The biggest, untold problem of using blockchain in agriculture
Blockchain is a promising technology that is still shock full of hype. Farming is a literally vital component of society that is in dire straits worldwide. What happens if the two try to work together?
Blockchain-related technology may help farmers to provide better traceability of their products, and increase their revenues by eliminating intermediaries. At the moment, I have strong doubts about this, but I cannot exclude that it may happen, at least in certain sectors, or local markets. Now, however, I only want to point out something that may make blockchain-enhanced farming backfire spectacularly on farmers, if they don’t deal with it first.
Blockchain should help farmers to guarantee full traceability of their products, and make more money by doing without middlemen. But there is a big issue in that picture, and is not availability of technology, money to deploy it or skills to use it properly, albeit those problems exist, and are serious. The biggest problem of blockchain in agriculture is that traceability cannot be limited.
Giving everybody a 100% accurate way to track every orange or cabbage from field to plate means giving every tax collector a 100% accurate way to track every single penny that every farmer gained.
In an ideal world, that wouldn’t be an issue at all, of course. But we live in a world that is still full of regulations that seem made to order to strangle small farmers, and force them to cut corners or even cheat, just to survive. In world like this, blockchain-guaranteed traceability of every transaction could likely be too much of a good thing, for farmers who already are just one missed payment from bankruptcy.
The only way to avoid such scenarios is to reboot, at the same time, both farming supply chains and regulations about small scale farming. From what I hear, such regulations are sorely overdue for a rewriting favouring small farmers anyway, so that should not be a problem, right? :-)