Carbon emissions are a growing concern for big companies. Their annual CSR and financial reports will have to account for their CO2-emission compensating policies. The digitisation of food will make their efforts - or lack of them - transparant to the consumer. 'Carbon neutral' or 'x% carbon neutral' will be a household label in a couple of years in affluent markets.

Investors like BlackRock prefer the big brands to take responsibility. They want them to reduce emissions and compensate the share they cannot reduce yet. If companies don't respond, they'll invest elsewhere.

That's why carbon credits are coming of age in the trade of doing ethical business. The Dutch Rabobank just set up their carbon credit bank. Its CEO Barbara Baarsma recently stated that carbon credits (traded at a 5% fee) are a commercial proposition. In Africa the bank's aim is to plant trees. Outside of Africa its aim is to improve soil organic matter.

The credits traded depend on choices. Africa is the house of many perennial crops, such as coffee, oil palm, bananas, pineapples and cassava offer opportunities to store carbon. At the same time the leafy and woody materials the crops build, risk to breathe C (carbon) to the atmosphere.

Why should African farmers only be allowed to profit from planting trees? We need to talk about the potential of crops and soils and the farmers who can benefit from carbon credits. At the same time we need to discuss what was growing on a plot of farm land before it was converted to agricultural use. It lost its function in the carbon cycle. Lenders and traders of credits will have to take into account that carbon compensation will have to take into account the losses and decide on the lapse of time past these losses devalue credits.

Africa and its farmers will probably profit the most from carbon credits as can help them build on their own capital, while their countries - as Babatunde Olarewaju and Ikechi Agbugba keep telling us - badly need to develop food security.

African farmers hold land and grow crops that can store carbon in both the woody and leafy parts of their crops and their soil organic matter (SOM). We'll have to think about including Africa and finding the correct metrics for their crops and potential.

Tiffany Tsui will open an exploratory 'hair down' discussion with Prof. Peter van Bodegom (head of the department of Environmental Biology within the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML), Leiden University), Rüdiger Hagedorn (Director End-to-End Value Chain & Standards Pillar, Consumer Goods Forum) and Foodlog's Dick Veerman. The upshot of the discussion may well be that the current metrics need to be refined on all sides. And may also be that we need to think about social justice in assuring and defining the parties who have a carbon title to sell.

Peter van BodegomPeter van Bodegom, Leiden University
Rüdiger Hagedorn, Consumer Goods Forum
Dick Veerman, Bas Uterwijk

AGENDA - Next chats (1:30 PM till 2:15 PM (CET) + 45 minutes of informal digital drinks)
  • April 13: Building Natural Capital: Metrics & Transparant Monitoring

  • April 28 (Please note: Wednesday): Transparancy by story telling: commercial opportunities

  • May 11: EU Green Deal: Assessing & Monitoring Environmental Impact

  • May 25: (Crypto) Currencies and the Fair Trade Revolution

  • June 8: EU Green Deal & Sustainability Standards: Transparency in Law, Industry and Brand Based Standards

  • June 22: From Soil to Stomach: Monitoring Health and Environmental Impact

1. Digitisation will disrupt the food system as we know it

In the opening chat of the series, moderator Tiffany Tsui chats with panelists Paul Buisman (Moba, egg packing machines), Kristian Möller (GlobalG.A.P.), Hans de Gier (SyncForce, data integration), and Dick Veerman (Foodlog) to discuss the challenges ahead in the world of digital food. A quote from our full report of the discussion: Möller fears organisations that will want to be the center or hub for data as they will ultimately accumulate and use the power to control the physical world with data. The goal, however, must be to improve agricultural practices and farmer's incomes. What’s really key, he says, is "making sure that farmers and their data are protected and at the table where the rules are made".

What's the nature of a table that nobody owns or chairs?
Möller states the role he hopes GlobalG.A.P., allying with farmers, can play in the data sharing process. “When it comes to data and data sharing, I don’t want to be the Silicon Valley based company who has the power to misuse data. GlobalG.A.P. wants to be the custodian where farmers will share their data. Farmers trust us, because they have governance on us. When the data is being shared with others outside of our agreement, they trust us to negotiate on their behalf so that their data aren’t misused. We sit at the table, but we are not the chair and we don’t claim to be the table owner itself. We just want to be sitting on the table with our stakeholders on an equal basis and have an open discussion so that we can build trust among parties.”

The question remains open: what's the nature of a table that nobody owns or chairs? And who keeps the rules of this 'no-body's' super-governance or sanctions those breaching them?

2. Bye Manpower, Hello Machines and Value

In the absence of a global authority that is aware of the powers unleashed by the digitisation of food, what 'no-body' can guard the interests of the global community?
Hans de Gier (SyncForce) explains the Consumer Goods Forum's Data Ports project. The project's goal is to make the myriad of product standards interoperable by a common basic taxonomy and connecting simple identifiers. The good news: it is fully feasible, as Hans explains in great technical detail.

There is no bad news, but just this big 'BUT'. The CGF is confronted with the One Big Unresolved Question Kristian Möller identified in the first chat. The taxonomy needs an international body and a basic infrastructure to keep the game. Yet that body has to be a global authority accepted by the world community. It cannot be owned by a set of globally operating companies, as they contribute to global sustainability, fairness and animal welfare goals from their private interests. Like roads and waterways, it should be an infrastructure owned by the international community. The Big Question: in the absence of a global authority that is aware of the powers unleashed by the digitisation of food, what 'no-body' (watch the end of the video) can guard the interests of the global community?

