Adding to the growing list of blockchain-based platforms focused on the coffee sector is Farmer Connect, a Swiss-born platform with initial participation from multiple multinational coffee trading organizations.
Founded by Dave Behrends, the head of trading at the Geneva-based green coffee trading company Sucafina, the Farmer Connect platform officially launched last month with strategic backing or participation from major coffee-concerned organizations, including the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), The J.M. Smucker Company, Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE), RGC Coffee, Itochu, Beyers Koffie and Sucafina.
The blockchain-based tech being used was developed in part by IBM, based on the IBM Food Trust platform.
In an announcement of the Farmer Connect launch, the startup noted the many steps and intermediaries involved between planting coffee trees to brewing the final cup, including harvesting, processing, packing, shipping, exporting/importing, blending, roasting and more.
“These intermediaries all have their disparate ways of tracking information, which can make value and information exchanges across the supply chain more manual, more labor-intensive and less transparent than they could be,” the company said, adding, “Blockchain is ideally suited to help address these challenges because it establishes an immutable, transparent environment for transactions.”
Like already established blockchain solutions for coffee and other commodities, the Farmer Connect platform promises to track coffee data at every transaction point, providing a fully traceable product that can ultimately benefit sellers catering to consumers who are interested in understanding the source of the goods they purchase. The company also pitches the platform as a potential benefit to farmers, too, as they can easily maintain the kinds of transaction data that could put them in a better negotiating position, particularly when seeking credit.
“Global coffee prices recently hit the lowest price in over a decade, and many farmers are being forced to exit the industry entirely by turning to new crops or migrating,” Behrends said last month. “If this trend continues, it will severely impact the broader supply chain, and it will likely be consumers who ultimately shoulder the burden of higher retail prices or a reduced number of coffee producing countries.”
The Farmer Connect platform was tested over the course of several months in with coffees originating from Colombia and Rwanda, the company said. A main element of the platform is an app called “Thank My Farmer,” which can be used by consumers to receive complete descriptions of the coffee they are drinking, while highlighting the coffee’s journey through an interactive map.
The first version of the app will be available tested by consumers in “select markets” of J.M. Smucker and JDE, according to Farmer Connect, before the app is opened up for general release some time in 2020.
“We believe that Farmer Connect will be the platform of choice for the coffee industry,” Rajendra Rao, general manager of IBM Food Trust, said in the announcement. “Through the innovative approach to supporting all stakeholders in the industry ecosystem, we know that both farmers and coffee lovers everywhere will benefit from transparent connectivity.”
Nick Brown is the editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine.