AgUnity is a perfect example of how new innovations can create a better world, helping farmers and remote, rural communities to integrate the supply chain using blockchain technology. We talked with David Davies, company founder and CEO, to find out more about the project.
AgUnity is a for-profit social enterprise founded in 2016 with the ambition to help change the lives of the two billion unbanked Last Mile communities in the world.
Tackling issues such as poor connectivity, a lack of digital literacy, and a lack of trust, AgUnity has developed a smartphone- and blockchain-based technology for these communities – a simple, mobile product that connects smallholder farmers with the services they need.
The AgUnity app is the main component – preloaded on a low-cost Android smartphone. The primary function of AgUnity is to enable farmers to process transactions at the point of crop handover to a cooperative or buyer with a digital QR-code “handshake,” with receipts written to a blockchain ledger.
By using blockchain to record transactions, we can reassure farmers that no one – not the farmer, not the cooperative, not even AgUnity – can ever change the receipt. This enables a sense of trust and cooperation not possible with paper-based receipts.
Each phone contains a unique security key configured at the factory and OS level. The security key is used to encrypt data on behalf of the user. Sensitive data is encrypted on the phone before transmission and can only be decrypted with the correct public key. Nobody can decrypt the farmer’s data without being explicitly issued the correct public key by the farmer themselves.
In the event of a lost, stolen, damaged, or malfunctioning device, the phone can be remotely locked and a new phone can then be provided and configured to the farmer’s identity.
The AgUnity app communicates via the custom asynchronous protocol with a cloud service; the back-end cloud service that incorporates a blockchain. The blockchain is effectively a transaction log for the business system.
AgUnity is currently operating in Ethiopia, Kenya, Columbia, Sierra Leone, Trinidad and Tobago, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Uganda, and Vietnam.
Our main commodities are coffee, cacao, wheat, maize, and African Indigenous Vegetables (AIVs). We plan on expanding to Ghana, Fiji, Timor Leste, and Cameroon in the coming year.
Our platform is designed to work in both offline and low-bandwidth environments in remote and rural areas. This also means that if or when a farmer reconnects to network coverage, the transaction synchronization protocol prioritizes AgUnity transactions, and these are coded for minimal data/bandwidth usage.
This minimizes the requirement for farmers to have connectivity and data allowances.
What are the most common challenges that you face in your work?
The pandemic certainly caused us to face many challenges, one of the major setbacks being restricted travel for our national deployment team. It’s been challenging to operate in new countries without sending our Field Officers who train local representatives to teach farmers how to navigate the AgUnity platform and use it to its full advantage.
We’ve had to adapt our solution to include a greater focus on remote training and increased digital training and learning materials.
AgUnity is currently working with the USAID, the UN World Food Programme, GIZ, the UN Capital Development Fund, Fairtrade International, the Technical Centre for Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA), Bioversity International, Dubai Expo Live, Virginia Tech University, and many more.
These projects involve variations of our core V3 platform, including IOT sensors for monitoring the processing quality of produce (particularly cacao and coffee), as well as processor and cooperative-focused features that enable these users to better manage their production processes and user management, respectively.
AgUnity has recently helped to launch a new Digital Utility Token called AgriUT. AgriUT is a digital reward token ecosystem designed to power positive-impact projects that improve the lives of smallholder farmers and other critical issues. AgriUT can be purchased by individuals, businesses, and organizations focused on the development of farming communities.
AgriUT may be used to directly reward farmers via a dedicated website or by coffee companies as part of a customer loyalty program. This means that any farmer using the AgUnity platform can be directly rewarded AgriUT and use the tokens to purchase products on the AgUnity Marketplace.
In the near future, consumers will be able to purchase a bag of coffee beans from the supermarket that has an AgriUT QR code on the packaging, which can be scanned and will automatically send AgriUT to the farmer who picked those beans.
Farmers do all the hard work while major companies reap the benefits – now we have a way to give back to those who deserve it. By purchasing tokens via the AgriUT website, anyone can help enable Last Mile communities to access life-changing technology and services.