- A mobile app using the Farmer Connect traceability platform powered by IBM Blockchain was announced this week at the 2020 CES conference in Las Vegas. The "Thank My Farmer" app will give consumers the ability to trace their coffee beans with an interactive map, according to a release.
- The blockchain-backed platform, which debuted in September, can follow an individual bag of coffee beans from delivery to cup, according to Farmer Connect. The plan is to use farmer IDs to track growing conditions, record transactions and follow yields and sales prices.
- U.S. and Canadian consumers will first be able to access the app by scanning QR codes on the 1850 Coffee brand of premium single-origin coffee from Folgers, owned by Smucker. It will appear on other well-known coffee brands in the coming months.
The Farmer Connect project foresees roasters eventually being able to digitally track the full supply chain, and importers being able to improve trading strategies. By the end of this year, users may be able to set farmer agreements, send payments and follow coffee supply trails using this technology, Farmer Connect said.
More food companies have been turning to blockchain technology in the last year. Albertsons joined the IBM Food Trust, a blockchain-based food and supply chain solution, last spring to track romaine lettuce after several foodborne illness outbreaks. Kroger, Walmart, Dole, Driscoll's, Golden State Foods, McCormick, McLane, Tyson Foods and Unilever also use the IBM Food Trust solution.
But this isn't the only technology tracking coffee growers. A Colombian-based technology firm is taking a similar route with its bilingual iFinca app developed by India-based Debut Infotech. iFinca uses blockchain to connect producers and others in the supply chain, verify purchases and make production more efficient. It also aims to boost slumping prices paid to coffee farmers to above the cost of production by giving farmers more visibility and voice in the supply chain, which could also be a result of the new "Thank My Farmer" app.
For coffee companies, these new apps could enhance traceability and sustainability credentials — qualities consumers look for when choosing from the myriad brands available in today's marketplace. According to National Coffee Association statistics referenced by Financial Times, two-thirds of consumers ages 19 to 24 want to purchase sustainability grown and responsibly sourced products.