Blockchain is coming to Agriculture

Over the past year, blockchain has become a buzzword in media coverage, industry publications, and press releases for new start-ups. Of course, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have received much of the spotlight. However, hundreds of articles proclaim the benefits of using blockchain technology in industries including agriculture. The real question: Can blockchain outlive the hype and deliver real value to growers?

In agriculture, blockchain promises a single source of truth about the state of your farm, inventory, and contracts. Many farmers today utilize a combination of software, apps, spreadsheets, pen and paper, and memory to record their data. That effort is then multiplied when farm service providers require information and data in order to deliver on the service they were hired to perform. By providing a single source of data for a farm, blockchain minimizes the strain of record-keeping and maintaining multiple record systems. Blockchain can ultimately save time and energy in the agriculture value chain.

It’s important to realize that blockchain alone doesn’t make growers more money, but it does provide the technology infrastructure for things like digitization, automation, and tracking, all of which drive farmers’ bottom lines in modern agriculture.

TRACEABILITY IN THE CROP SUPPLY CHAIN

Most of the early applications of blockchain in agriculture have to do with traceability and supply chains; a blockchain ledger could record and update the status of crops from planting to harvest to storage to delivery. The upside for large operations is a secure, immutable ledger that ensures you never lose a load. The status of all your crops is available in real time.

As demand for organic and other specialty production methods grows, there’s a huge incentive for growers who can verifiably produce documentation of the supply chain that went into those foods. Blockchain tracking allows growers to meet regulatory compliance and consumer expectations.

Traceability isn’t just restricted to the crops themselves. With the right information sources and/or in-field sensors, growers can access and track detailed records about soil quality, field applications, weather, farming practices, and seed type.

PRECISION FARMING AND FARMING RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Of course, there’s a lot more that goes into running an operation than just the crops. Taken together, there’s a complex, ever-changing picture of all the input resources that go into crops throughout the course of a season. Increasingly, growers are using farm management software to track where all their resources are at a given time. 

What makes blockchain such a good fit for these types of inventory management jobs is the decentralized nature of blockchain records. Any updates made become part of the ledger and every participating device receives the updated record. Even out in the field, disconnected from internet access, any changes will sync to the network as soon as the device regains internet access.

YOU MIGHT NOT EVEN NOTICE BLOCKCHAIN

Blockchain is coming for agriculture in a big way. It will make it easier to track, manage, and transact in all kinds of agricultural assets, from crops, to inventory, to precision data. When blockchain comes, however, you might not even notice it. Blockchain is a low-level, behind the scenes technology that creates secure databases. Apps and software that implement blockchain will look and feel the same as applications growers are using right now. The difference is that blockchain opens a wealth of potential new options for collecting data and automating farm management. These new blockchain-powered features could come sooner than you think and without you even realizing it’s blockchain.

Source: Remi Schmaltz, CEO, Decisive Farming for AgFunderNews