The increasing buzz on blockchain technology has, in recent times, drawn attention to its application within the agriculture sector. The technology can be leveraged upon to improve agriculture efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency in Africa.
Before we dig further into this article, let us try defining and explaining Blockchain:
A blockchain is a decentralized, distributed, and oftentimes public, digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers so that any involved record cannot be altered retroactively, without the alteration of all subsequent blocks. A blockchain has been described as a value-exchange protocol.
This much-hyped distributed ledger technology (DLT) also referred to as Blockchain, has the potential to eliminate huge amounts of record-keeping, save money, streamline supply chains and disrupt IT in ways not seen since the internet arrived.
The blockchain technology is still at its infancy more so it being in the agri-business sector, but its applications within the industry can be of great advantage when key issues affecting agri-business are identified and addressed on how to solve them, an example being market linkage for b2b or a b2c.
Blockchain technology can be used to address key challenges farmers face some including;
- a lack of financial resources to invest in good agricultural practices,
- limited contractual power and access to price information,
- limited communication with other key players of the value chain,
- low transparency for consumers (manufactures & suppliers) who want to know more about the origins of the final product.
Blockchain can overcome these issues by creating ledgers to record product movements and determine the exact point of origin; facilitating and verifying the performance of a contract (smart contracts); introducing greater efficiency and transparency to the supply chain; and improving cocoa farmers’ livelihoods through higher prices for their produce.
For example, in our current global setting, the ability to trace the origin of food has become increasingly important to help isolate and prevent contaminated products from reaching consumers. When such situations occur, quick action is necessary to protect public health and save lives, as well as the livelihoods of industries and companies.
Blockchain is a promising technology towards a transparent supply chain of food, with many ongoing initiatives in various food products and food-related issues, but many barriers and challenges still exist, which hinder its wider popularity among farmers and systems. These challenges involve technical aspects, education, policies and regulatory frameworks.
Let’s outline some of the technology projects which can benefit greatly from Blockchain technology given from its decentralized system;
- Remote monitoring of farm conditions and the remote control of farm equipment through smartphone applications.
- ICT based techniques in irrigation systems to enhance irrigation system and agricultural water management system efficiencies.
- An application for users to access soil moisture deficit data and weather measurements through an online evapotranspiration-based irrigation scheduling tool.
- ICT-based monitoring system to access the real-time risk of soil and irrigation water contamination in a pilot area for agricultural planning using a hierarchical management strategy.
- ICT-based system to observe soil moisture content, nutrient content, and the soil pH of agricultural areas.
- smartphone-based application as a crowdsourcing and human sensing tool to observe land conditions such as crop cover and growth.
- ICT-based system which offers Agro-climatic data, soil data, and hydraulic system data to farmers in the irrigation scheduling of crop production.
Most of these technologies have already been developed and an innovative approach to them is still feasible and practical.
The major purposes of agricultural environmental monitoring systems include supporting early warning systems and measuring baseline data that policy makers and resources managers can use in planning.
Since blockchain technology eliminates a single point of failure, increased data transparency and immutability will transform current economic organization and governance. Blockchain competitiveness and cost-effectiveness are likely to increase following three laws:
- Moore’s law, i.e., time required for data processing halves every 18 months.
- Kryder’s Law, i.e., data storage halves every year; and
- Nielsen’s Law, bandwidth doubles every two years.
Because blockchain can facilitate various transactions and processes as a democratizing framework for a system of distributed networks, ICT e-agriculture with a blockchain infrastructure is the evolutionary next step for current ICT enabled farm systems and e-agriculture schemes. While the internet allows us to share digitized information, the internet of things (IoT) yields much ICT data currently stored in databases or networked databases with centralized cloud computing architecture.
With blockchain, however, agricultural and environmental monitoring data stored in a distributed cloud allows us to engineer trust and secure sustainable agricultural development with transparent data and ICT. In this way, blockchain technology is the foundation for democratized, automatic, and transparent data management. ICT agricultural systems with blockchain infrastructures are therefore immutable and decentralized record management systems. Moreover, this immutability may revolutionize the way all biophysical resources are recorded and traced from source, to use, to reuse in large scale datasets, and may ensure government record and service integrity.
A Blockchain infrastructure is the next step in the evolution of agri-tech as applied in agribusiness.