Blockchain technology – a digital ledger providing data storage and exchange through a secure, decentralised platform – has the potential to bring a host of benefits to the agrifood sector, but it must be researched comprehensively and implemented strategically if those benefits are to be realised.
Having identified innovation for production and profitability as central to its refreshed strategy, CTA aims to take a lead in this field, as part of its ongoing work in agribusiness, ICT entrepreneurship and innovation.
In its recent strategy ‘Digital4Development’, the European Commission highlighted blockchain technology as an area that holds significant potential for development; however, understanding of the technology is minimal, particularly in the agricultural sector in the ACP countries. In 2017, CTA organised an ICT4Ag workshop that brought together a range of key stakeholders from across the ACP and the EU, to develop a better understanding of the opportunities presented by blockchain technology, its relevance to the agriculture sector, and the key challenges to be overcome if the technology is to be effectively deployed.
CTA is well placed to develop, test and implement blockchain technology within the agriculture sector, thanks to its links with stakeholders across agricultural value chains. CTA also has experience in mentoring entrepreneurs, and in fostering an enabling environment for specified policy targets by raising awareness among policymakers. CTA’s planned blockchain project will also build on its experience with sharing new innovations through channels, like Spore and ICTupdate, by developing an open-access ‘portal’ listing best practices.
Running from April 2018 to February 2020, the project seeks to gather knowledge about blockchain technology, and to provide a platform to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and to encourage innovation in blockchain’s application. In particular, the project will seek to improve understanding – and provide evidence for – the use of blockchain technology in agriculture across the ACP – building on the promising results that blockchain has exhibited so far in enhancing traceability and transparency across value chains.
The project will be split into three main ‘tracks’:
- Devising and initiating pilot projects that will investigate and demonstrate the application of blockchain technology to agriculture in the ACP. The risk of gender bias in pilot studies will be addressed by gender balance criteria.
- The development of a ‘portal’, or database, collating best practices and innovative uses of blockchain technology in agriculture.
- Developing and spreading awareness of blockchain technology, and the findings of successful pilot studies, among key stakeholders including policymakers and private businesses. CTA will foster links between decision-makers and investors, and farmer cooperatives and SMEs, with the aim of developing business partnerships.
- To gather new and detailed knowledge about blockchain technology, and solid evidence regarding its application to agriculture in the ACP.
- To increase the number of partnerships between private businesses and farmer organisations/SMEs that are developing and utilising blockchain technology.
- To reach 200 blockchain developers, and an audience of 100,000 through the portal, throughout the project’s duration.
- To further CTA’s work in boosting productivity and profitability through digitalisation, innovation and youth entrepreneurship.