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The ‘Anand’ of Agri_Blockchains

Block chain must not be private. It must be embraced by the Government too, rather than putting the cart before the horse and blocking the chain of data. The biggest limitation to progress would be to neuter and make infertile trillions of Zetas and Yetas that are yearning to sprout.

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This is like the story of Tom and Jerry! Data is the new cheese, and there is a constant tussle on about this cheese and its chase between its protector and its hacker! It was fun to watch Tom and Jerry’s antics earlier, but the two seem to have walked us following them to a centre stage now as they steal, the two vanish into thin air before it can even be caught. Its trail is lost in a mangled web of links and lines.

Kevin Mitnick the world's leading authority on hacking, says, “Hackers are breaking the systems for profit. Before, it was about intellectual curiosity, adventure and pursuit of knowledge and thrill, and now hacking is big business” 

That being what it is, security systems are also evolving by the day. If you want to record information in a way that it is almost impossible to change, hack, or cheat the system, then store it in multiple places and keep updating all of them simultaneously. If you lose one, others are there. Even then, a hacker cannot hack all of them at the same time. That, is a simple theory, but when you have billions of Zetta’s and Yetta’s (10^21, 10^24) of data that need to be secured, that then will need some thinking. That is where Blockchain fits in. It secures data at multiple locations at the same time. If one node goes down, so what? The other nodes will have a copy of the data.  

An intersting analogy comes to mind. A church can be razed to the ground, but how will that destroy the bible in the homes. Gutenberg’s printing press made that possible. In the times that are evolving fast; a Government cannot fight the tidal waves of data or opinion by holding that captive under its own propriety. 

No technology is mature enough today that it can tackle any form of threat. Blockchain too is far from maturity. Gox was the largest crypto scam ever when North Korean hackers forked out $534 million from another leading Japanese exchange, Coincheck. However, the site returned all the money lost of the investors when accosted. In spite of that, blockchain is a sound and highly secure method in multiple applications and industries.

Do Blockchain platforms need permissions to operate? Not exactly. One blockchain platform is permissionless and the other is permissioned. Whereas the earlier needs approval to access making it private, the other is public and does not require any permission to enter a blockchain network. Its status however, decides much of its performance, transparency and security features. Therein lie its application areas within the framework of watertight but simple contracts.

Apart from entertainment companies like Live Nation SAS, a global entertainment company in France that launched TixTo.Me in April this year, even trading of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), representing portions of real-world objects such as art or music took off in 2021. Ticketmaster, another entertainment ticketing software and services company, traded in converting traditional tickets into secure interactive digital assets. Today even company shares are bought and sold as digital assets. There are several financial institutions using blockchain to record, manage and synchronize their financial information.

The point being that Blockchain does not only manage cryptocurrency. It has many other areas of influence such as in the healthcare infrastructure, agriculture and yes, the government. They all need secure exchange of data such as personal health information, downloaded entertainment, real estate deeds, freight invoicing, climate and sowing data. Even manufacturing businesses can do a smart management of contracts and track materials as they progress through supply chains.  Move over Six-Sigma!

India, being predominantly an agrarian sector, must optimise her food production and supply chains in order to be truly ‘atmanirbhar’. What better way can there be than to use block chain technology in food production and supply chains, agricultural insurance, smart farming and for transactions of agricultural products? Even DNA of livestock animals, pesticide residues of grain or vegetables can be stored by transparently providing individual product information in the blockchain.

A farmer is today renedred hapless. He sows what he believes will sell at a remunerative price, then he looks upto the skies pleading for the blessings of the weather Gods and then he harvests pleading again for the night to pass off without rain so it can reach the nearest stocking area. 

Smart agriculture uses ICT, several sensors, AI and ML algorithms generating monumental data, which needs efficient management, not just for managing ‘seed to sale’ or insurance assessments and pay-outs but also warehouse planning, e-commerce and others. An exactitude and balance between agricultural produce within a defined Geography and its consumption pattern can do wonders for the supply chain in the absence of which not just the farmer, even the consumer is hapless and helpless when coming to guess the value of their wares.

Every link in the production-supply chain, the producer, the place of origin, the shipping company, the destination, the multimodal transport, the warehouse and the final last mile will represent a “block” of information, with the advantage of visibility, aggregation, validation, automation and resiliency.

Many agricultural products are produced by households. Due to the low transaction volume and small scale, traditional e-commerce is neither willing nor able to provide services for them, thus excluding these participants from the market. Technology can greatly reduce transaction costs and incorporate them into the market again. Food wastage is unpardonable. That food traceability, food safety, quality, food trust and supply chain inefficiency are still a part of the system is unacceptable. Mapping various storage centres and supply logistics can help plug the holes.

A farmer must establish a trusted relationship with consumers and build a reputation for his products which then allows him to sell them online. Is the country then ready for smart farming and make ‘farm to home’ a reality? Blockchain is the vehicle to do it. 

A purpose of this writing is to invite the dapper Anand Mahindra to a game of snooker and the cue ball is his! Here’s his chance to score a cannon’, ‘a stroke where a lone cue-ball touches more than one object-ball before it pots in the pocket of the table and the score is multiplied by the touches it achieves’, in the game with flourish that matches his ‘Vitruvian Man’ image. 

With 15000 STEM Colleges across 680 districts of India, it stands for 22 colleges per District that if provided with one camera fitted drone that maps the lat-long of the farms, it would only help Anand create the Uber of the tractors and that could then be a beginning in the long chain of events discussed above. If that Tr’Uber is rolled out, it may amaze and excite an Amazon to hop on to the trolley and the new building blocks will start emerging. This is also redeeming the purpose of Anand which is to amplify Anand!

Block chain must not be private. It must be embraced by the Government too, rather than putting the cart before the horse and blocking the chain of data. The biggest limitation to progress would be to neuter and make infertile trillions of Zetas and Yetas that are yearning to sprout.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Dr S S Mantha

Former Chairman of AICTE, Dr. Mantha is an eminent academician. At present he is Chancellor KL University and Adjunct Professor, NIAS, Bangalore.

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Yogesh Kochhar

The author is Corporate maven and a happiness evangelist

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