Craig M Dick

Agriculture | Marketing | Innovation

Category: Future

Agricultural Uses for Blockchain

Blockchain is out of beta testing and has reached Agriculture.

A recent soybean shipment from the US to China has become “the first full agricultural commodity transaction using a Blockchain platform,” –Business Insider

If you want to stay relevant in the future you need to stay on top of the technologies that will shape it. While still in its early phase, Blockchain is a topic that you should understand some of the basics and how it’s being incorporated into agriculture.

Note: This is a basic overview for those in agriculture, I am not a Blockchain builder or expert.

“Blockchain can do to value transfer what the internet did to information sharing.” – Fobes

Block Chain aims to provide transparency and widescale trust via unalterable record keeping. This will transform supply chains of industries like precious metals to food and agriculture. It has the power to change the way we manage leasing and payment collection,  supply chain management, and quality assurance securing the provenance of goods and commodities.

decentralized network - Blockchain

Example of a decentralized network

The dream for agriculture is that the use of this technology will help commodity producers move up the value chain.

The world is moving from analog to digital and from digital to decentralized.

In the simplest terms Blockchain is a distributed/decentralized ledger that maintains transaction records on many computers simultaneously. Because of this mathematical relationship, the information in a particular block cannot be altered without changing all subsequent blocks in the chain and creating a discrepancy that other record-keepers in the network would immediately notice. In this way, blockchain technology produces a dependable ledger without requiring record-keepers to know or trust one another, which eliminates the dangers that come with data being kept in a central location by a single owner.

Most businesses keep a log of transactions within their business. You buy a product, enter it into your inventory. You sell it, you mark it off. Now imagine that when you buy a product you get a copy of all the transactions that product has ever had going back to the ingredients used to make it. When you sell that product, the ledger follows with the product. This is saved to the cloud on a decentralized computer system. Because everyone has a copy of this ledger, it makes it extremely difficult to forge a product. This process enables clarity across the supply chain and ensures quality standards are met along the way.

Blockchain company Abrosus is working on meeting these supply chain and quality standard needs.

“The state of technology today allows a bold rethinking of how the global food supply chains and markets could operate. A system of interconnected quality assurance sensors can reliably record the entire history of food, from farm to fork. Blockchain can protect the integrity and verifiability of sensor data. And smart contracts can enable automatic governance of food supply chains and manage commercial relationships between actors along those supply chains”. – Abrosus

Thier technology combines Blockchain with hardware devices (sensors and readers, cameras, container locks) to provide a platform to automate the input of data into a system and create a trusted basis of data input to meet the needs of manufacturers, consumers and government regulations.

US agriculture is a global marketplace and much of our product is exported. With our customers stretched all over the world, we need to be aware of the laws of those countries. One example is a law published in 2013 by The European Commission for the Good Distribution Practice of medicinal products for human use (GDP 2013/C 343/01). Chapter nine of this regulation requires proof that shipped medicines have not been exposed to conditions, particularly temperatures, that may compromise their quality. These regulations are now enforceable across Europe. Blockchain logs the data from monitoring systems in the pharmaceutical industry ensuring requirements for frozen vaccine storage are met such as:

  • Temperature [-25°C to -10°C],
  • Humidity [2 to 3%],
  • No direct sunlight or fluorescent light.

This ensures the viability of medicines and reduces the risk of loss of life.

Is this really needed for food? Between 1993 and 2006, the consumption of non-pasteurized cheeses caused 121 outbreaks, leading to 3,000 people falling sick, 140 hospitalizations, and more than 50 deaths. Since these outbreaks, the Swiss Federal Regulation has changed. For food products, Blockchain companies like Ambrosus can go further and define the various levels of quality for a particular product like this illustrative list of requirements for a batch of milk:

  • Temperature [4°C to 7°C]
  • Fat [3.18% to 3.22%
  • Lactose [2% to 4%].

While food safety is of utmost importance, a close second is quality. As consumer demands evolve, the term ‘quality’ has broadened to include ethical and environmental aspects. Consumers today have expanded the term quality of a food product to also include using eco-friendly procedures, good employee working conditions, and the welfare of the animals involved in the manufacturing process.

Blockchain technology gives agriculture the opportunity to provide supply chain efficiency, cost reduction, proof of positive environmental impact, improved customer service, quality assurance and regulatory compliance. These improvements are what our customers are demanding and will help ensure future profitability for farmers.

Additional Information:

 

The post Agricultural Uses for Blockchain first appeared on CraigMDick.com

 

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The Most Disruptable Sector of Agriculture

The Most Disruptable Sector of Agriculture

Disruption may be the overused word of 2016. Until there is a better word to describe something that interrupts activity, I will join the disruption band wagon and make this prediction: Humans will be the most disrupted sector of agriculture in the next decade.

Why do I predict this?     $7 corn.

