Coffee is the world’s second most-traded commodity, after petroleum. Some 125 million people make a living growing coffee, according to estimates from the Fairtrade Foundation. Most are smallholders, or small-scale farmers whose families live on less than $2 a day, the World Bank reports. Now, a tech startup called bext360 wants to make it easier for these farmers to get a fair price, and get paid instantly, for their beans.
The company built a mobile robot that is something like a sophisticated scale. It allows buyers of coffee to rapidly analyze and weigh the quality of a farmer’s product in the field. The robot uses optical sorting to understand what percent of coffee cherries look perfect or spoiled in a batch. A batch, typically a 30-40 lb. bag, will get higher or lower marks which are revealed to both buyers and famers on the spot. They then negotiate a fair price through bext360’s mobile app.
The startup’s app and cloud-based software employ blockchain technology to create a record of where beans came from, and who paid what for them. Ultimately, founder and CEO Daniel Jones say, coffee drinkers should be able to know, with every cup, where their coffee came from and who they paid to grow it.
Jones said his goal is to bring complete transparency to the coffee supply chain, and other commodities as well, including cocoa.
Prior to starting this agtech company, Jones founded a company that exported minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to the US, meeting all thlle supply chain and traceability requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act. He also worked with the Defense Intelligence Agency to create a communications system for transferring voice, video and data across top-secret networks. In other words, Jones knows how to get businesses in developing nations to work with and benefit from clients in the west. And he’s not afraid of dealing with bureaucracy.
To support its launch and growth, bext360 has raised $1.2 million in seed funding from SKS Venture Partners, a family office that mainly invests in financial technologies.