3. The True Code - a free global digital Passport for every Farmer and Facility

In the near future, data will travel with products. Retailers and brands need fast, cheap, and reliable data. There are several platforms (blockchains, data lakes, ERP systems) that already contain supplier and product related-data. These platforms, however, are not interconnected. Data exchange is limited and complicated. Interconnectivity and the easy exchange of data cannot do without a reliable, yet simple identification of every individual company that has a role in the supply chain. This can be done by using a unique electronic passport connected to every individual facility that is an actor in the chain.

If this sounds boring, imagine what it means for fair trade
If this sounds boring, imagine what it means for fair trade. Once you know for sure where a pineapple or mango comes from, you'll be able to check what happens there to an individual product handled by an individual and that individual and how much (or how little) it was paid for the job (s)he did. Imagine what it means for animal welfare assurance. As a consumer you'll know from the label on the pork chop you pick up in your local grocery where the pig came from, what it ate and how much, how it lived and whether it suffered from illnesses, or how it was transported and slaughtered. Marjan de Bock-Smit (ImpactBuying, founder and former CEO of SIM Supply) explains the passport should allow for seamless, reliable, and speedy Peer-to-Peer Data Exchange. The Consumer Goods Forum TRUE Code project team has asked De Bock-Smit to come up with a solution that offers a convincing answer to 6 challenges:
- Will it add value for supply chain actors if we create a facility passport with a minimum set of data fields that we need from suppliers?
- Will the True-code generation combined with a facility passport make exchange of data between platforms easier?
- Will it add value for supply chain actors if the passport has a public and a private element?
- Can we apply a verification procedure to a passport to allow companies to distinguish the difference between a verified and unverified facility passport?
- Will it add value for supply chain actors if we set a standard for verification of the facility passport?
- Can we generate the True-code and facility passport without cost?

Can that be true: multinationals and retailers as the Robin Hoods of modern global society?
Marjan explains the answer is 'yes' in all cases. The next phase of the project is to find cases to apply the TRUE code in real life. In the next chat, Tiffany and Marjan will talk strawberries and coffee with Dutch and African guests and prepare for a case of TRUE coded banana sourcing.
Please note that at the end of the third chat the 'global no-body' is present again, as Marjan's project is no less than the start of a global Authority issuing a unique passport. In case it takes off - and the CGF has the power to make it work - that can change the world and people's participation in our common destiny. It will make the world more inclusive by a giant leap. It's a leap that shouldn't be left to the giants of the elite. In a way 'the giant elite' of the CGF is offering it to us, the people of the world. Can that be true: multinationals and retailers as the Robin Hoods of modern global society?

4. Blooming Africa - the transfer of practical know how, organising farmers, the AfCFTA free trade area and creating value with transparency

Tiffany Tsui discusses with hands on expert Dutch strawberry grower and advisor Jan Robben, TRUE Code-developer Marjan de Bock-Smit, Victoria Madedor (African Farmers Stories) and Dr Ikechi Agbugba (Rivers State University, Nigeria) how recent border closures on the one hand and new trade opportunities on the other impact agriculture in Africa.

On behalf of Flevo Berry and Agriterra, Jan assists Rwandan strawberry growers. He explains how he transfers his expertise in growing strawberries all over the globe, without being able to travel. And he explains the results: the farmers he is coaching get a far better price for their berries.

Victoria Madedor explains how African Farmers Stories creates a unique database of African farmers that will offer them visibility while stimulating trade and knowledge transfer to enhance their to produce and market their produce effectively. This will help facilitate agricultural trade by boosting competitiveness and improving an enabling environment for agribusiness, consolidate and expand Nigeria's and Africa's position in the World. The African Farmers Stories Agro Verified digital platform will collect and harness the details of farmers, landholdings, crops cultivated, animals reared, climatic factors at play in different geographies.

Although it is hardly known, the Lumia is Africa's universal currency to facilitate trade amongst nations
Dr Ikechi Agbugba explains the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The free trade area was founded in 2018 and supposed to commence its procedures in Juli 2020. Because of the pandemic the actual start of the free trade zone commenced as of 1 January 2021. The AfCFTA was created among 54 of the 55 African Union nations. It is the largest free-trade area in the world in terms of the number of participating countries since the World Trade Organization was created. Its operational guidelines touch on crucial topics in food and agriculture, such Africa's deficient infrastructure, trade, transport regulation, regulatory cooperation, programmes for infrastructure development in agriculture (PIDAs), non tariff barriers amongst countries, value chain development and standards for quality assurance. The aim of the AfCFTA is to set Africa on the path to growth and development by creating value.
As Dr. Agbugba explains, the Free Trade Area solves language issues (Africans speak a wide variety of languages over a large multiracial continent) and currency issues. Although it is hardly known, the Lumia is Africa's universal currency to facilitate trade amongst nations.

Marjan de Bock's and the Consumer Goods Forum's True Code can help them create value by true transparency at plot and farmer's level. Marjan explains how a coffee case in Rwanda may turn into a robust example of the world to come: tracing beans or berries back to even the smallest farmer in the field and consumers far away being able to check with they got payed individually. The case will lead up to two new project Marjan intends to start in subsequent chats: how to create value by full TRUE coded transparency in Nigerian bananas and African carbon credits?

At 1:08 min. they were spontaneously joined by Memory Nyakwima Chakwita from Zimbabwe who showed the potential strawberry fields in which she would like to apply all that was discussed. It was a special moment in the informal part of the discussion, showing the potential of this way of connecting people, expertise and ideas.

The first Digital Food conference in it's pre-covid physical guise in Amsterdam, 2019.