Coffee production in Ethiopia accounts for about 3 percent of the global market with around 20 million people relying on it for livelihood in the region. These 20 million workers only see about 15 percent of the profits from the purchase of a bag of beans. Bext360, as well as several other companies, are using blockchain and AI technology to empower farmers through fair and immediate pay, awareness of the market value and direct communication with buyers. By simplifying the coffee production industry and creating transparency through a traceable digital footprint, coffee farmers in Ethiopia can reap the benefits of their harvest in a more efficient and innovative way.
Daniel Jones launched Bext360 in Denver in 2017. Bext360 is a Software-as-a-Service platform that allows consumers to trace products from the point of origin, providing a measurable means of accountability.
This provides transparency and efficiency, ensuring fairness to all sides. Through the use of blockchain and AI, Bext360 is revolutionizing traceability in the coffee industry, doing away with the middle-man that takes most of the gains that rightly belong to the farmers.
Stellar is a financial tech startup that can handle a high volume of micropayments across borders that allows Bext360—in partnership with Moyee Coffee Company (that sources and roasts its beans in Ethiopia)—to produce crypto tokens that immediately and directly transfers to farmers. Moyee also adds a 20 percent premium payment to all small-holder farmers.
Coffee berry harvesters take the cherries they pick and load them into a special bin (the bextmachine) that appraises the haul while simultaneously sifting and sorting the crop. Farmers have the power to accept or deny the offer for their coffee crop through the use of mobile devices, allowing them to have more freedom and bargaining power.
Bext360 has also created a platform where photos of the coffee bean farmers are available online. This profile also shows how much they are receiving for pay and what the current market value price is. Consumers can view this online profile by scanning a QR code that pulls up the exact location of the farm, and traces the journey and price of the bean to their cup.
How Does this Help Farmers?
The machine that Bext360 created allows farmers to know the value of their crop, and avoid exploitation from coffee companies. It also gives them the knowledge and incentive to take control of the market and harvest at the right time, maximizing return profit.
Coffee farmers in Ethiopia can also have a more direct relationship with buyers. Estimates determine that farmers can have about a 40 percent increase in revenue by using the bextmachine as opposed to other typical washing stations.
Going Forward — Other Companies Involved
Other companies such as IOHK are going beyond supply chain transparency. It is pursuing development in a blockchain training course for local developers who, once graduated, will go on to create their own projects in cryptocurrency in Africa using Cardano technology. This should create even more potential for improvements in all economic sectors, not just the coffee industry.
Through the innovation and scope that blockchain allows, Moyee Coffee Company is able to leave over 300 percent more value in Ethiopia compared to other coffee companies. In May 2018, Moyee also hosted a One Million Cups Campaign in Ireland that sent over $63,448 to Ethiopia. In the future, Moyee hopes to be able to use its blockchain tech to crowd-fund upgrading equipment or building new infrastructure to ultimately improve yields and sever Ethiopia’s reliance on foreign aid in the region.
The benefits of more transparency are twofold: creating greater awareness and participation in consumers, as well as improving living conditions. Living conditions may improve through more equal pay for farmers and ultimately allowing the hard-working growers to reap the benefits of their work and be able to support themselves. It gives coffee farmers in Ethiopia more empowerment over their craft, all the way to the cup of coffee that one buys at the store.
– Laurel Sonneby