Commerce Secretary, Dr. Anup Wadhawan activating coffee e-marketplace in New Delhi (Image supplied by India's Ministry of Commerce).

India launches blockchain marketplace for coffee

By tracing coffee from beanfields to cups, the goal is to build a stronger brand while doubling the income of poor farmers

India’s commerce secretary launched a blockchain-based marketplace app for trading Indian coffee during a video conference on Thursday.

A pilot project carried out in partnership with the Coffee Board of India and the International Coffee Organization, the marketplace app’s goal is to reduce the number of intermediaries between coffee growers and buyers, build farm-to-cup traceability, and help farmers increase their incomes by as much as 100 percent, said Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan during the video conference on March 28.

“This pilot project will help integrate the farmers with markets in a transparent manner and lead to realization of a fair price for the coffee producer,” he said. The farmers’ income from coffee is currently very meagre, according to the ministry.

The project is also intended to help build the premium brand image of India’s coffee, which the ministry says is the only coffee grown entirely in the shade, handpicked, and sundried. It is produced largely by small growers, farmers located near national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

By increasing the traceability and transparency of the market between farmers, traders, coffee curers, roasters, and exporters, the blockchain technology should help build trust and long-term relationships, Wadhawan added.

Each farmer will register details like the location of their farm, elevation, crop details, any certificates they hold, and any other information relevant to buyers. Each lot of coffee sold will create an individual, immutable block that will trace the beans’ journey from the farm to the drinker.

The platform was built by Eka Plus, which makes digital platforms for agriculture and other commodities. Its Digital Platform for Agriculture collects data from a variety of sources, including disease and pest occurrence history, production data, Internet of things (IoT) sensors, external weather feeds, and drones, and then applies machine learning algorithms to interpret it, the company said when the project was announced in July 2018.

Eka notes that “climate change is likely to affect coffee severely, reducing the amount of land suitable for growing coffee,” and adds that about 15 percent of the annual worldwide coffee crop is thought to be lost to disease annually.

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Leo Jakobson, Modern Consensus editor-in-chief, is a New York-based journalist who has traveled the world writing about incentive travel. He has also covered consumer and employee engagement, small business, the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, and New York City crime, nightlife, and politics. Disclosure: Jakobson has put some 401k money into Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.