Thursday, September 6, 2018

Why Trust Matters

Lack of Trust prevents Farmers in Developing countries from realising their full income potential

The defining moment of AgUnity’s inception came when Founding CEO David Davies realised that the key ingredient holding back poor farmers from improving their lives was not physical inputs such as machinery, money or good weather. The key ingredient was in fact, the most basic and fundamental aspect of human civilisation: trust.

For those of us fortunate to be in modern and well developed countries, it is something most of us take for granted, but it's essential for effective cooperation. And without cooperation, small farmers are on the wrong end of economies of scale.

In everything they do, it costs them more, is much more physically difficult and generates a significantly lower return than larger farms. The combination of these inefficiencies adds up more than we (for those of us who have never been poor) can imagine.

The solution is to organise 100-1,000 farmers to cooperate together to share equipment, and buy and sell together in the form of a farming co-operative. The critical problem remains however, that without clear records and proper documentation, corruption and graft remains pervasive and this leads to significant distrust between farmers and co-ops.

The solution is the creation of a circle of trust using a Smartphone App and Blockchain

The AgUnity App is a record keeping system that works smartphone to smartphone and writes to blockchain so it can never be altered. It has been designed in collaboration with smallholder farmers in some of the most remote rural areas around the world.

But the power of that simple process and its ability to transform groups of individual farmers into an effective cooperative should not be underestimated.

Our initial pilot project demonstrated that within just one season it is possible to increase a farmers income by 3x, simply by enabling cooperation and trust.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

AgUnity: Blockchain for the Greater Good, not Greed

We were recently approached by an individual at a FinTech conference hosted by Asia Development Bank (ADB) in Jakarta, who after hearing about the work we are doing, accused us of “wanting to become the next Google.”

This was a funny thing for us to hear, as a) it sounded like Google is some evil behemoth taking over the world and without having given anything back at all (see: answers to all questions ever), and b) that somehow our work helping developing world farmers is all about stealing information from unsuspecting and vulnerable people.

To be clear, we are Blockchain for the Greater Good, not the Greater Greed (our CEO’s name is David Davies, not Gordon Gekko, after all).

While our Founding CEO admittedly has a background in investment banking, it seemed as if this person had not fully grasped what we are doing, nor heard the story of how AgUnity came to be. It certainly isn’t a story of shady men and women sitting around plotting how to make billions from the poorest farmers on the planet (how that even make sense is beyond us).

The story of AgUnity is as upfront as it was an accident; to come up with an idea that would help a billion people worldwide. There was no talk of “let’s get rich (and quick too!)” in fact there was no talk of a business model at all at the time – everything was focused on how we might be able to help a significant number of the world’s poor through utilising new technologies.

Specifically, the Co-founders entered a hackathon in London in April 2016 with the theme ‘Fintech for Good’. The prize on offer was from Singularity University, and the founders knew their idea needed to be incredibly ambitious and world-changing to have a chance of winning the hackathon. The idea they set upon was to help the 1 billion poorest farmers in the world, people so poor that few companies have cared to create sustainable solutions just for them.

Over the course of the hackathon, the team realised they had stumbled onto something potentially huge. An issue that the majority of people in the West cannot relate to, and the single biggest factor holding back the very poor of the world:

A lack of Trust.

And so, the idea of using blockchain to resolve issues around trust delivered via a smartphone and a mobile application, AgUnity, was born. Not to make millions, but to help millions.

Since then, a solution to provide low-cost smartphones and the AgUnity App to farmers in the developing world has been developed and refined. In our pilot projects in Kenya & Bougainville, farmers using the AgUnity app have increased their incomes by 3x on average in a single season.

Our business model is around providing farmers access to ethical goods and services via the AgUnity App, the sales of which generate a royalty paid to AgUnity. Solar Lights, Farming Supplies, Micro-Finance and Insurance are all accessible within the app via the AgUnity Marketplace.

No monetisation is taking place via the sale of farmer's data to third-parties. In fact, we don’t own farmer’s data at all. We made a decision early on that, unlike Google, Apple or Facebook, farmer’s will control who can access their data via an encrypted key, so if they decide they want to share their data with an insurance company or other farmers, they can issue a Public Key at their discretion. Now, data's not all bad, in fact it's incredibly powerful and transformative. Future revenue streams may be developed whereby aggregate farmer data proves valuable for let's say, an NGO who wants to measure the impact of their programs directly to the community level. Regardless of the scenario, it will be exclusively 'opt-in' by the farmers, and they will directly receive earnings from this revenue.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out our partners and supporters of AgUnity include Gates Foundation, UNICEF, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank, FAO and many more. People like Ursula Rakova of the climate-ravaged Carteret Islands (PNG), who gave such a compelling keynote speech at COP21, Barack Obama himself requested a personal conference with her, coordinate our projects in various remote locations around the world. We work with people who are truly passionate about what we do, and believe in helping others more than helping themselves.

This is the constant theme of AgUnity: for good, not for greed.

So to those who might question our intent, please know AgUnity has a deeply ethical focus, and we care passionately about the people we help. We’ve spent months living and working side-by-side smallholder farmers to ensure our solution is more than a ‘feel-good’ story, but one that actually works.

And Google or not, we know we have a powerful product in our hands.

For all of you who continue to provide ongoing support, thank you!

With 💚from the Team @ AgUnity