The solution is definitely blockchain, but what's the problem again?

Blockchain - it’s all about trust

Blockchain - it’s all about trust

So what exactly is a blockchain? Depends on who you ask, back in 2017 it was the quickest way to quadruple the value of your company overnight. Later that year and Long Island Iced Tea Corp had just changed its name to Long Blockchain Corp hitting a new high-water mark of blockchain madness.

Who knows? Perhaps they genuinely planned on boldly exploring that hitherto unknown intersection between byzantine-fault tolerant decentralized ledger technology and flavored tea-infused cold beverages, perhaps we’ll never know, most bizarrely however it looked like it worked, well, at least it did for a while. The stock price jumped 289%, until eventually collapsing and being delisted by NASDAQ.

Since 2017 many investors who heeded the siren song of decentralized utopias have been since been sung to shipwreck. Charlatans and false prophets led many astray with promises of a path to that shining cryptoanarchist city on the hill which failed to materialize, enlightening only their wallets along the way. Fast forward to 2019, now many "blockchain" companies have "pivoted" and "put blockchain on hold" while they "explore other business verticals" probably in "A.I" in conjunction with "Big Data", oh and they'll be bringing "augmented reality" and "CRISPR-Cas9" gene-editing too to the real-estate market, for some reason.

Being a cynic is easy, and safe. Especially in the ICO market of the past two years where, by some estimates, in excess of 80% of all ICOs were outright scams, and a huge percentage of the remainder; spectacular failures. However, its important to separate the signal from the noise, what does the collapse of a speculative bubble signify about an underlying technology, if anything? Blockchain powered cryptocurrencies are a perfect storm of a technology of enormous promise coupled with greed and the right amount of confusion which make speculative bubbles almost an inevitability. Nevertheless, we are making the argument that in the long run, just like the dotcom crash at the turn of the millennium, at the center of that enormous maelstrom of exaggeration and obfuscation lies a grain of truth and it will be to the detriment of those too short sighted or close-minded or lacking in imagination who ignore it.

Blockchain truly represents a paradigm shift not just merely in technology but in how people interact and exchange value with each other. The hype surrounding the technology was premature and exploitative with many bad actors preying on the confusion and excitement, certainly, however ignore the mania and dig deeper, examine the fundamentals. The task is to separate the fact from the fiction or as we at Grain Discovery like to say the wheat from the chaff!

So why is blockchain a profound technology. In a sentence; it's because blockchain represents the death of an entire business model - that of the millennia old trusted intermediary. Note the emphasis on trusted. The naive myth that blockchain cuts out all middleman everywhere is one frequent trope of the space, often in global supply chains the middleman provides the essential grease that keeps the gears of the enormous global commerce machine running smoothly. Instead, where blockchain truly disrupts is if your business does nothing other than acts as a trusted facilitator without adding any real value, then rest assured blockchain is coming for your lunch. In the future "trust" will have no chargeable value - the reason being is that some blockchain somewhere will provide that trusted facilitation - and crucially, will do so for free. If you think about the ramifications of this - a service provided throughout history by kings, governments and an assortment of financial institutions is now under threat - now perhaps you can begin to understand the origin of the fervor surrounding the technology, and to whom it may appeal.

At the heart of blockchain lies a simple idea, the idea of a single shared ledger or book of record between participants on the supply chain. If there is just one source of truth which everybody can reliably reference then questions around traceability and provenance can rapidly be addressed. But what makes blockchain revolutionary is the fact that everybody who uses the blockchain retains the rights and control of their own data and they decide how it is shared and used, no single participant controls the chain, no single central point of control decides how your information is used, and no external third party manages your data on your behalf.

Ledger Technology through the ages

Ledger Technology through the ages

Just as the Internet is a free public resource for information where business can generate value by participating, a blockchain network can represent a shared ledger for supply chain participants. Which, through automation, streamlined efficiencies and selective cooperation when it is to all parties benefit, can generate value for all participants, even those which may ordinarily be competitors.

Still dont think there is a problem that need solving?

