to the test. However, it’s undoubtedly a ray of hope for a future built on decentralization and mutual trust. Agriculture is only one of the sectors that the technology can be adapted to and it’s thrilling and exciting to see where this journey will take us.
So if you have a great idea for blockchain implementation, don’t hesitate to drop us a line at [email protected]. We can help you achieve it!