IBM launches blockchain coffee-tracking app

Another signal of blockchain's potentially keystone role in conscious consumerism?
7 January 2020 | 26 Shares

Blockchain could spell a solution in the age of conscious consumerism. Source: Shutterstock

At CES 2020 this week in Las Vegas, IBM and Farmer Connect have introduced a new app that uses blockchain to connect consumers with their beloved coffee brands, from the farmers who grow the beans to the brewers. 

The Thank My Farmer app is based on the IBM Food Trust blockchain platform. Aligning with Farmer Connect’s values, the app aims to improve transparency and increase efficiency in the sourcing and transportation of coffee beans. 

The announcement is another signal of how blockchain could provide a keystone solution as the traceability of food and other products become increasingly crucial amid a rise in conscious consumerism, with shoppers increasingly demanding sustainable and ethically-sourced goods.

Even brands on the scale of Starbucks, for example, are leveraging traceability technology to support and trace coffee supplies from smallholder farms. The global coffee chain also receives real-time information and automates its log-in entries, documenting each step from the moment beans are picked to baristas serving an americano.

Blockchain in the food supply chain

In the food and beverage industry, which regularly comprises complex supply chains consisting of several stages— such as harvesting, processing, packing, shipping, and serving— each stage of the supply can be segmented and isolated, which can make tracing and verifying the origin of products difficult.

Blockchain, or Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), can break down the siloed data by digitizing transactions and creating a chain of payments and records. Participants on board in the DLT will have access to the data of any stage based on the participant’s given level of permission.

Information can also be accessed by consumers; in the case of Thank My Farmer, users can scan QR codes on the side of their coffee jars to learn more about the origins of their purchase, while an interactive map allows them to view the coffee beans’ journey. 

 

To date, users in the US and Canada can access the app through premium coffee brands such as Beyers 1769, roasted at Beyers Koffie. As the app expands in 2020, welcoming more large and small companies, consumers will be able to support smallholder farmers directly by funding projects. 

“Consumers now can play an active role in sustainability governance by supporting coffee farmers in developing nations,” said Dave Behrends, one of the founders of the Farmer Connect platform. 

IBM Food Trust General Manager, Raj Rao, added that the project is another example of how blockchain technology can enable a channel for “real change.

“Blockchain is more than aspirational business tech, it is used today to transform how people can build trust in the goods they consume. For business, it can drive greater transparency and efficiency.”