Consider the food supply chain alone. Romaine lettuce is grown mostly in only two parts of North America, Yuma, Arizona and Salinas, Caliifornia. An E.coli outbreak in 2018 resulted in an entire shutdown of the whole food chain in the North America because the exact portion of the chain affected couldn't reliably be identified in a timely manner. It was easier to just throw all the lettuce off the shelves. The problem is that on the journey from the farm to the fork many hands touch your food, and these many hands dont necessarily talk to each other. Each player on the supply chain maintains their own independent books and have no real means to share data reliably and securely even though it would be to everybody's benefit if they could. That’s where blockchain fits in.

Over the next few blog posts we will explore how blockchain facilitates interactions between people, organizations and even machines who don't know, trust or necessarily like each other. And we will explain Grain Discovery's vision for blockchain in agriculture.

World’s First Corn Trade on Blockchain

It was supposed to have been a record harvest across Ontario. Long days of summer sunshine in June and July and plentiful rain in August should have been cause for celebration for the province's farmers, unfortunately this was not to be. As the new year begins much of the corn harvest still stands rotting in the fields, spoiling and turning pink. The damp conditions in late Fall led to a provincial wide outbreak of Vomitoxin, a poison created by a mould which renders corn inedible and almost unsellable for a farmer. In many cases, in despair farmers often plow their entire crop back into the ground hoping to start afresh next year. This year the problem in the province is particularly serious, with many farmers facing financial ruin

DON / Vomitoxin blight

DON / Vomitoxin blight

Christmas Eve and Larry Reynolds had just had another truckload of corn rejected by his local elevator due to high Vomitoxin concentrations when we at Grain Discovery approached him to trial our new blockchain based grain trading platform. Larry, who farms the land in Prince Edward country would truck corn from the farm he runs with his nephew Lloyd Crowe only to have it rejected, leaving Larry driving for hours in search of an alternative buyer.

Having witnessed these inefficiencies first-hand in the grain markets, we founded Grain Discovery in 2018 with an aim to revolutionize how farmers trade their grain. "Farming technology in the agricultural industry is incredibly advanced," explained Rory O’Sullivan, CEO of Grain Discovery. "However, the way grain is bought and sold hasn't changed much since our grandparents were farming! In the age of Amazon and eBay, we reckoned the industry deserves better."  

Grain Discovery’s online marketplace allows farmers and buyers to advertise their deals in real time and complete their trades through blockchain, resulting in secure and instant payment and built-in traceability that continues beyond the farm gate.  

Larry and Lloyd were able to use the Grain Discovery platform to find a new local buyer, confirm the trade and receive payment instantly. “By using Grain Discovery, we were not only able to avoid hours of searching for a new buyer, but found one just down the road, at a better price than the original deal, and were paid instantly," said Mr. Reynolds. And with that the world’s first corn trade directly from a farmer to a buyer on a blockchain was completed in Prince Edward country, Ontario, Canada. 

Blockchain technology is central component of our business at Grain Discovery and we will be expanding on this in future blog posts. The technology has great potential to untangle complicated supply chain paths, it has the potential to allow a consumer to trace the entire path their food traveled along, from the farm to the fork. We are planning several other pilot projects this year including tracing soybeans all the way from seeds in Canada to the export market in Japan. Adding traceability features to produce can bring a lot of good to rural communities, where often the connection between the end consumer and the people who made their food is lost. Another project we are working on is coffee from Colombia, with blockchain technology you could scan a code on the side of your cup with a phone and reveal the entire chain all the way back to the original farmer, even send a tip to the farmer for a particularly nice cup!

The technology also has food safely implications, massive food recalls have become an almost weekly news item, twice last year an E.coli outbreaks at a single location resulted in an entire recall of romaine lettuce throughout North America. Because of the supply chain opacity tracing the origin of the contamination couldn’t be done in a timely manner, easier was just to pull all the lettuce from the shelves and toss it. A blockchain could allow suppliers to trace the origin of an outbreak right back to the individual field instantaneously eliminating all this waste.  

 In the meantime, for farmers like Mr. Reynolds it’s a simple equation: “If blockchain technology means a few extra dollars in my pocket and a few hours less trucking, then that’s a win.” 

Larry and Lloyd piloting the Grain Discovery Trading platform

Larry and Lloyd piloting the Grain Discovery Trading platform