With $7 corn, tech companies sprouted like weeds throughout agriculture. Farming needs this influx of ingenuity. To a large extent, farming is still an art. There is too much data to crunch all the variables. The influx of tech will better help farmers and agronomists take the guess work out (human error) of decision making through better data.

During the $7 era, there was lots of talk of improving agriculture’s’ environmental foot print. When economics are favorable and risk is low everyone is more open to new ideas. Even as farmers struggle to make a profit, their customers still want a cleaner environment.  To ensure farmer profitability (increased production) while sustaining or improving the environment will take a lot more sensors and automation.

Ag labor issues. Even at $7 corn it was difficult to find qualified candidates to do most of agriculture’s jobs. Now that we are back to more realistic prices, labor shortages abound. Trying to find workers for the most labor intensive jobs, picking crops, weeding, and operating equipment is tough. In the next decade, all these operations will be automated.

Once you remove the most expensive, least repeatable process from farming (humans), cost will drop and profits will increase.

You can expect the following jobs to disappear from ag:

  • Truck and equipment drivers
  • Field agronomists, scouts and samplers
  • Fertilizer and grain plant operators
  • Laborers, pickers, pruners, etc.

Essentially, there are 2 jobs on the farm of the future. The owner of the farm and the technician to fix the automated equipment. The rest of us may be left to complain about how food is no longer raised by humans.

 

The post The Most Disruptable Sector of Agriculture first appeared on CraigMDick.com

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4 Things that Prove the Future of Farming is Happening Now

As farmers age farming operations become larger, the business of farming will change. Farming is at a cross-roads. You either need to get bigger and more efficient, or more niche. More on all this 4 Things that Prove the Future of Farming is Happening Nowanother time.

Let’s look at some things that seem futuristic but are being implemented now.

Robotics / automation / Exoskeletons / sensors

Farmers have a long history of adopting technology and most are already using GPS and remote sensing. In the next 10 years’ farm automation will see huge leaps forward.

Robots are reducing the need for workers. 60,000 employees at Apple supplier Foxconn were replaced with robots this spring.  This was in China. Where labor is low and Apple margins are high. So here in the US where labor is high, hard to find, margins are low and the work is hard, robots are inevitable. Companies like Blue River Technology are betting big and already have robotic lettuce thinners.

For jobs that will still require human labor, inexpensive and lightweight exoskeletons will be utilized. Today’s prototypes can increase output by 50%. No longer will a strong back be required!

Continuous plant monitoring sensors tell you in real time how the plant responds to light, temperature and number of other measurements. We all know today’s genetic potential for Corn is off the charts. It is plant stress that kills yield. With visual deficiencies taking 2 weeks to show, yield is lost before we even know there is a problem. Utilizing continuous sensors, you will know the minute your plant is suffering and be able to immediately take corrective action to protect yield.

There are challenges to these systems being used on farms. Farmers traditionally are slow to pay enterprise level fees to adopt technology.  Farmers are older and older farmers in today’s markets are risk averse. New tech is risky.

Farmers will ultimately adopt new tech as it shows a cost savings or show a significant return.  Major adoption will come once these technologies are easy to use.

Indoor / vertical farming

Robotic use is further intensified by rethinking what a farm is all together.  Robotic indoor vertical farming can increase food out-put, reduce the environmental foot print and reduce cost all without a single person! There are acres of real estate going unused in cities. Enormous buildings that once housed armies of white collar paper pushers are empty. Malls are closing at alarming rates and even Wal-Mart is shedding stores. What better way to use the real-estate than to maximize food production.

Food quality

The US already produces the world’s safest food.  Still consumers want more. More safety, better quality (as judged by what’s important to them). For traditional terrestrial farmers and for the new robotic indoor farms, meeting the consumer demand for quality will be their number one priority. But isn’t this post about commodity farming? Food quality isn’t just for niche growers. General Mills purchasing Annie’s Organics proves that crops once thought as specialty will become mainstream commodities.

In addition, Successful Farming made waves in the Farming community with their Meet Your New Boss cover. Here’s the thing, Successful Farming is owned by Meredith Corp. they own many magazine titles, EatingWell, Family Circle, and Martha Stewart Living among the better known. They have direct connections to the consumer and know what is wanted.

The Farmer Consumer Connection

With the amount of capital at stake, large commodity farmers will need to understand consumer trends and wants to be profitable. Large farmers of the future will need to understand what the consumer wants before they do and plan production accordingly. Especially with the long lead times in growing food and getting certified for certain types of production.

Major manufactures don’t wait to decide until the last minute what to produce based on the consumer confidence index. They develop business plans and life cycle analysis of products based on a host of research. The best companies and these 3 big food giants are guided by the wants and needs of the consumer.

General Mills is actively looking for hundreds of thousands of acres to fill their need for organic grains to meet the demand. If you haven’t been paying attention to consumer needs, by the time you can meet the requirements, the premiums will be gone.

Farming is always evolving. Where do you see the future of farming heading?

 

The post 4 Things that Prove the Future of Farming is Happening Now first appeared on CraigMDick.com

 

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