FFAR Funds Novel Supply-Demand Technology, Connecting Institutional Buyers To Specialty Crop Farmers



WASHINGTON (February 4, 2021) – With many institutional food buyers, including universities, restaurants and hotels, closed or at reduced capacity due to COVID-19, the nation’s food supply chain is still adapting to lower demand. As a result, small and mid-size farmers, especially specialty crop farmers, are struggling to expand their market opportunities. Greater tools are needed to ensure flexibility in the food supply chain during major crises to ensure economic security for farmers and food security for consumers. The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) is awarding $2 million to establish a multi-organization collaboration, the Open Market Consortium (OMC), to develop and pilot an open-source, public-access blockchain system to connect small and mid-size farmers to institutional buyers. OMC, led by AgLaunch Initiative, includes matching funds from founding members Mississippi State UniversityThe SeamTennessee State University, and the Wallace Center at Winrock International, with additional matching funds provided by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture for a total $4 million investment. 

The coronavirus is training a spotlight on the importance of our nations’ farmers, an unseen workforce that keeps us nourished, and the significance of food and agriculture supply chains. In both good times and in times of crisis, this new technology can connect small and mid-size farmers with local institutions to keep food moving from farm to plate.
— SALLY ROCKEY, PH.D. Executive Director

The disconnect between farmers’ supply and institutional buyers’ demand is problematic for small and mid-size farmers who lack the liquidity to bear the risk of increasing specialty crop production. For the past decade, consumer demand for local specialty crops has created unique economic opportunities for small and mid-size farmers. Yet, new technologies are needed to increase institutional purchasing of these local foods. OMC is building a decentralized, specialty crops market-developing tool, the Open Market Platform, that connects specialty crop farmers with food companies and institutional buyers.

“OMC addresses the needs of farmers for a traceable and secure supply back-end system for diverse agricultural crops while bringing more pricing transparency to attributes related to nutrition, taste, origin or other characteristics,” said AgLaunch Executive Director Pete Nelson

OMC is analyzing the barriers to mutually beneficial contractual relationships between sellers and buyers and developing innovative crop assessment tools for supply chain participants. The Open Market Platform builds on and complements other initiatives underway through the land grant university system, private companies and the US Department of Agriculture. Designed with transparency and traceability at its core, the platform equips farmers with real-time tools and metrics to break into new markets. This innovative platform is intended to drive broad adoption, lower barriers to entry and promote peer-to-peer transactions using smart contracts. These contracts rely on blockchain technology, which allows for decentralized, transparent historical records of assets  Institutional buyers using the platform can transact securely and efficiently while supporting resilient, community-driven, regional agriculture and facilitating price transparency for non-commodity crops.

This two-year program is already piloting a prototype version of the technology in Tennessee through the AgLaunch Farmer Network, while coordinating with farmers and local food aggregators across the Mississippi Delta region to connect regional farmers with institutional buyers.

OMC’s research and platform, powered by The Seam, creates new supply and demand opportunities, shoring up the food supply chain. This Consortium further protects farmers, institutions and consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic and future food system disruptions.


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