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Meeting provenance, traceability and biodiversity issues linked to spice cultivation and trade in Kerala, India

To create a pesticide free spice cultivation retaining the natural biodiversity in kerala with traceability in the supply chain

Photo of Nidhin Sreekumar
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Accubits Technologies Inc.

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Large company (over 50 employees)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.accubits.com

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

India

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Kerala

What country is your selected Place located in?

India

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

The applicant is a native of Kerala and has been living here since birth. The applicant has always admired the picturesque surroundings of Kerala and has always been proud of its cultural heritage as well as the geographical location of the state. Kerala is famous for its natural beauty, cultural heritage, biodiversity of flora and fauna and the cultivation of spices. However with the advent of modern agriculture techniques the quality of the spices cultivated has been declining with the increased use of pesticides. Thus the applicant want to search for ways that would overcome the problem with the introduction of transparency in the supply chain which would prevent farmers from the use of excessive pesticides and maintain the quality of these spices. 

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Kerala, also known as God's own country is well known for its scenic beauty and serene environment. It lies in the south west of India wedged between the Arabian sea and the Western ghats. The state has a 600km of Arabian sea shoreline. Kerala has a tropical rainforest climate with seasonal heavy rains of south-west summer monsoon and north-east winter monsoon. The climate of Kerala is one of the reasons for the state being highly biodiverse. The agriculture includes mainly coconut, tea, coffee, cashew and spices. Spice cultivation in Kerala date back to thousands of years. The state was known for its monopoly of spice cultivation for thousands of years. The western coastal belt is comparatively flat than the eastern coast and is cris-crossed by a network of interconnected rivers, canals, lakes and estuaries known as the Kerala backwaters. These backwaters are a great tourist destination and are the spots for the famous snake boat races in Kerala. The people of Kerala are simple and although they are a mixture of different religions they live in unity and harmony. They like to live in their own world of simplicity and originality. They are known as "keralites", since they are natives of Kerala. They are proud of their culture and will go to any lengths to preserve them. The lifestyle of Keralites is uncomplicated and they seem happy and content with the simple pleasures of life. The agriculture consists mainly of coconut, cashew, coffee and spices. Rice is the main food crop and is the staple food of the state. 

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

34700000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Kerala is considered as one of the major producers of spices in the world and Kerala spices are considered to be of the best quality. Spices embody the aroma of the state and the variety of spices include pepper, vanilla, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and turmeric. The flavour of spices lingers long in one's tongue and even longer in one's memories. It were the fragrance of these spices that aroused the curiosity of the explorers and changed the destiny of the state with respect to economy. The spice production in Kerala has been facing some challenges for the past few years. Modern agricultural practices have lured the spice cultivators for the excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides for improved production. However, these practices have been accompanied by a drastic decline in the quality of the spices. The excessive use of chemical fertilizers tend to interfere with the natural soil biodiversity that is linked to the spice cultivation. This change in the biodiversity in one way makes these spices to lose their natural quality and in the other way become a favourable platform for the growth of plant pathogens. Farmers are spending Rs. 400–550 on chemicals to produce Rs 1000 in crops, whether the crops grow or fail. If the crops fail the bill for the herbicides and pesticides is still due. Farmers are “price takers” and without the means of differentiating their crop or the ability to move it from location to location, they are forced to take the price offered by aggregators and processors. This in turn disincentivizes them from pursuing “zero-budget” or eco-friendly farming — the system rewards quantity, not quality. Above all the excessive use of pesticides have become a rising concern when it comes to human health. Western consumers have shown that they are willing to pay significantly more for Organic (25% price premium) or Fair Trade (43% price premium), so creating a watertight audit and traceability process, coupled with provenance technology will go to a great extent in rebuilding the "trust". 

KEY CHALLENGES
● Low tech, predominantly paper-based documentation
● Limited and/or unreliable cultivation data at the farming places
● Mid to small farmers doesn’t have the proper certification data
● Multiple instances of brokering and mixing the organic & non-organic products
especially from smaller units
● Non-segregated supply chains with instances of rebatching, especially at
processing facilities.
● Lack of a standardized approach to data labelling and units of measurement
● Tracking of products for an end-user is missing.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Accubits proposes the development of microbe based biofertilizers and soil replenishers to overcome the use of chemical fertilizers. To tackle and resolve hurdles faced by the traditional supply chain for the organic farming industry, Accubits proposes the development of an innovative supply chain model by using blockchain technology to merge the digital and physical world, and by recording the journey of products from the farm; from farm to table. The whole solution works on the base idea that if it is possible to track a batch of organic produce back to the point of harvest, it can be verified whether the produce was legally harvested, grown or processed when cross-referenced with data, such as vessel tracking and identification, permit numbers input/output data for mass balance assessment. The solution incorporates the implementation of an IOT enabled devices in every product container authorized to go in the ocean. In addition, the solution also implements the use of blockchain in making the whole system transparent in terms of traceability, and by ensuring the prevention of any foul practises involved in the trade, thus enhancing the overall quality of supply.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

The use of microbial biofertilizers instead of chemical fertilizers would enable the cultivation of spices in its natural environment without any interference in its biodiversity. Microorganisms associated to a plant have a profound contribution to the metabolism network of the plant which indirectly effects the quality of the product. Thus avoiding the use of chemicals would maintain the natural quality of the spices. In addition making the whole system transparent in terms of traceability would prevent any foul practices and encourage farmers to stick on to organic farming. This system will have direct effects on the environment as well as the lives of the farmers and consumers. The farmers would be now rewarded for the quality of their product rather than the quantity which would further have a positive effect in their economic status. Also, reduced use of chemicals and transparency in traceability would save the consumers from consumption of disease causing agents.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

The challenges faced by the spice production in Kerala can be overcome to a higher extent by following organic farming clubbed with transparency in traceability approach. This would have direct effects on the environment by maintaing the natural biodiversity, on the farmers by improving their economic status, on the diet by improving the quality of the spices and on the consumers by prevention of intake of harmful chemicals associated to the spices.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website

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Photo of Jun Suto
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Nidhin Sreekumar Love your microbial biofertilizers idea! Love to see your fuller vision of 2050 and learn how you envision people interacts with food and environments!!

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