LAS VEGAS — A new mobile app called Thank My Farmer allows consumers to bridge the gap between their favorite barista and the farmer who grew their coffee. Farmer Connect, a traceability platform powered by IBM Blockchain, debuted the technology at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Several companies across the coffee supply chain, including The J.M. Smucker Co., Beyers Koffie, RGC Coffee, Volcafe Specialty Coffee and more developed the app alongside IBM and Farmer Connect.
Consumers in Canada and the United States will be the first to access the app beginning with the 1850 brand premium single origin coffee from Folgers, which is owned by Orrville, Ohio-based J.M. Smucker Co. Other well-known coffee brands will be added throughout the year.
Coffee drinkers consume more than half a trillion cups per year, according to the National Coffee Association. Two thirds of consumer ages 19-24 said they prefer to buy coffee that is sustainably grown and responsibly sourced. But information on coffee origin is fragmented, with each participant in the supply chain tracking only a small segment of the journey from farm to cup.
Thank My Farmer aims to bridge this gap using the same technology behind IBM Food Trust. Blockchain technology brings all parties in the supply chain together by creating a permanent and unalterable digitized chain of transactions. Farmers, wholesalers, traders and retailers all have access to the data, which is presented on an interactive map in the consumer-facing app.
“The aim is humanizing each coffee drinker’s relationship with their daily cup,” said David Behrends, founder and president of Farmer Connect. “Consumers now can play an active role in sustainability governance by supporting coffee farmers in developing nations. Through the blockchain and this consumer app, we’re creating a virtuous cycle.”
Food companies have been exploring potential applications of blockchain technology for several years. Icon Foods implemented a field-to-factory distributed ledger system to bolster organic and non-G.M.O. claims. Walmart implemented blockchain to trace mangos in the United States and pork in China, while Nestle uses it to trace milk from farms in New Zealand to factories in the Middle East.
“This project is another example of how blockchain technology can enable a channel for real change,” said Raj Rao, general manager at IBM Food Trust. “Blockchain is more than aspirational business tech, it is used today to transform how people can build trust in the goods they consume. For business, it can drive greater transparency and efficiency.”