IBM announces app on CES 2020 that follows coffee beans from farm to cup

Consumers can use the ‘Thank My Farmer’ app to track the origins of the drink and to support fair trade practices.

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At CES 2020, IBM and Farmer Connect have announced a new app that uses blockchain to connect coffee drinkers with the farmers who grow the beans.

With the app, consumers can also support the farming community and improve the transparency of coffee sellers. The “Thank My Farmer” app is based on the IBM Food Trust platform.

SEE: More CES 2020 coverage

Various organizations have established fair trading principles for growers, environmentally-friendly farming methods and fair wages for employees. However, the coffee chain consists of several steps, including harvesting, processing, packaging, shipping, exporting / importing, blending and roasting. Each participant only keeps track of his link in the chain and data from each step is stopped, making it difficult to follow the source of the beans.

Blockchain simplifies the exchange and tracking of supply chain information and payments by creating a permanently digitized transaction chain. Each network participant has an exact copy of the data and additions to the blockchain are shared by the network based on the authorization level of each participant.

The “Thank My Farmer” app extracts information directly from the blockchain in a standardized way that can be used throughout the industry. It connects the coffee drinker with farmers, traders, coffee roasters and brands. The app uses an interactive map to tell the story of the bean.

The new mobile application will be launched at the beginning of 2020. Users in the US and Canada can scan QR codes for 1850 coffee. European consumers will have access to the “Thank My Farmer” app via a new brand, Beyers 1769.

As the app gets bigger in 2020, large and small businesses are invited to participate and coffee drinkers can support the communities where their coffee is grown by financing local projects. Farmer Connect is currently incorporating self-sovereign identity, a form of digital identity built on distributed ledger technology, in collaboration with the Sovrin Foundation. This closes the circle around a circular economy that will support small-scale farmers and make consumers transparent.

Dave Behrends, head of trade at Sucafina coffee trade, founded the Farmer Connect platform in September 2019 with major coffee organizations, including the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, Beyers Coffee, The J.M. Smucker Company and Sucafina. IBM is the technical partner of the project.

“Consumers can now play an active role in sustainable governance by supporting coffee farmers in developing countries,” Behrends said in a press release.

Stanford researchers tested consumers’ willingness to pay more for fair trade coffee with a randomized control trial in 26 supermarkets. They discovered that sales of the two most popular types of coffee increased by almost 10% when they carried a Fair Trade label compared to a generic label.

Blockchain in the supply chain

This is not the first time that blockchain has been implemented to improve transparency in supply chains. Different industries use blockchain to track food and raw materials throughout the supply chain. A large fast food chain uses blockchain to monitor the temperature of meat while it goes from farm to restaurant. Minespider uses blockchain to follow every step in the mineral supply chain, which is comparable in complexity to the coffee supply chain.

This news builds on the success of IBM Food Trust, the blockchain-based platform that enables greater traceability, transparency and efficiency for the food industry.

Wal-Mart, Wegmans, Nestlé and four other major food suppliers worked with IBM on the Food Trust network in 2016. Since then, dozens of companies have been added.

With blockchain and the Food Trust, Wal-Mart can quickly return food products to the exact farm. The CDC estimates that every year 48 million people fall ill from a food-borne illness, 128,000 are admitted to hospital and 3,000 die.

“Blockchain is more than ambitious business technology, it is used today to transform how people can build trust in the goods they consume,” said Raj Rao, CEO, IBM Food Trust in a press release.

For more information, view the CES 2020 Preview on CNET.

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Thanks to Thank My Farmer, coffee drinkers can trace their coffee to understand its quality and origin, and even support the farmer who has grown the beans.

Image: IBM

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