If you are reading this you’re gonna make it!
If you don’t work in a blockchain first company, you may have experienced something like I did in 2016.
My colleague Clare and I had set up a data base of 4000 Paprika and Birds Eye Chili farmers in Malawi, one of the worlds poorest countries. Alongside this, we set up an input credit facility for several groups of farmers. ‘Facility’ sounds very fancy, but we actually give them a loan and ‘knew where they lived’ kind of thing.
This was incredibly tough as we were both involved in registering most of these or eventually managing a tight knit team who did. I can’t even claim too much credit for this as Clare was the star of that particular show, even sleeping overnight in a truck that broke down when torrential rain caused a road to subside. (Clare is gmi 😄).
When I was back in the UK, we discovered a start up competition which wanted to reward a start up tackling the worlds biggest problems with a scholarship to Singularity University. I applied, pitched our Malawi project at the University of Oxford and, unbelievably, we won! All we had to do was compete in Berlin and repeat my performance. Simple.
Several weeks later, I boarded a 530am flight from London to Berlin to make my presentation a few hours (and coffees) later. It wasn’t great (maybe I am even being generous to myself), we didn’t win and we lost the place at Singularity.
The pitch that did win was Agriledger
, one of the seminal blockchain start ups in Agriculture. We didn’t once mention blockchain, no utterance about distributed ledger, not a syllable about decentralising anything. The mentor assigned to me, congratulated me on my excellent project but suggested introducing blockchain. 🙁
Blockchain vision > non blockchain execution.
When we carried out our post mortem, one avenue we explored was whether we had just lost a game of Blockchain Bingo! We were not aggrieved that Agriledger - a great and similar project - won, or that we would not get to go to Singularity University for 2 sunny months in California. We actually felt we had lost out to blockchain.
Naturally, we set out to examine if blockchain was relevant to our project? Had we missed a huge opportunity by not implementing it? No and No we concluded.
In the rest of this article, I will jump into some of the latest trends in blockchain and give my opinion on whether they will be game changers for Agriculture or not.
Before discussing NFT’s, DeFi, DAO’s and Traceability - in that order - I’ve included some of the key features of a blockchain or Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) as per Primavera de Filipi and Aaron Wright in their excellent book Blockchain and the Law.
Distributed - databases supported by a network of computers rather than relying on a central actor.
Resilient - Tamper proof as no actor has the power to delete or change a record once it is stored.
Transparent - chains are clearly auditable and available for people to view (I would say in most cases, but not all)
Consensus - an ability to coordinate social and economic activities
Autonomous - once consensus has been reached the distributed network facilitates the execution of code via smart contracts.