IBM Taps Blockchain, AI to Help Small-Scale Farmers

IBM is working with Heifer International to help Honduran farmers see greater profits for their harvests through transparency.

Dusan Kostic
Dusan Kostic/Adobe Stock

IBM Food Trust aims to allow smallholder coffee and cocoa farmers in Honduras to make more informed and better business decisions through blockchain and artificial intelligence. The farmers will have access to IBM Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture and work with both IBM and Heifer International to create a more transparent coffee and cocoa supply chain, allowing these smaller farmers to earn more. According to Heifer, these small-scale coffee farmers operate at an average of 46–59% loss, with farmers earning less than 1% of the sale of a cup of coffee at a coffee shop. 

Per PR Newswire

  • Food Trust helps enable farmers and buyers trace coffee and cocoa beans from the farm to the point of sale, improving transparency along the supply chain and increasing market access. It is currently being used by coffee farmers in the COPRANIL cooperative and cocoa farmers that are part of Chocolate4All. The blockchain technology also provides a record of provenance for smallholder farms, providing farmers with a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
  • Heifer International and IBM, together with CATIE, an international organization focused on sustainable and inclusive human well-being in Latin America, are also working with farmers to deploy the Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture. The system combines predictive AI technology with geospatial, weather, environmental and IoT field data in a comprehensive dashboard tailored to a farmer’s land. It delivers weather alerts and other information, such as optimal planting patterns and expected yields linked to market pricing. These insights can help farmers and agribusinesses make more informed decisions for improving crop yield and value, as well as food safety and sustainability.
  • Food Trust will also help coffee and cocoa farmers and processors verify certifications, improve treatment processes, and assist producers with growing high-quality beans.
  • To trace the beans, users along the supply chain are given permissioned access to upload data onto the Food Trust platform and use it to access documentation, helping ensure an ethical and more equitable supply chain. The process begins with Heifer International uploading information about nurse plants shipped to farmers. After harvest, farmers then tag and ship their beans to the COPRANIL processers. At COPRANIL, additional data is uploaded to the blockchain about the beans, including whether and how the beans are cleaned, dried, and roasted, and if they meet thresholds for Fair Trade, organic, or other designations. All this information is then shared with corporate buyers, who can also access data about the beans to understand their price.