Bridging the gap between smallholder coffee growers and consumers through blockchain


Coffee drinkers today consume more than half a trillion cups per year.

And of those drinkers, two-thirds of those aged between 19 and 24 would prefer to buy coffee that is sustainably grown and responsibly sourced.

A large, global supply chain makes tracing coffee difficult, however, with information remaining fragmented.

Once grown, beans make several stops, including at exporters, shippers, importers, roasters, distributors, and retailers before finally reaching the consumer.

Each participant in this complex system tracks only their small segment of the journey, and each uses its own system to log data.

To help increase traceability, efficiency and fairness in the coffee supply chain, Farmer Connect has launched a new ‘Thank My Farmer’ mobile application.


Tracing a bean from plant to cup

Powered by IBM Blockchain, and developed with the aid and encouragement of leading companies across the global supply chain, the ‘Thank My Farmer’ app will allow consumers to trace their coffee’s journey right back to its first origins, and even support the farmer who grew the beans.

“This project is another example of how blockchain technology can enable a channel for real change,” said Raj Rao, General Manager, IBM Food Trust. “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.”

Blockchain technology brings all the parties in the coffee supply chain together, simplifying the exchange and tracking of information and payments. It enables a greater sense of trust, creating a permanent digitised chain of transactions that cannot be altered.

‘Thank My Farmer’ draws on this information to present it all on an interactive map, allowing each product to tell a story in a simple and scalable way while connecting consumers to farmers, traders, roasters, and brands.


Supporting the growers

The app also details sustainability projects taking place within coffee communities, along with an opportunity for consumers to support them.

“The aim is humanizing each coffee drinker’s relationship with their daily cup,” explains David Behrends, Founder and President of Farmer Connect. “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.”

As the app expands in 2020, companies of all sizes will be invited to join, ultimately enhancing smallholder livelihoods while delivering transparency and a better experience for the consumer.


Opening up the future via blockchain

This work with Farmer Connect is another example of IBM’s impact extending blockchain technology adoption across numerous industries, including food safety, global shipping, trade finance, responsible mining, and a large variety of other fields.

These ground-breaking blockchain networks are already transforming entire business processes while simultaneously providing consumers with more trusted insights.

Can you envisage innovative uses for blockchain amongst your own roster of clients?

You can pick up inspiration for the many ways blockchain can be adopted by keeping up to date with the latest innovations here.

Sign-up for a 6-month free trial of IBM Blockchain here.

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