But some, like Genevieve Leveille and her AgriLedger team, are looking to the blockchain to share value.
The idea came about when Leveille and other team members (who came from the financial services and venture capital sectors) teamed up at the Fintech Jam For Good hackathon in London early last year, where they were challenged to come up with a technology solution that would make a difference in the world. They identified the challenges as achieving food security and sustainability in small-scale farming — and the blockchain as the technological opportunity.
In an interview with Tim Lea, CEO of Australian blockchain-enabled start-up Veredictum and author of Blockchain: Down The Rabbit Hole, last year, Leveille said: “As we developed the idea, we realised women accounted for about 60% of the 500-million farmers who provided 80% of the food in developing countries.”
The founders also noted that up to 50% of crop value “vanishes” between harvest and sale, and that, where they exist, paper records result in a lack of transparency, restricted access to price data and enables corruption.
In fact, Leveille’s induction to the power and possibilities of the blockchain to empower communities began in Johannesburg in April 2015.
“As part of IdenTrust (a bank consortium acting as a public key certificate authority and secure applications provider), I was invited to SA by a major British and South African bank to have a look at a financial inclusion project involving blockchain technology and a ‘virtual bank’. This opportunity signalled the start of my current journey using the blockchain to build trust.”
The solution Leveille and her colleagues proposed at the hackathon was to empower small-scale farmers with blockchain technology that is delivered via an app on inexpensive smartphones. The AgriLedger app allows them to note every deal they do on the spot and to receive immediate confirmation on all transactions. It records ordering and delivery details, allows farmers to plan ahead and compiles an inventory.
With everything recorded to the blockchain, unprecedented levels of transparency and immutability are achieved and farmers get an easy way of the understanding pricing structure. The system advances trust among members of co-ops and networks of small farmers because everyone is able to keep precise, matching records of purchases (of things like seeds and fertiliser), work (in cases of communal planting, ploughing and harvesting), sharing of equipment, and sales of crops on markets and to brokers or mills.
According to Leveille, AgriLedger is looking at the adaptability of the technology for developed countries in the hope that selling it to those who can afford it will help expedite the technology to those who cannot afford it.
The great thing about the mobile crypto ledger, she says, is that it takes technology that is largely used for creating wealth for big corporations at this point but, like the internet, presents it in such a way that disadvantaged individuals and communities can use it to advance their lives. Moreover, it provides value to people who are not disadvantaged, who, by purchasing AgriLedger, can subsidise access to the system to disadvantaged communities.
Leveille will discuss, “how a circle of trust changed the face of farming” at the summit.