Home Just In IBM and Heifer International Increase Access to Data and Global Markets for Honduran Coffee and Cocoa Farmers

IBM and Heifer International Increase Access to Data and Global Markets for Honduran Coffee and Cocoa Farmers


To improve farm-level decision-making and speed up transactions, farmers of smallholder coffee and cocoa use IBM Food Trust blockchain technology and powerful AI in IBM Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture.

To get access to new markets and make better business decisions, Smallholder coffee and cocoa farmers and cooperatives in Honduras are using IBM Food Trust and IBM Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture, in collaboration with Heifer International and IBM.

Small-scale coffee growers lose 46–59 percent of their profits, with farmers earning less than 1% of a cup of coffee sold in a coffee shop. Food Trust, which is built on IBM Blockchain technology, providing transparency along the supply chain, will assist give coffee purchasers who buy from the COPRANIL cooperative in Honduras and Chocolate Halba, which buys cocoa from farmers in Heifer Honduras’ Chocolate4All project, a better understanding of their product supply chains, and enable farmers to secure higher prices.

Farmers and purchasers can trace coffee and cocoa beans from the field to the point of sale with the help of Food Trust, which improves supply chain transparency and expands market access. Coffee producers in the COPRANIL cooperative and chocolate farmers in Chocolate4All are both using it right now. Smallholder farms get benefit from blockchain technology because it gives a record of provenance, giving them 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. In a comprehensive dashboard tailored to a farmer’s land, the system combines predictive AI technology with geospatial, weather, environmental and IoT field data. It sends out weather notifications as well as other information like the best planting patterns and estimated yields based on market prices. Farmers and agribusinesses may use these data to make better decisions about crop output and value, as well as food safety and sustainability. The technology is predicted to have a significant impact on coffee and cocoa producers’ incomes.

“For 18 months, we’ve worked alongside farmers to identify the best ways to improve production processes, digitize the value chain, and ultimately open market access to smallholder farmers so they can secure premium prices,” said Jesús Pizarro, Vice President of Financial Innovation at Heifer International. “As one of the first cooperatives in the world to deploy the system, COPRANIL is leading the way, equipping its farmers with the tools and technology they need to build and sustain profitable farm businesses.”

“When the people drinking our coffee know where it comes from, the farmers in our cooperative benefit,” said Jorge Lopez, Vice President of coffee-producers cooperative COPRANIL. “Food Trust can help our network of farmers command a better premium for their beans, and potentially improve their livelihoods.”

Food Trust will also support farmers and processors of coffee and cocoa in verifying certifications, improving treatment methods, and assisting producers in growing high-quality beans.

“Our work with Heifer International and COPRANIL is an important test of how AI and blockchain technology can advance social good and support sustainability by helping even small-scale producers,” said Kareem Yusuf, Ph.D., IBM General Manager AI Applications and Blockchain. “With predictive AI working to help increase crop yield, and blockchain establishing a record of provenance and proof of quality, these farmers are empowered with new data and insights so they can command more at market.”

Users along the supply chain are granted permissioned access to contribute data to the Food Trust platform and utilise it to access documentation in order to trace the beans, ensuring a more ethical and equitable supply chain. Heifer International starts the process by inputting information on nurse plants sent to farmers.

Farmers tag and ship their beans to the COPRANIL processers after harvest. Additional data about the beans is uploaded to the blockchain at COPRANIL, including whether and how the beans are washed, dried, and roasted, as well as whether they meet Fair Trade, organic, or other designations standards. All of this data is subsequently shared with corporate buyers, who have access to the bean’s data as well to understand their price.

Food Trust will be used by the cooperative and its stakeholders to track commercial documents used by merchants and exporters, such as bills of lading, invoices, purchase orders, sale orders, and certificates, which would boost agricultural productivity by decreasing paperwork and speeding up transactions.

Food Trust will also track cocoa beans in the pulp, before to fermentation, all the way through Chocolate Halba’s sale of dried beans in big quantities. Food Trust will replace the Excel spreadsheet-based traceability files that are now required by the corporation when procuring ‘A’ quality cocoa. Farmers will be able to register the traceability of all cocoa via Food Trust, ensuring that all producers are connected into the market and improving their visibility to large cocoa buyers throughout the world.

“Both Food Trust and Watson Decision for Agriculture technologies are helping our field teams better advise farmers on which cocoa tree varieties are ideal for their soil quality and on the benefits of fermenting and drying beans instead of selling them in pulp form or washed, which is how cocoa beans are traditionally sold,” said Pizarro. “With access to this information, farmers are able to make more informed business decisions.”

Heifer International and CATIE recently hosted a workshop with experts from IBM and the cocoa industry to explore combining macro-climate data and knowledge on cocoa physiology to develop predictive models. Watson’s artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities will be used by the experts to supply smallholder cocoa farmers with data that will help estimate cocoa yield and growth.

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