Grain Discovery launches digital passport for Identity Preserved soybeans
Bioenterprise Canada supports development of digital traceability platform
By Lilian Schaer for Bioenterprise Canada
Grain Discovery, an Ontario-based start-up, is on a mission to modernize Canada’s grain supply chain. According to CEO Rory O’Sullivan, the company’s goal is to digitize transactions between buyers and sellers and help boost the traceability and efficiency of the grains and oilseeds business in Canada.
About 30 Ontario grain elevators are already using Grain Discovery’s platform, which provides a personalized, branded mobile app and website with a live marketplace where they can post live bids, buy grain from their existing customers and easily provide key information updates. Instant contract confirmation eliminates staff having to spend hours on the phone every day during harvest, and farmers can view their tickets, contracts and settlements in real-time.
And now, thanks to support from the SmartGrowth program administered by Bioenterprise Canada, Grain Discovery will be launching an end-to-end digital traceability platform for Identity Preserved (IP) soybeans.
Bioenterprise received a nearly $6.3-million Government of Canada investment, through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), to deliver the SmartGrowth program and lead the creation of a food and agri-tech hub in southern Ontario.
“IP soybeans are the gold standard of food-grade traceability in the world, so this is about making sure that variety purity remains through the supply chain to the customer,” explains O’Sullivan. “From the field location, certified seed tags, crop inputs, storage and equipment cleaning information, trucking and processing—all that was on paper, but now it can all be recorded and shared via the grain buyer’s branded app.”
Part one of the project was digitizing and sharing data, and part two involved taking that data and creating a digital passport for the crop that is being grown and sold. Grain Discovery has been working with leading IP soybean suppliers like Sevita, Crooked Creek and VDB Grains to bring the platform to growers.
“What is cool is that a lot of these soybeans are sold overseas and, depending on who the client is, they can be granted various levels of access to see real-time data about the crop that they are buying,” he adds.
Grain Discovery is no stranger to pushing the boundaries on innovation. Recently, the company worked on a similar pilot project in western Canada to create a digital passport for craft beer that started on the farm with a field of malt barley. And in December 2018, Grain Discovery successfully executed the world’s first corn trade using blockchain.
“One of the spinoffs of digitizing the supply chain is that you now have standardized data and can use it to find new ways to market a crop,” says O’Sullivan.
The SmartGrowth funding from Bioenterprise provided a much-needed boost to get the soybean traceability project across the finish line, but according to O’Sullivan, the company also benefitted greatly from the expertise of two mentors assigned to the Grain Discovery team: Bioenterprise innovation advisors Michael McGee and Denise Dewar. McGee has a background in venture capital and Dewar is also the general manager of the Canada Grains Council.
“It’s important to know the ins and outs of how to do things if we’re going to try to do them differently—and where the puck is heading in terms of global trade,” O’Sullivan says, adding that the relationship with Bioenterprise has yielded other valuable benefits as well.
“Now that we’re at the end of this project, they’ve recommended us for other funding—and being part of the Bioenterprise stable of companies helps us with name recognition. It’s like gold dust for us,” he says.
Bioenterprise is Canada’s Food & Agri-Tech Engine, a national agri-technology focused commercialization accelerator. Bioenterprise uses its 20 years of industry experience and a global network of experts, mentors, funders, researchers, and industry partners to help small- and medium-sized agri-food businesses connect, innovate and grow.
For more information on SmartGrowth and how to apply for the next cohort, visit https://bioenterprise.ca/programming/bioenterprise-smartgrowth-program/. For more information on FedDev Ontario, visit https://feddev-ontario.canada.ca/en.