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Meet the founder: Henry Duckworth on Agridex streamlining ag value chains with blockchain technology

February 24, 2023

Blockchain, as IBM puts it, is a sharable and immutable ledger, that tracks all manner of data, including financial transactions, and can only be accessed by authorized members of a network with whom the ledger is shared.

Its advantages span traceability, secure data storage, decentralization to cut out middlemen, and enabling direct peer-to-peer transactions – and what better place to bring this tech than in agricultural marketplaces?

UK’s Agridex, founded in 2020 by Svetlana Fialova and Henry Duckworth, is bringing transparency and accessibility to players along the ag value chain, from farmers to processors, logistics companies, financial institutions, and consumers.

The platform, which runs on blockchain, is an end-to-end supply chain platform and marketplace that facilitates trading with electronic coins.

It claims to offer players in the agriculture industry a transparent and integrated marketplace with its own internal economics, utilizing Fiat-on-Chain, smart contracts, and participation vetting, AgriDex offers a wholly compliant, streamlined solution to agricultural supply chain management. 

AFN caught up with Duckworth, a former trader at Trafigura. He moved on to impact investing under a number of hedge funds which thrust him into the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region where he admittedly came to see the realities of food insecurity.

“This sparked a strong interest in financing and assisting the growth of ag companies in the emerging world, starting in west Africa and south Asia, before expanding across multiple emergent regions, ” he says.

Years in the industry exposed him to how ag supply chains were susceptible to exploitation and this was costly to ag players, especially smallholder farmers.

Henry Duckworth COO and Co-founder of AgriDex

Besides his passion for entrepreneurship, Duckworth (HD) positions connectivity and blockchain as solutions to streamlining ag value chains while addressing skepticism surrounding digital tokens.

AFN: What excites you and keeps you going as an entrepreneur?

HD: When I was younger, connectivity was a huge issue on the African continent; the cost of installing and correctly running phone lines meant entire regions suffered from a lack of regular contact and reliable communication. Then, mobile phone and telecom entrepreneurs burst onto the scene and suddenly the entire problem was leapfrogged. I saw low-wage workers unlock the ability to ring back to their village at a sensible cost.

The same thing happened next with mobile money transfers revolutionizing pre-existing banking structures, with people now able to transfer smaller amounts of money at a lower cost.

The idea that a passionate application of solutions can be tied up with real-world economic advantage was fascinating and continues to drive me. Connectivity excites me and keeps me going.

It also underpins my data-oriented skills, which is why I ended up in the world of decentralized ledgers and blockchain.

AFN: What problems did you identify in global food systems that led to the creation of AgriDex? Why is blockchain a necessity in streamlining global food supply chains?

HD: The global food industry has been grappling with a range of persistent challenges that have impacted the success and sustainability of farmers.

High costs imposed by intermediaries and uncertain prices have made it challenging for farmers to secure their future profits. Additionally, the opaque and inefficient supply chain, which is vulnerable to fraud and exploitation, has further complicated the situation. Small and independent farmers in particular face high costs due to their dependence on intermediaries like banks and third-party payment processors, who charge substantial fees.

In response to these challenges, AgriDex was established as a solution that leverages the transformative power of blockchain technology to revolutionize the global food supply chain. Our platform connects all players in the industry with digital marketplaces and supply chain information, empowering farmers to improve their supply chain management and traceability of food products.

By providing real-time data on food demand and supply, our platform equips farmers with the capability to make informed decisions, predict consumer trends, and reduce food waste and surplus. From small-scale farmers to large commercial producers, blockchain technology provides a path to a more efficient, sustainable, and profitable food supply chain.

People all over the world want to know where their food comes from, what the producers were paid, and how it got to them. Historically, there has been no effective way to provide this information to consumers – partially because traders and producers rightly do not want to share it and partly because it’s hard to collate all these data points under one roof.

By providing a digital marketplace based on its own layer 1 and 2 technology we have the transactional capacity to do just that, along with allaying peoples’ security and privacy concerns.

AFN: How is AgriDex leveraging blockchain to impact food systems? And what advantages does your platform have over conventional online ag produce marketplaces?

HD: Blockchain technology has emerged as a crucial component in streamlining the global food supply chains due to its unique features and benefits. Blockchain provides a secure, transparent, and tamper-proof digital ledger that records transactions and other important data in real-time.

