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Blockchain

Blockchain in Agriculture

The CTA blockchain workshop aimed to explore blockchain and its contribution to the transformation of the agricultural sector

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The increasing buzz on blockchain technology has, in recent times, drawn attention to its application within the agriculture sector. The technology can be leveraged upon to improve agriculture efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, including intra-ACP business transactions and transactions between ACP and international business stakeholders.

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To discuss the opportunities and challenges for blockchain in agriculture in the agri-food sector, over 160 participants gathered in Brussels on 15 May, 2019 at the 55th Brussels Development Briefing organised by CTA, the European Commission (DEVCO), the ACP Secretariat, Concord and BMZ.

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The Pacific region is facing a huge decrease in fisheries revenue – its principal source of income and employment over the last decade. Reported by Stop Illegal Fishing, the Fijian government states that, “About 306,440 t of fish were harvested illegally in the Pacific region with an estimated cost of $616.11 million from 2010 to 2015”.

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It might keep the world fed, but there is little appetite for financing farming and farmers. Women in farming count access to finance as top of their challenges. Many run informal businesses. Expanding them into large operations comes with a long list of demands, including access to funding, collateral, business skills and a record of farming accomplishment. Digital technologies can help to boost prospects for women agripreneurs.

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It is widely recognised that access to finance is one of the biggest barriers to more young people becoming engaged in agriculture. Here, Varun Baker, a young Jamaican entrepreneur and winner of the CTA Pitch AgriHack 2018 contest, explains why he is convinced that blockchain technology can help to change this – and how his own start-up Farm Credibly is using the technology to improve access to finance for unbanked farmers.

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One of the first applications for the incentive system of blockchain: ‘cryptocurrencys’ was its use in remittances. A digital currency without borders could be used to transfer money across nations at a faster rate and lower cost than conventional methods. Crowdlending platform, EthicHub, has explored and implemented these possibilities to provide smallholder farmers in developing countries with financial services. Jana Petkanic, from the Benelux office for EthicHub, talks about the company’s innovative blockchain project in Mexico.

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Founded by Abraham Cambridge in 2014, The Sun Exchange is based in South Africa where the company is working to address a huge gap in funding for solar projects. Today, their solution is helping to power factories, schools and wildlife. In this article, Cambridge details Sun Exchange’s experience with blockchain technology.

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Access to finance is a serious challenge for smallholder farmers worldwide, and the majority of them are still underfinanced. When loans are provided, farmers may often pass these loans on to other people in need of cash. This, as well as the absence of a credit score or collateral (like title deeds), create uncertainty and risk for financial institutions and increases the difficulty for farmers to obtain such loans or other forms of finance.

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Consisting of a small group of ambitious young people, Fairfood in the Netherlands aims to contribute to the achievement of six of the 17 sustainable development goals. Lonneke Craemers, head of business development and project management at Fairfood, explains how blockchain technology is helping them to achieve these aims.

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Since 2014, a pioneering organisation called Land LayBy has been developing land acquisition solutions. After a successful pilot scheme in Kenya, Land LayBy has scaled up their services to Australia, Ghana, London and New York. We spoke with Raymond Kaniu, chief strategist at Land LayBy and main author of their white paper. He explains Land LayBy’s journey and their experiences of working with blockchain technology.

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The UN reports that around 50% of crop value vanishes between harvesting and the point of sale. AgUnity – an Australian agri-tech start-up established in 2016 – aims to address this issue in Kenya, Papua New Guinea and Ethiopia with the help of blockchain technology.

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Henk van Cann is co-founder of Blockchain Workspace, an organisation based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands that provides training on the blockchain to make the technology understandable to a broad audience. Henk spoke to ICT Update about the need to educate people in the use of the blockchain before they start using it and judging it, and why trust is one of the key drivers for moving away from centralised systems and towards blockchain technology.

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Using the Oxford Blockchain Strategy Framework, Nikolet Zwart has analysed a use case of adding value through the local processing of food by multinational agribusinesses to illustrate the usefulness of any kind of blockchain analysis.

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Nathalie Toulon from the AgroTIC Digital Agriculture Chair in France discusses the many ways in which the blockchain can potentially change agriculture, for example by enhancing trust, transparency and efficiency, and several pitfalls to take into account. Like any new technology, blockchain should not be viewed as a panacea. For it to serve development, it will need to mature.

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John Weru is a Kenya-born writer, blogger and co-founder of PayHub East Africa. In a conversation with ICT Update, John talked about the rise of cryptocurrency, the potential of the blockchain to improve efficiency in the agricultural value chain in Africa, and the urgent need to educate people about the technology itself and the economy that it is creating.

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Eva Oakes describes Choco4Peace’s experience building a network based on blockchain technology in the cocoa sector in Colombia. The main aim is to get smallholders out of both cocaine production and poverty through access to finance.

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In 2017, The Fork – an Amsterdam-based company working on blockchain for global food chain development – developed, reviewed and commented on about 20 applications of the blockchain in agriculture. After briefly explaining what it essentially is, we will summarise its value for agriculture – which is different to what is often communicated – as well as its limitations, and how you can start experimenting with it.