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bext360: Smart kiosks to collect coffee + data in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Local smart kiosks powered by a distributed ledger (i.e. “blockchain” technology) to collect real-time data on yield, and payout to farmers.

Photo of Vanessa Gennarelli
19 16

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Though 100 million people's livelihoods depend on coffee farming, few farmers and coops have access to data about quality of their yield, the scale of demand, or the ultimate sale prices for their product in the global marketplace. Stellar.org and bext360 will partner to use distributed ledger technology (one example is “the blockchain”) to capture and record yield data directly from farmers and coops to bolster efficiency and decrease waste. The Stellar network, a distributed, decentralized protocol for real-time transactions, will record timestamps, value or amounts, making it possible to accurately process payments and credits. All parties involved in the transaction—companies, farmers and coops—can access the data transparently. bext360 develops a network of kiosk machines for deployment in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Similar to a Coinstar but for coffee, the machine divides beans into grades of value. After the machine has evaluated their beans, farmers access the mobile app to view amounts of each grade and accept offers for payment. The application immediately offers the farmers “credits” for their beans on the network. Farmers can then cash out their credits via TMB bank, or transact in coffee credits in the local community. The prototype of the kiosk is complete. bext360 will deploy these machines in the field with a pilot network of local female entrepreneurs, who will lease and administer the machines, during the winter of 2016.

WHO BENEFITS?

Each machine serves around 4,000 small-scale farmers in a 500 square kilometer area, and will have a total impact on around 40,000 individuals including farmers, support services and their families. The machines are strategically placed so that farmers need only travel a maximum of 10 kilometers for service at a collection kiosk. Other key analytics may include tax payments, community investment and improvement to quality overtime.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

Yes. Democratic Republic of Congo

ARE YOU IMPLEMENTING IN AN ELIGIBLE COUNTRY?

  • Yes

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU!

Daniel P. Jones, CEO of bext360, is an entrepreneur with over 17 years of experience living and working in emerging and frontier markets including China, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and India. Jed McCaleb, CTO of Stellar.org, is a leading thinker in cryptography and distributed systems.

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

Bext360 is in an alpha pre-launch phase and Stellar.org is in their second full calendar year of operation. Both the idea and the organizations are officially new, but build on decades of experience. For Daniel, this idea is the culmination of five years of observation in the DRC, researching supply chains as CEO/founder of Pioneer Management. In the DRC he founded RAMIKA, the first US-owned company to successfully export conflict free minerals from DRC to the US in compliance with supply chain and traceability requirements under the Dodd-Frank Act. In addition he structured the first private port facility to be constructed in the DRC. For Jed, the Stellar network represents two decades of research and innovation in distributed systems. McCaleb developed the technology that changed peer-to-peer sharing from 1:many to many:many and is widely recognized as an expert in the field of cryptography.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

There is a lot of fanfare surrounding the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain technologies to benefit the developing world, but very few real-world, direct applications. Bext360 brings together these cutting-edge technologies with a partner who has an established infrastructure and network, the Eastern Congo Initiative. The technology enables IoT devices (machines) to control their own digital wallets, allowing them to collect, pay and mediate financial transactions--if this idea is successful, think of all the wide applications of right-sized payments and smart devices. By bringing technology (both Blockchain and analysis) directly to the farmers they get control over their production and are able to receive a fair price for their products and also get real-time feedback on the quality of their products, allowing them to improve their processes and increase their yield in future harvests.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

Bext360 will continue to develop the product and nurture partnership conversations. Eastern Congo Initiative will eventually implement the machines in the rural network of the DRC.  The machines will be implemented in eastern DRC by Bext360 in partnership with ECI and local cooperatives (KACCO). Stellar.org and bext360 are implementing the blockchain/payment aspects of the technology.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

Two major changes to the implementation based on feedback from ECI, the coops and the end users: 1. The machines will be placed on trailers so they can be transported to multiple locations within the coop’s management area.  Also the trailers will allow the machines to be leased to other coop’s on the north side of the equator, as the harvest on the north side of the equator is the exact complement of the harvest on the south side of the equator.  In this way the machines will have utilization almost all year-round. 2. The exact algorithm to analyze the quality of the coffee cherries.  Based on the feedback, Bext360 is adjusting the analysis algorithm to analyze the quality of the coffee cherries. Specifically we are adding the ability to measure the density of the product via image analysis and weight in the bext360 machine. Our machine will mix the goods and take several random images for analysis. The bext360 analysis algorithm will determine the quality via analysis of three primary factors, the color of the cherries, the density of the cherries and the amount of foreign material in the analyzed batch. The next step is testing the algorithm in the field in 3Q 2016.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

As this is unique and new methodology for the farmers in the DRC there are many unanswered questions that need to be answered to have a successful implementation. The main questions are centered on the business model and partnership for purchasing the product directly from the farmer. Fortunately, the coops and ECI have significant relationships (and it is aligned with their mission) in the coffee business, including with Starbucks and Falcon. We are currently working on details of the amount the farmer will be paid at analysis and how much they will be paid once the product is exported from the country.

Stellar.org and bext360 will partner to use distributed ledger technology (one example is “the blockchain”) to capture and record yield data directly from farmers and coops to bolster efficiency, decrease waste and increase revenues per farmer and per cooperative.

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