The first Swiss Blockchain Hack-Marathon – Hackathon for short – took place on the weekend of 21 June. Involved as so-called ‘vertical partners’, the Federal Office for Agriculture FOAG and Agroscope challenged participants to develop a solution for their ‘Agriculture & Food’ issues – one of a number of main topics (‘verticals’) addressed. Ultimately, one of the two winning teams was from the Agriculture & Food vertical. The participants’ keen interest in this topic and the solution approaches they came up with attest to the huge potential for innovation in agriculture.
“A hackathon is an amazing opportunity to put a new technology and young, motivated specialists to the test”, observed Dr. Fabian Wahl, Head of the ‘Food Microbial Systems’ Strategic Research Division at Agroscope.
In their role as ‘vertical’ partners, the FOAG and Agroscope jointly defined the key topic (‘vertical’) of Agriculture & Food, and formulated two problems for which participants had 42 hours to develop a solution:
“In March 2019 we held a workshop on the use of blockchain technology in the agriculture and food sector in order to identify topics that we wished to pursue further. Our expectation of the hackathon was that it would help us delve deeper into two of these topics – product traceability and land-lease agreements” explained Dr. Markus Gusset of the FOAG’s ‘Research, Innovation and Evaluation’ Division.
Top Prize for the ‘Land Lease’ Team
Sharing the accolade with a team from the ‘Mobility’ vertical, The ‘Land-Lease’ team won joint first prize for developing a prototype in the form of an app which would allow tenants and landlords to conclude land-lease agreements transparently, reliably and efficiently via a blockchain solution.
Fabian Wahl was thrilled with the teams’ achievement: “It was impressive to see what the teams were able to achieve in 42 hours. The group working on the ‘Land Lease’ topic presented an exciting overall solution which wowed both the jury and the rest of the participants. It’s particularly worth mentioning that this problem had been proposed directly in the workshop by practitioners, and we can therefore pursue a great solution approach.”
Hackathon participants took an especially keen interest in the ‘Agriculture & Food’ vertical, and the second team from this area, which had focused on food-chain product traceability, won the Amazon Web Services (AWS) special prize.
Blockchain in Agriculture
According to Fabian Wahl, blockchain technology has major potential for the agricultural sector: “I’m sold on this technology, and I believe that there are still many more worthwhile applications for us to define, and practical solutions that it will help us to implement. I see particular opportunities for transparency and traceability in the ‘farm to fork’ food chain.”
Markus Gusset also sees concrete opportunities for its use: “We rate blockchain technology’s potential in, say, product traceability, but also in indemnity insurance and administrative simplification, as highly promising.”