The disruptive and dynamic potential of blockchain is already well heralded. However, its reach is only now starting to permeate through significant enterprises that are helping boost the capabilities of the blockchain.
A recent partnership between Bayer, and its Crop Science Division, and the payments affiliate of Alibaba, Ant Financial, has given rise to a substantial technological upgrade to agriculture.
The two companies have signed a letter of intent to utilize blockchain technology to increase efficiency, improve the income of farmers, ensure the production of high-quality food, and aid in the digitization of agriculture.
Traditionally, agriculture has been a rather low tech science, but that is rapidly changing and for a good reason. The need for higher yields of crops, on more moderate amounts of natural resources, has seen companies like Bayer look towards emerging technologies to address the global food system.
I spoke with Utz Klages, Issue Task Force Communications Lead, of Bayer AG, to better understand why this partnership is so important, and what it can provide and prove within the blockchain agricultural ecosystem.
What can blockchain do in agriculture?
Like many different sectors that are open to the disruption and development of blockchain, agriculture is broad and receptive. Several different facets within this industry can see considerable increases in efficiency from the use of emerging technology.
From the supply chain to AI-assisted growing and producing, the new wave of technology being looked at by Bayer becomes increasingly essential.
“In agriculture, blockchain could help trace the origin of food products, reduce commodity transaction costs, or make the supply chain more efficient. Bayer sees the potential to utilize blockchain across operations in several ways to increase the efficiency and accuracy of processes.” Klages agreed.
He also went on to discuss the vital importance of applying the technology to the industry at the moment.
“There has never been a more important time for innovation in agriculture as it is the key to addressing the challenges facing the global food system. Advanced digital technologies improve our chances to discover new tools for farmers.”
“By designing AI tools that learn alongside us, every generation of seeds and crop protection solutions will be smarter than the one that came before. Whether it’s reimagining seed genetics, or researching and developing new chemical and biological crop protection products, our innovations in data science are driving the impact farmers see in the field,” Klages outlines
Klages also found it pertinent to describe how the use of these advanced technologies are helping them, as a company, better themselves and be more aligned with customer and environmental needs.
“We are transforming ourselves, too. By investing in new automated and data-driven technology, Bayer is transforming the way we predict product demand, develop seeds and chemistry, and deliver our products and technologies to farmers around the world. We can make our customers’ lives easier while simultaneously cutting our carbon emissions, fuel requirements, water usage, and improving other key sustainability metrics,” Klages added.
The need for partnerships
Key to this growth and development of blockchain in agriculture, for Bayer, is a partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s payment affiliate, Ant Financial. Ant Financial has become an important player in the drive for enterprise blockchain adoption.
Ant Financial VP Geoff Jiang has said that blockchain technologies had progressed faster than most forecasts, and in the next two years, they expect commercialization to accelerate significantly.
This was at the same time that Jiang also announced Ant Financial’s Blockchain as a Service solution based on its in-house blockchain technology last year.
“Ant Financial will bring its industry-leading blockchain, advanced marketing, logistics and financing resource, together with Bayer’s cutting-edge portfolio resources and global digital farming planting and agronomic technology to jointly form the blockchain and value chain for Chinese agriculture through the digitization of production and logistic process,” Klages added in further explanation.
He also went on to discuss how this partnership is already taking tangible form.
“Taking the Dangshan Pear pilot (conducted in September, Anhui Province, China) as an example, Bayer recommended third-party quality farmers and their products. Given Ant Financial’s track and trace technology, the special supply brand is customized for Alibaba Tmall Farm with high quality and good price.”
“Bayer’s advanced agricultural inputs and services are transferred to the consumers and ultimately acknowledge brand value. Consumers have access to cost-effective products, and growers have steady orders and income.”