This interview is part of our new Blockchain In Agriculture series, where we interview the world's leading thought leaders on the front lines of the intersections between blockchain and agriculture.
In this interview we speak with Phil Harris, President and Co-Founder of ripe.io, to understand how his company is using blockchain to transform the agriculture business, and what the future of the industry holds.
1. What’s the story behind ripe.io? Why and how did you begin?
PH: Raja Ramachandran and I co-founded ripe.io. We both come from the financial services and fintech space. We both started and exited companies and it’s in this space where we became intimately familiar with blockchain technology. We saw the value of blockchain technology enabling an ecosystem of participants to share and exchange data in a distributed ledger system and provide value to the stakeholders. We then started to think about other industries where blockchain could be applied. We researched music, insurance, education, and many others and finally saw the value it could provide in the food supply chain and thus was the birth of ripe.io. We believe the technology can provide tremendous value to the participants of the supply chain by digitizing the journey of the food product allowing not only the stakeholders but consumers to understand the origin of their food, who handled the food and what’s in their food. Ripe.io is helping answer those questions which consumers, worldwide, want to understand.
2. Please describe your use case and how ripe.io uses blockchain:
PH: We work with a number of customer segments including, but not limited to, farmers, processors, distributors, CPGs, grocery/retail and large industry associations. We focus on a number of areas across these segments.
Reducing food waste:
Annual food waste will reach 2.1 billion tons by 2030, according to Boston Consulting Group’s 2018 report. By tracking and tracing food items in real time, supply chain participants are alerted of in-congruencies and can manage food safety, inventory and freshness to prevent food waste. ripe.io’s solution allows users to detect and communicate inefficiencies in fresh products and certify the information holds true on the blockchain system.
Customers want information beyond the physical food product. Visibility into organic certification, animal welfare practices, soil quality, etc. backed by a blockchain ledger help assure consumers the information provided holds true and aligns with sustainability values. It also holds the industry accountable for more ethical and sustainable practices that provide a better future for generations to come.
Consumers want more validation on the origin of the food they’re consuming. Due to disconnected communication systems, food supply chain stakeholders have challenges providing this information. Through ripe.io’), consumers are able to track the granular details of the origin of their food products and better support local agriculture. This also helps mollify the rural-urban divide by generating rural economies and connecting our communities through food.
3. Could you share a customer/user that benefits from what you offer? What has your service done for them?
PH: We have digitized the food journey of a number of food products including produce, citrus, proteins and dairy. When we first secure the attention of a potential client, we need to see specific goals and desired outcomes that make sense. The common denominator surrounds a larger digitization effort, that will deliver benefits ranging from transparency and visibility of all the events and attributes associated with those events. We’ve connected disparate systems allowing the ecosystem to have one source of data allowing them to be more collaborative and efficient. In some cases, we’ve uncovered data inconsistencies, we’ve seen significant process improvement as well as help amplify best practices.
4. What other blockchain use cases in agriculture are you excited about?
PH: It is important when we look at the food supply chain to consider three main factors; fragmentation, complexities and opaqueness. To start, the connection of disparate systems and actors in the ecosystem has allowed for transparency and visibility in a bi-directional view whereas historically, it’s been a unidirectional view. However, now that there’s a connected supply chain, we see areas of consumer education and engagement, personalization of food, analytics leveraging machine learning and AI. The possibilities are endless and we collaborate with our customers every day on ways in which they can add value to the entire ecosystem.
5. Where will ripe.io be in 5 years?
PH: We continue to be truly humbled by the interest in our company and in our work. We are a very small actor doing epic work in a massive industry, we have big ambitions, we like what we do, we are passionate about what we do and the people we provide support and service to; I cannot predict the future, but all I know is, we want to serve our clients with steadfast support, cutting edge technologies and play a key role in the food system that positively impacts one and all.