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Current predictions show that Blockchain will increase in use and popularity. We recognised it as one of the top five trends in agriculture in 2018. We want to explore what this could mean for agriculture and particularly smallholder farmers.

We see Blockchain benefitting a social enterprise like Project Alba to build trust amongst farmers, clients and end consumers.

Farmers, in developing countries work with middlemen to sell their harvest. Whilst many organisations, such as ours offer a fair price to farmers, some do not. Also, as farmers often don’t know the end price they can sometimes feel like they are not receiving the best deal.

Blockchain can provide transparency to farmers and can change the way of doing agribusiness. Blockchain can provide end price data to smallholder farmers. By knowing about crop price history farmers can make more informed decisions on which crop to grow. For Project Alba this could mean even greater trust in our product and better understanding of our crop rotation process as we rotate to market demand.

Blockchain can also provide farmers with the record of what they have harvested and their harvest history. This data could be hugely beneficial if a farmer needs say a pond, land or equipment and they need financial assistance. Blockchain data can help them to convince a bank for micro credit based on their harvest history in order for the bank to make improved risk estimates about whether farmers can pay back their

Transparency in the value chain

Blockchain creates a more transparent value chain but also it creates a more defined value chain that consumers can also benefit from.

Until now, value-added labels like “all natural”, and “chemical free” don’t mean much unless you can identify the source or producer of those vegetables. The farmer is currently absent from the consumer’s view in the grocery store, so there is a lot of mystery when shoppers try to purchase high-value produce. This can make it very difficult for farmers and farming groups to stand apart from low quality fruits and vegetables. Currently and in the near future, certified organic and certified​ Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) produce will exists in Cambodian grocery stores, but end retailers and consumers put faith in their distributors that these value-added labels are accurate. Blockchain will help strengthen this trust.

With Blockchain technology, all parties involved in the produce value chain are aware of exactly what they are receiving. This means that retailers can accurately label their value-added products and producers can be fairly represented in the retail setting. Soon, consumers will be able to choose produce based on their favorite or most reliable farming groups.

There’s also big benefits to food safety via trace back. It would allow health officials and retailers to correct and prevent and food safety concerns as the produce can be traced right back through the whole chain. It also gives consumers more power to trust (or not trust) the quality of specific producers and brands.

Though Blockchain technology is abstract and seems to not directly affect consumers, it can quietly and dramatically improve the agricultural sector here, and across the world. We at Project Alba look forward to this technology so we are able to deliver our high quality produce to new local and international clients while continuing to support and highlight our local farmers.

Read more about our work improving food standards in Cambodia.

Kathryn Fiedler & Parth Bokotoky, 29th March 2018