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Blockchain in practice

 

In 2017 I wrote two articles about blockchain and its potential to make supply chains more sustainable. Joost Schuttelaar explained the technology and a number of critical colleagues helped me in thinking about its practical implications. The joint process of creating these articles was the start of a new collaboration between our supply chain and digital experts. A collaboration that I did not fully experience anymore, because I left for FairMatch Support. There we worked on training farmers' cooperatives, digitising production data, organising smart services to farmers and making the chain of cashews, walnuts, honey and fruit more sustainable.

 

Now I am back at Schuttelaar, I find it encouraging to experience that what the articles have become projects. Mark, Tijmen, Vera and Joost have, together with Oxfam and various parties in the rice chain, established BlocRice, an inspiring project about improving the living income of Cambodian rice farmers - with a role for blockchain technology. More about this project BlocRice can be found on our site.

 

Of course I was very curious about the findings. To my amazement they turned out to be very much in line with the lessons I had learned in my absence. My colleague Tijmen de Vries told me about the power of digitizing farmer data such as the yields of different crops and (the cost of) inputs, seeds and labour. Collecting, registering and assessing this data gave the farmers new insights in their own business. Insight they did not have before. Tijmen also explained that thanks to this data it became clearer which training and which strategies (diversification, intercropping, smarter rotations, etc.) actually helped farmers gaining a living income. It is worth mentioning the importance of certification: just because these farmers are already familiar with the procedures, practices and monitoring around certification (organic), they can go a step further.

 

Tijmen also talked about how farmers were given a digital identity which gives  them a voice and a face and hence a more equal position in the chain. Information about rice production and contract conditions are now exchanged via the supply chain and the authenticity of the data is guaranteed using the digital handshake of the several parties involved. For example, the farmers indicate that they have been paid in accordance with the contract - which in turn is verified by the bank and the buyer. But perhaps most importantly, thanks to blockchain, very diverse chain parties made agreements about information collection, transparency and sustainability. Supporting such collaboration is exactly what we at Schuttelaar & Partners have successfully been doing over the past 25 years.

 

All in all, I found it fascinating experiencing how, thanks to a 'disruptive überhip technology', all of a sudden very 'classic' issues about training farmers, improving agricultural practices and strengthening cooperatives were once again on the table. Exactly the issues I had been working on in my absence. I am therefore looking forward to doing many more great projects together with the aforementioned colleagues, and who knows, also sharing the lessons learned via a series of articles.