The blockchain is not exactly a new concept anymore, but the idea of creating blockchain for the greater good is still pretty fresh.
But not for this Queensland agriculture tech startup.
AgUnity is a blockchain based agtech startup that is creating better trust between farmers and co-operatives for developing countries and reducing inefficiency.
The company has two entities:
- AgUnity, is a commercial entity that builds the technology and runs pilot projects to prove the impact, and the other,
- AgriLedger is a charitable trust that allows us to partner with and receives funding from NGOs.
They have created a mobile app, AgriLedger, which is made to improve farmer communication, information sharing, collective bargaining and individual profits, which basically streamlines co-operative operations by integrating blockchain.
This app is accessed through a smartphone that is given to the farmer for free with the help of NGOs and other philanthropic organisations.
How it works
The multipurpose app allows farmers to schedule various farming activities, coordinate equipment sharing, buying and selling. On top of that, farmers will be able to manage their incomes in the in-built digital wallet and record their transactions securely.
All the fluff of blockchain and its hype is being boiled down to a simple utilisation of this new technology. An incorruptible and permanent ledger.
The app records all the details of the farmer’s crops and transactions and locks those details to the blockchain via the use of QR code.
Hence, this will present the farmers with a permanent record of the transactions that direct all the way to the start of the supply chain, delivering a system of fairness and equality to both farms and the co-operatives.
A simple use, but the power of its simplicity should not be underestimated.
This simplicity has brought about better trust among the farmers and transformed it into a more collaborative community.
What AgUnity is bringing in
Trust isn’t the only thing that AgUnity is bringing in, transparency within the community and efficiency are the other positive impacts that have resulted from trust.
The small businesses like farmers are at a disadvantage in developing countries, with over 500 million small farmers supply 80 percent of the food and agriculture is one of their main form of export as well.
“More than a billion small-scale farmers across the world earn an income from agriculture, yet up to 50 percent of the value of a typical small farmer’s crop ‘vanishes’ between harvest and sale.”
They also face logistical and human resources issues with most small business being run by one farmer and little access to transport or other financial services.
There is also an issue of food security, with one-third of the world’s available food either spoils or gets thrown away before it ever reaches a plate. That’s a lot of food that can be used to feed millions of people.
The economic development and global competitiveness of such agriculture dependent nations will suffer when their product didn’t make it to the market.
All these impacts are due to the lack of training and technology and basic logistics.
On top of that, inefficiency in handling the finance is causing farmers to lose out.
With the paper still being used for transactions, illiteracy plays a prominent role in the farmers being taken advantage of, causing farmers to earn lesser than the market price.
Which in turn results in the lack of trust and fragmentation of the community.
Tackling the ‘problem’
The challenges are complex and layered but at the root of it, trust is the denominator, and AgUnity understands that.
With AgriLedger, they have created a trust-based collaborative platform on the smartphone.
With blockchain at heart and its quality of being an incorruptible and permanent ledger, discrepancies can be discovered and alleviated.
Transparency is achieved with proper recording of the transactions which then create better trust between the different groups in the supply chain.
Inefficiency is also avoided because labour intensive paperwork is replaced with digital ways, this will also help with the auditing process.
The trust will build collaboration which will allow the community to produce on a larger scale which benefits all.
A simple use of blockchain, but the power it brings is immense.
CEO & Co-founder David Davies said in a statement when co-ops are formed; the great solution is that you get twenty, thirty, a hundred farmers together into a cooperative and they all sort of bundle resources.
“The simple matter of trust leading to cooperation and sharing resources has delivered more gains in a single season than decades of other more expensive projects,” he said.
“Everyone was trying to apply modern ideas before addressing the most fundamental thing that we took for granted.”
AgUnity claims that this collective working structure has increased farmers incomes and selling power by three times within one season.
More than just blockchain
The app goes further than that as well; it is also an online store.
The smartphone app also provides a platform for farmers to purchase ethical products and services like solar lights and microloans, which farmers living in remote villages can’t normally get access too.
Having a way to buy products like good solar lighting that can dramatically improve their health and wellbeing is as equally important as the increased income that comes from collaboration.
David explains further, “Not charging the farmer up front is the key. When farmers are so poor, it’s hard for them to spend even one extra dollar, as that might mean their children go hungry that night. So they are kind of trapped, unable to afford simple improvements that might have a big impact on their lives later in the year. Gifting them the smartphone with the AgUnity App gets them on the path to changing their lives.”
They are also gaining attention all over the world.
David was the keynote speaker for The Global Forum for Innovation in Agriculture, which is a two-day conference on global food security in Abu Dhabi.
The event garnered participation of around 600 exhibitors displaying their cutting-edge products and services and over 50 game-changing innovations.
Just recently he was named the “Agripreneur of the Year 2018” at the Global Agripreneurs Summit 2018.
‘Our idea commonly goes over people’s heads in the West. The fact that we can offer a blockchain-based ledger system to small-scale farmers in developing countries and triple their income one season to the next, it sounds too simple. But that’s exactly what we’ve achieved in our pilot projects in Bougainville and Kenya, and it’s all about solving a lack of trust.’ David explained shortly after receiving the FAC2018 award.
Earlier in the event, David was also elected to represent the Participants of Oceania (North America, Caribbean, Australia and the Pacific) to present to a distinguished panel of senior United Nations government and industry representatives.
They’ve received tremendous support from philanthropists and NGOs, from the beginning with UNICEF and Gates Foundation but also from the likes of Asian Development Bank, World Food Program and International Finance Corporation.
And the support keeps growing as they keep rolling out pilot projects.
“We’re closing a multimillion-dollar second-seed round to continue the existing pilot projects and the further rollout projects in Bali, Ethiopia, Solomon Islands, Vietnam, Turkey and hopefully Ecuador and Colombia very soon. These startup challenges are great for the financial support they provide, but more importantly is the widespread exposure we get throughout the whole process. At every event, more and more people come to realise that changing the lives of the world’s lowest-income farmers is possible with the right approach.”
On top of that, they already have projects in Kenya, Papua New Guinea and Myanmar.
Such an achievement and the founding story happened just two years ago, with an intention to come up with the most impressive world-changing idea to win a prize.
I guess the price ended up being a creating a global change.
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