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Interview: Genevieve Leveille

22 July 2019 by Sonia Sharma

Interview: Genevieve Leveille

The founder and CEO of AgriLedger, talks about blockchain solutions, a fairer food industry supply chain and the value of good governance.

What projects are you currently working on?

My current project is the delivery of a blockchain solution in the Fresh Fruit Value Chain in Haiti. This is a project in conjunction with the government of Haiti with the support of the World Bank.

Why did you decide to use blockchain within the food industry?

The supply chain is broken and there are also a number of actors that may not all have the same goals and aspirations. The proposed solution in blockchain or Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) by AgriLedger will provide reliability of a fraud safe system to keep track of all the invoicing along the value chain, beginning from producer until the final user, facilitating timely payments and invoice financing along the supply chain.

Right now, DLT are opening an era of distributed trust. Disrupting models in industries like food supply, banking, and medicine, disrupting governance systems and tax structures. Making it possible for co-operation in open, decentralized networks, where we can interact with technology in ways that simplify transactions and simplify trust, as well as making it possible to see where our food comes from and the costs that are hidden from us – the costs we do not see in the prices we pay.

The blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies make it possible for us to know the real costs in a supply chain. We can see where these costs are reasonable. We can see where costs are inflated for profit and we can see who is responsible. This is accountability in action. It’s real insight into where our money goes as we buy our products, as we buy our food.

How can blockchain make food production fairer for producers?

We do not have to look very far to see inequity. In our world today some countries are food self-sufficient. Other countries have to import a lot of the food that’s needed to feed their nation. While some countries import food to extend their choice, others are importing basic foods for necessity or would face starvation.

Often it’s these countries, the countries that rely on food imports to survive, that pay a high price for survival. High costs of import and higher taxes pull these countries deeper into debt.

In some parts of the world, including my own country of birth, Haiti, many factors over the centuries have affected the ability to provide for its people. The trials of domination by outside cultures. Lands devastated by wild storms and widespread flooding. International indebtedness. Political unrest of mismanaged resources and corrupt governance. Producers accepting prices for their products too low to keep food on their own tables. Because access to information and money to support the process to harvest and access to a wider market is limited. This is a common story. It’s one that is true for many millions of people, the world over.

There are two simple outcomes that support equity and transparency in world markets and the creation of an inclusive economy in a rural ecosystem: bringing technological advance and better infrastructure to the rural areas, to food producers. This way, the producer families may participate in the wider community and share knowledge, gain access to markets and upward mobility.

Thinking about governance, what value do you think good governance brings to an organisation?

Governance is a barometer of boundaries and proprieties in an organisation. This is a necessary defined process that allows for one to be able to navigate in time of chaos or lack of clarity. It is however needs to be seen as living instrument that needs regular reviews and adjustment. If the governance is not continually measured and accessed, then the mental aspects of the societal part of the organisation starts to malfunction. It is the same adage as having rules so that you can know what are the basis to break those rules.

At the Annual Conference you took part in a panel on ‘Ensuring an ethical supply chain’. How important are trust, authenticity and transparency to consumers and producers alike?

Because farmers are registered and all the details of their farm and produce is recorded on the blockchain, the value that each of them brings into the ecosystem is validated. Connected buyers and financial services providers can see the value at an early stage and support a producer’s efforts in bringing products to market.

On the blockchain, everything is immutable and transparent. Each person is recognisable and accountable. Everyone can participate and have an equitable share in the agricultural outcomes.

The theme of the conference was ‘The Future Board’. What do you imagine the future board will look like?

‘The Future Board’ will be more fluid in that the members may never have the opportunity to actually meet and connect with one another and be governed more via a consensus model whereby decisions are driven by data and validation based on the human factor is what the board members will be looking to action.

It would be a disaster if all decisions were made solely on data as it does not have the ability to interpret the finite environmental drivers that may drive certain outcomes. However as we become more and more digitized and we insert into our ecosystem technologies such as DLT and AI, we will find that the need for continuous extensive review will be reduced and much more concentrated on the more difficult decision that are not measurable and or are not addressed currently because of the sheer load of more immediate and data intensive decisions such as financial. 

Interview by Sonia Sharma, Editor of Governance and Compliance

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