Real Farm Applications of Big Data and Blockchain in AgTech

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Introduction

It’s easy to get lost in the euphoria of new technologies. How many times have you heard of their magical potential being read out from some fancy slides at some fancy event? Let’s get dirty. Ethically and practically, of course! This piece will be discussing the real farm applications of big data and blockchain in AgTech. Most of us do not know how WiFi works. We only know that once we turn on our WiFi, we can get on the web to send tweets and read enthralling blog posts.. Why should we be surprised that farmers and other stakeholders do not care about the technical details? The real farm question is, how can blockchain and big data make my work easier and more lucrative? Let’s find out.

What is Big Data, Blockchain and AgTech?

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Let’s get the definitions out of the way, so our rows are perfectly parallel. 

Big Data is a large volume of data that is difficult to process using traditional computing methods. This data is collected through machines, like devices and sensors on farms, social and transactional sources.What it represents though, is an opportunity to support true data-driven solutions for the biggest challenges of our time – everything from climate change, to food shocks due to events like COVID-19, to environmental degradation.  

Blockchain is an immutable, distributed ledger that anyone, anywhere, anytime can access. Each ‘block’ in the chain stores transaction information (mind you, these transactions needn’t be financial), and each block has its own ‘digital signature’, known as a ‘hash.’ This ensures each block (or transaction) is uniquely identifiable.  We’ll dive into some of the possibilities later, but suffice to say blockchain has the potential to impact consumer trust, farm income and supply chain management – 3 key topics of our StrikeTwo summit in November.

AgTech is the application of new technology to the agriculture industry with the sole aim of improving the speed, safety and sustainability of the world’s food chain. This is where the potentials of emerging technologies like digital twin, artificial intelligence, blockchain, big data, IoT, and so on are explored. We can expect it to have a huge impact on the production of more healthy food for the world’s 7 billion population which is expected to increase by 2.2 billion in 2050.

Now, let’s get to the heart of the matter. How exactly can Big Data and Blockchain be used on the farm.

Growing Along with a Growing Population

According to the United Nations, the world’s population is expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050. What are all these people going to eat? Glad you asked. Real-time collection of big data on climate conditions, soil properties, weather conditions, and more can help farmers gain valuable insight into the most profitable actions to take. This means more farm yield and more food for the people.

Optimizing the Durability of Farm Equipment

One common instruction found in the user manual of most smartphones is to not let your battery completely run out before recharging it. The reason given for this is that these batteries have a limited number of times (about 150) in which they can completely run out before becoming useless. Before smartphones, all you needed to do was purchase a new battery, but most of these new phones come with non-removable batteries! Now you know why your phone sends you a notice to plug it when it gets to 10% 0r 15%. 

This is exactly how big data is used on a farm, especially a large one, to alert about depleting resources like fuel or water, maintenance check, and other check-ups. It helps to optimize the durability and lifetime of farm equipment. With blockchain, the authenticity of the farm equipment, during their purchase can be verified.

Blocking the Leaky Holes in Supply Chain

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Remember the billions of people that need to be fed? Add to that the fact that, as reported by McKinsey, at least a third of the food produced for all these people actually gets lost or wasted. That’s some serious leaky holes in the supply chain between supply and demand. Consumers aren’t the only ones impacted – even producers lose trillions in income and revenue.

The tracking features of big data and blockchain can be used to shorten the journey and if possible, get food directly from the farm to the table. This is called a peer-to-peer market. Farmers get to keep 100% of their proceeds and not have it get lost in leaking chains. Also, with tracking, deliveries can be monitored as they journey from the producer to the market.

Monitoring the Use of Insecticide Legally and Ethically

Laws are in place to ensure that one person does not act outside legal boundaries and cause harm to another, in a bid to increase their profit margins. Moreover, ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Using big data and insights gleaned from years of data collection, farmers can now strike a balance between legally acceptable use of pesticide and dealing with weeds and pests, while at the same time producing healthy food.

Increasing Trust and Verifying Food Safety

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There is concern that heavy use of chemicals during food production (and even farm input) has an adverse effect on consumers in the form of food poisoning, food allergies and food-related illnesses. Using decentralized apps built on the blockchain, thanks to its inherent features of accountability and traceability, the sources of food and farm input can now be verified with just a few clicks. This will increase trust in the quality of food and inevitably increase purchases.

Fundraising, Crowdfunding and Tokenization

Big data can help both farmers and investors identify profitable opportunities in agriculture. Crowdfunding on the blockchain, either through an ICO (initial coin offering), STO (security token offering), IEO (initial exchange offering), etc., has removed the barrier to entry for anyone to get a chance at investing in projects ordinarily open only to institutional investors. This is made possible because interests in the project have been fractionated into little bits (tokenized) making it easier for a crowd of people to get a little ‘share’. The inherent transparent feature of the blockchain means anyone, anywhere, anytime, can monitor the funds, ensuring that it is used for its intended purpose. This also applies to the government disbursing funding to agribusinesses. Most times, when these so-called funds are distributed through traditional financial systems, the funds may not end up in the hands of the right person. With blockchain, all movements of funds can be tracked and accounted for.

Now, let’s ask that real farm question again. Can big data and blockchain make my work easier and more lucrative? The answer is a resounding YES!

Does any of the above spark a lightbulb on food transition, consumer trust, farm income and supply chain management? Then the upcoming Strike Two Summit is the perfect fertile ground to plant your idea and watch it grow and blossom. Join the StrikeTwo Mighty Network to connect with the brightest minds and most committed change-makers in AgTech! 

Byline and Image

Faith Obafemi is a blockchain lawyer and digital content creator actively researching in the space since 2017.Image.

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