This level of transparency and accessibility allows all participants in the supply chain, including farmers, suppliers, processors, and retailers, to have a clear and shared understanding of the journey of food products.

By removing intermediaries and enabling direct peer-to-peer transactions, blockchain eliminates the high fees associated with traditional intermediaries and provides cost savings for farmers, particularly small and independent growers. This helps level the playing field for small farmers and enhances their competitiveness in the industry.

Moreover, the permanent public record of transactions provided by blockchain helps build trust between farmers and consumers by promoting greater accountability along the supply chain. Consumers can easily trace the origin of their produce and farmers can track the value generated by their products, providing them with greater control over their profits.

The traceability of food products is also significantly improved with blockchain technology. It can be used to record data from farm to shelf, providing a secure and accurate picture of the produce’s journey, including the date of harvesting and the location of the farm which enhances the authenticity of organic and fair-trade produce, making it more accessible to consumers who are increasingly interested in the origin of their food.

AgriDex is built on the L3COS system, which has incredibly high computational power. This allows us to correctly record large amounts of data flow in rapid time.

Currently, there are very few competitors in this field, and we believe none share our speed or vision.

AFN: How many users do you have, and which markets are you currently operating in?

HD: We are currently in launch mode, so we have multiple launch partners and are in our minimal viable product (MVP) stage, but this year is really our big takeoff.

It is not just our marketplace that we are excited about, our next big retail offering will be our closed-loop agricultural payment system ‘ARTiSN’, which is coming out soon. This will be using fiat-on-chain technology to provide near-instant payments at a fraction of the current international market rates.

AFN: What is a governance token and how did it come about?

HD: Governance tokens are a very exciting technology because they provide an element of direct democracy to the running of our company and our foundation. They can be bought and traded globally, and their ownership structure is noted and secure. Along with this, you can directly route a myriad of benefits to them like percentages of revenue and staking.

We can consider it an evolution of historical interest in a company – an alternative path for retail investors to get involved in our story. The idea is rooted in allowing decentralized choice on the direction of the platform.

Token holders will be able to hold the group and its directors accountable, along with benefiting from tokens that increase in value. Traditional methods of raising funds may seem tried and tested, but we feel a token better represents our group’s philosophy, including decentralized structures and blockchain security.

AFN: How are you handling skepticism about cryptocurrencies?

HD: There’s a big difference between historic cryptocurrencies and our type of digital token.

Ours is not just a payment mechanism – it represents a wider, clear world use. If there is skepticism surrounding our digital tokens it is a natural reaction to new technology, but we at Agridex understand that education and transparency are key to overcoming it.

Our team has made a concerted effort to provide clear and comprehensive information about the use of digital tokens in our platform, and how they can benefit farmers and other players in the global food supply chain.

By demonstrating the secure and efficient nature of blockchain technology and the advantages it offers in terms of cost savings, transparency, and improved supply chain management, we aim to dispel any misconceptions and ease any concerns.

Additionally, we have implemented robust security measures to ensure the safe and secure use of digital tokens on our platform. This includes the use of encryption and secure data storage, as well as regular auditing and updating of our systems.

AgriDex has gone through a huge amount of legal and regulatory hurdles over the last 2 years, meaning we are ahead of the curve.

AFN: What does success look like for the platform?

HD: I am always fascinated by how much unnecessary paperwork occurs in the global trade system.By using AgriDex’s smart contracts, a lot of paperwork and paper waste will be reduced.

Success on a major commercial level would see a better managed global food supply chain with major actors taking advantage of our system. Our aim is to have 30,000 major businesses operating on the AgriDex platform by 2026, with key food standards boards looking to us as a seal of approval, and major traders and consumers as a place to check price and quality.

We aim for our governance tokens to accurately reflect our vision – direct democracy and real value for their holders.

AFN: What’s the mood of investors towards your platform?

HD: We successfully closed our last, smaller raise in 2022, giving us an additional $4.1 million (£3.5 million) for team expansion, and are currently preparing for the next step which is the release of our governance token which will expand our product on a global scale.

Given our extremely advanced technology and potential margins, consumer interest is understandably high. I can reveal that we’ve already pre-sold a notable amount and are expecting large interest on the exchange.

The tokens have multiple benefits and, given how one of them is a reduction of charges on the platform, we have a list of launch partners who will be buying the governance token in large allocation blocks.

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