New App Uses IBM Blockchain To Trace Where Your Coffee Comes From

Created in partnership with Farmer Connect, "Thank My Farmer" app was designed to help increase traceability, efficiency and fairness in the coffee supply chain.

07.01.2020 | by Kezia Parkins
Photo by Robert Shunev on Unsplash
Photo by Robert Shunev on Unsplash

Conscious coffee drinkers will now be able to close the gap between their neighbourhood barista and the farmers that grew the beans thanks to IBM blockchain technology. 

On Monday, the tech giant debuted the new “Thank My Farmer” app, a collaboration with Farmer Connect, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The mobile app was developed with leading companies across the global supply chain including Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE), The JM Smucker Company, Rabobank, The Columbian Coffee Growers Federation and Yara International.

Powered by IBM Blockchain, “Thank My Farmer” aims to help increase traceability, efficiency and fairness in the coffee supply chain.

“The future of coffee is traceability,” says Dave Behrends, president and co-founder of Farmer Connect, a platform that leverages IBM Blockchain technology to do all of the above.

“Traceability means having the visibility to know was this coffee a  source and a responsible and sustainable way.”

“In many producing countries, the price of coffee today is below their cost of production, and I think as consumers we want farmers to be taking care of the environment. But if they don’t have economic viability, it’s impossible to ask them to do those things.”

Coffee drinkers today consume more than half a trillion cups per year, and as many as two-thirds of consumers aged 19-24 surveyed say they prefer to buy coffee that is sustainably grown and responsibly sourced.

Despite this, there is still little understanding of the need for coffee farmers to earn a sufficient living to bring their product to market.

Plus, the coffee industry’s huge global supply chain makes tracing a bean’s journey from farm to cup notoriously difficult:

Once grown, beans make several stops, including at co-ops, exporters, shippers, importers, roasters, distributors and retailers before finally reaching the consumer. Each shareholder in this elaborate system tracks only their small segment of the journey, and each uses its own system to log data. This means that information about the product is fragmented.

Based on Farmer Connect’s platform, the “Thank My Farmer” app pulls information directly from the blockchain in a standardised way that can be used across the industry to provide near real-time access to this data.

In addition to allowing consumers to connect with farmers, traders, roasters and brands to understand the origin, quality and grower of their coffee, the app also presents opportunities for users to support coffee farmers and sustainability projects in coffee communities.

Users simply scan a QR code on packaging, and the information is presented on an interactive map, allowing each product to tell a story in a simple and scalable way.

“The aim is humanising each coffee drinker’s relationship with their daily cup,” said Behrends.

“Consumers now can play an active role in sustainability governance by supporting coffee farmers in developing nations. Through the blockchain and this consumer app, we’re creating a virtuous cycle.”

The new mobile application will launch at the beginning of 2020. Users in the US and Canada will be able to scan QR codes on 1850 brand premium single-origin coffee. European consumers will be able to access the “Thank My Farmer” app through a new single-origin brand, Beyers 1769, roasted at Beyers Koffie.

As the app expands over the next year, large and small companies will be invited to join.

IBM and Farmer Connect are showing how blockchain technology can bring all parties in the coffee supply chain together, simplifying the exchange and tracking of information and payments and enabling greater trust by creating a permanent digitised chain of transactions that cannot be altered.

“This project is another example of how blockchain technology can enable a channel for real change,” said Raj Rao, General Manager, IBM Food Trust, the arm of IBM dedicated to creating a smarter, safer and more sustainable food system with blockchain.

“Blockchain is more than aspirational business tech; it is used today to transform how people can build trust in the goods they consume. For business, it can drive greater transparency and efficiency.”

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