While most blockchain enthusiasts have a deep relationship with coffee, most coffee lovers have no idea what blockchain is. This doesn't come as a big surprise given how new blockchain technology is. Nonetheless, the topics of ‘coffee' and ‘blockchain' are quickly becoming synonymous as the coffee industry sits at the cusp of a technological revolution. This article will take a look at how technologies such as Blockchain are poised to transform one of the world's largest industries.
What is Blockchain and how does it Relate to Coffee?
For those that don't know, Blockchain is the public ledger technology that underpins cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. It's a topic that can get pretty technical. However, for purposes of this article, blockchain is essentially a cloud-based ledger that securely record a wealth of information. It's immutable and distributed nature makes ideal for supply chain assurance. If you're interested in learning more about this technology, check out this blockchain definition article from Helena Bitcoin Mining.
Coffee production is an industry that inevitably relies on many participants, most of which are located in different and often remote parts of the world. Needless to say, tracking such information can be hard. From growers to sellers, the increasing number of hands in the proverbial pot results in an inherently complicated supply chain. This is why the coffee industry is such a prime candidate for fully reaping the benefits of this technology.
Coffee companies such as Coda Coffee in Denver have already embraced blockchain tech to better streamline their operations and improve their customer experiences. Many coffee lovers know the importance of traceability when it comes to determining the quality of coffee. Factors such as how the bean was harvested, where it was grown, how it was roasted and everything in between are critical details that pioneering coffee companies like Coda Coffee believe should be available. The history of a coffee bean from start to finish tells a story. With blockchain tech, this story is now accessible and most importantly, verifiable. By the time coffee makes it into your cup, it will have journeyed through a complex global supply chain and have changed hands many times. The data tracked along the way is hugely beneficial to customers who care about what they drink. Coda Coffee has made it so such detailed information can be obtained simply by scanning a QR code associated with a given batch of coffee. As more coffee companies leverage new technologies such as this, questions like where was my coffee milled, when was it packaged, and what specific batch did it come from can be authentically answered first hand.
According to the Wallstreet Journal, even the coffee giant Starbucks is piloting a two-year program to develop “traceable technology” for farms in Costa Rica, Columbia, and Rwanda. Starbucks Director of Traceability Arthur Karuletwa said in reference to this technology, ““This could be a seismic change in an industry that hasn’t had much innovation in the way coffee moves across borders and oceans.”
Coffee-loving customers aren't the only ones to benefit from the industry's push toward better technology. From the standpoint of the participants involved in the supply chain, using a blockchain-driven ledger will allow them to more effectively monitor and manage the entire process. Coffee companies can more effectively track relationships with suppliers, collaborate with improved data sharing, and ultimately deliver a better quality product. This real-time sharing of data results in increased efficiency and tremendous cost-savings. Coda Coffee has already reported that using the blockchain has enabled them to reduce costs by eliminating the need for paperwork and other routine administrative processes. Blockchain-driven supply chains are also extremely useful for identifying bad batches in the event of a recall.
Ethiopia and the Blockchain
Coffee-producing countries have already begun exploring ways to leverage blockchain technology. Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, is a fitting example of this. Earlier in 2018, the Ethiopian government signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with blockchain-based startup Cardano to incorporate blockchain technology into the country's agricultural infrastructure. This MOU covered a wide range of agricultural topics but its primary focus was on the country's coffee production. As was mentioned earlier, the coffee supply chain is complex. In Ethiopia, where rural farms are responsible for producing 95% of the country's coffee, maintaining full transparency within the supply chain from grower to wholesaler has been a challenge. This is often cited as one of the roadblocks to expanding the country's coffee production. Cardano's blockchain addresses these issues head on as market participants will now be able to verify and authenticate data throughout the entire supply chain process. Cardano plans to use their technology to record virtually every event along the coffee supply chain thereby ushering in new opportunities for all parties involved including regulators, growers, roasters, harvesters, and suppliers.
There is no doubt that the coffee industry as a whole will undergo tremendous changes in the upcoming years with technologies such as this. Exactly how this change plays out is anyone's guess so to speak. However, one thing is for sure. The coffee industry, with its inherent supply chain transparency issues, will experience unprecedented growth as they continue to take full advantage of blockchain technology.