Digging into Blockchain in Agriculture

6 min read

Is your organic food really organic?

I’m sure most of us have bought an organic apple and wondered, “is this actually organic, or did they just put the sticker on it and charge me more?”

Currently we have to trust that our food is actually what the label claims and it came from where they tell us it came from, but often times we don’t. Some are aware of the advertising gimmicks food companies use- like labeling something a “cheese product” even though it is not actually cheese.

Lab grown meat is on the rise with no clear agreement on how it will be disclosed to consumers. Potentially going by “cultured meat”, “cell-based meat”, or “clean meat”. All resulting from actual animal cells grown in a lab, potentially providing some ethical confusion for consumers.

The Main Culprit

Consumers have found body parts and animal limbs in their food. Salmonella has gotten people sick. Who is responsible? The USDA? The farmer? The guy who put the items on the truck? Blockchains will help reduce these issues by adding transparency and trust to the supply chain by tracking the journey of your food from farm to factory to table – even including checkpoints of accountability along the way.

For this to make sense let’s look at Monsanto. Even if you don’t the history of the company, you probably know people don’t like them. They control our food and that many consider them “The Most Evil Corporation of All Time”.

Very brief history – because their horrifying resume is quite extensive – Monsanto was originally founded as a chemical company in 1901 to produce saccharin, an artificial sweetener 300 times sweeter than sugar with no nutritional value. They were involved in PCB production for 50 years, the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan, development of Agent Orange which caused generational birth defects, and they got into agriculture business by developing pesticides. In the 1980s were first to genetically modify plants.

Monsanto’s seeds that they sell contain a Monsanto-owned patent in their DNA, so Monsanto dictates who can plant their seeds and has sued farmers for using their seeds, even when the farmers never willingly did. The Monsanto seeds flew ended up on their farms via pollination. These seeds can destroy the organic farmer’s crops (because they  they aren’t using Roundup, another Monsanto product to kill weeds around the plants) and then in addition to the financial stress of their crops being ruined they are now being sued by Monsanto.

How Blockchain Technology Can Help

So now that you have a little of that context, you probably want to avoid Monsanto products and support those struggling organic farmers, right? Well, how would you know who makes which product? It sounds like they have their hands in each aspect of the food and chemical industry. Once the blockchain is applied, users can view the smart contract checkpoints along the supply chain could theoretically track which farms use Roundup and their GMO seeds and shop at places that do not. (Without knowing the seeds flew on their property lines).

The helpful change will be reducing food waste, especially when a foodborne illness breaks out. Currently stores throw away more items than necessary to stop contaminated products from spreading because identifying affected items is currently very difficult.  Pinpointing contamination is difficult without the  records provided by a blockchain, so to be safe they often throw away all the food from that shipment. In 2018, a deadly E. Coli outbreak connected to romaine lettuce grown in Arizona affected 35 states across the US. In 2013, European products were advertised as beef but were actually…horse. The supermarkets blamed their suppliers who, in turn, blamed their suppliers.

China is very interested in using the blockchain to trace pork to prevent PR damage to brands. Additionally, the government of Kerala in southern India is already implementing blockchain technology into their grocery distribution.

An increase in consumer confidence comes from knowing what the animal was fed and what antibiotics they were or were not given. Animals are pumped with antibiotics to help livestock grow faster in order to increase revenue and to prevent animals from getting sick in unclean living conditions. Having all of these antibiotics in our food is dangerous because this increases the likelihood that a super-bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics. Allowing consumers to choose whether or not they want to pay for meat without antibiotics will give farmers accurate insight as to the supply and demand for cruelty free food. Food would also need less preservatives if it can reach the store faster.

Use Cases

Pavocoin is a marketplace and cryptocoin to help farmers compete with larger corporations helping farmers shift from price takers to price setters, forcing downstream cost reductions. Pavocoin can be used by consumers to buy directly from farmers or can be used by farmers to pre-sell their crops. Farmers in the cities of Stockton and Dixon, California are already using the system. These systems will also help reduce food waste as they will be able to more accurately gauge demand and and adjust supply as needed.

CottonCoin is a decentralized, global proof of stake cryptocurrency to help renovate the cotton industry. Many of the countries we receive cotton products from are third-world countries with little trust or digitization. There is so much corruption in the industry that the International Food Policy Research Institute estimated that 300,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves from financial despair since the 1990’s. Monsanto has a connection to India and China, as shown in the documentary “Bitter Seeds”. Monsanto’s experts counter these claims and argue that suicides have decreased since increasing production and income for these farmers. Little access to institutional credit to compete with larger farms also contributes to the problem. Cotton Coin aims to hold each participant in the supply chain of the manufacturing and delivery of cotton to a higher standard. Consumers can use the token to order a cotton analysis service and rate supply chain companies to remove bad actors and increase the negotiation and logistics of distribution.