Blockchain Offers Solutions in the Global Coffee Market

One Seattle startup, Onda Origins, is using blockchain technology to track their coffee from bean to cup, according to GeekWire.

Onda uses blockchain, which acts as a distributed ledger, to create transparency for customers, who can see exactly where their coffee comes from, and for growers to get maximum revenue out of every bean they produce.

“We can revenue share back to those growers and reward them a second time for the environmental or social good they’re bringing to the world,” says Paul Tupper, co-founder of Onda Origins. “Consumers are driven by that, and we can make a system that reflects the values people think they’re buying into. A backbone of experiential marketing makes it feel true and traceability proves that it is true.”

Onda had to find creative ways to make sure their first growers got paid, and that became more challenging as it looked to expand to larger growers and different locations. Using blockchain makes it easier to work across borders and languages barriers.

“As we expanded our offerings into cooperative models or small holders in locales where we didn’t have linguistic capacity, we could never guarantee that the actual trail was leading back to the producer,” says Scott Tupper, Onda co-founder. “That led to a couple disappointing situations where we didn’t know how to reconnect with the growers. Blockchain offers an ability, through auditing chain of custody on a ledger, to make sure that we are following product all the way through and that we will always have access to the growers.”

“Sustainability stories from origin, whether that’s environmentally sustainability or community sustainability, were being leveraged for really high price points on the consuming end but that price wasn’t shared back to the grower, even though they are bringing value,” says Paul Tupper.

Starbucks is also exploring the option of using blockchain technology for a similar bean to cup pilot program. They will launch the program with select coffee farmers in Costa Rica, Colombia and Rwanda. This will allow growers to log and share real-time information along the journey of coffee beans to develop and demonstrate over the next two years how data platforms can give coffee farmers even more financial independence and confidence.

“Many years ago, our controls and transactions were all done by paper, and today we are even talking about blockchain technology,” says Ronald Peters, executive director of the Costa Rican Coffee Institute. “This shows us that, more than being at the front of every technological advancement, having the information and being flexible and adaptable are important.”

“The promise of connecting coffee farmers to coffee drinkers is an extraordinary leap in transparency and accountability, and it speaks volumes about Starbucks commitment to creating a product that is good for people and for the planet,” says M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International.