Blockchain Technology Could Help Save The Coffee Beans Industry


Blockchain technology is perhaps one of the biggest innovations the last decade had to offer, with multiple successful use-cases where this new tech proved to be useful by improving existing systems, ranging from the financial sector to supply-chain management and logistics. 

Large companies have already begun applying blockchain technology to their supply chain, proving that this tech can greatly improve how the information is shared throughout the entire process, from beginning to end. 

The notable advantages of blockchain technology were featured during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas where IBM and Farmer Connect, an organization committed to increasing transparency and sustainability in agricultural supply chain processes, demonstrated how a blockchain-based app could allow customers to track the supply chain of the coffee beans they purchase. The “Thank My Farmer” mobile app provides consumers with an interactive map that shows the entire journey of the coffee beans by simply scanning the QR code in the packaging. 

Powered by IBM’s blockchain-based platform, the app offers unaltered data of each step of the making process of the coffee beans. As explained by Farmer Connect founder and president, David Behrends:

After scanning a QR-code, consumers are taken straight to a product page that gives details about the coffee they are drinking. Below that description is an interactive map that shows the journey the coffee has taken. We say you can travel the world through a cup of coffee, and we’d like to help consumers visualize that.

The platform is meant to allow each participant to interact in a more efficient and realistic way, providing real-time information to consumers and interested parties in the supply chain, therefor creating transparency in the process. By enabling the information to be seen, consumers will be able to see the locations of the farms where the coffee beans came from and the steps that it went through before arriving to the stores. According to Behrends: 

If we have geolocation of farmers, those farms will appear on the map. If we don’t have this information, we show the steps the coffee underwent. For instance, coffee starts off as a cherry, the beans get taken out of the cherry and are washed and dried. Each step is performed in different segments before the product goes to ports of export and import. Consumers can click on the interactive map to learn more about how coffee has been sourced, traveled and transformed.

The coffee beans industry has been going through difficult times due to the amount of money they get paid for producing the beans. The labor-intensive and costly process of creating coffee beans obtains from 1-3 cents out of each coffee that people purchase worldwide. For struggling farmers times are tough but some companies are willing to help. Starbucks, for example, committed $20 million to help smallholders they do business within Central America until coffee prices rise above their cost of production. 

By showing the supply chain process to consumers, the industry might be forced to pay producers what is fair. 

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