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.
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.”