Founded by Daniel Jones, bext360 empowers farmers at the bottom of the supply chain with AI-powered analysis and Blockchain-powered instant payment, tracing the coffee from bean to brew.

Daniel Jones is a US and Africa-based entrepreneur with over 17 years of experience living and working in emerging and frontier markets including China, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and India.

During his years in Kinshasa, DRC, Dan evaluated supply chains, structured and funded companies as CEO and founder of Pioneer Management. He also founded Ramika, the first US-owned company to export conflict-free minerals from the DRC to the United States in compliance with supply chain and traceability requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act.

In April 2017, Dan launched the Denver-based company bext360, a traceability Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform focusing on critical supply chains such as coffee, palm oil, minerals, and timber, revolutionizing supply chains with digital technologies such blockchain, A.I. and machine vision.

Just last month, bext360 released the world’s first blockchain coffee traced from bean to brew. This specialty coffee is produced from a pilot program with ​​Great​ ​Lakes​ ​Coffee,​ ​a​ ​Uganda-based​ ​coffee​ ​exporter​ ​and​​ ​​Coda Coffee​,​ ​a​ ​Denver-based coffee roaster.

Besides coffee, Dan is also looking to introduce bext360 to other industries – one of which is fashion. This brought him all the way to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit 2018, during which I caught up with him to discuss how digital technologies can improve supply chains.

The bextmachine with bext360 CEO Daniel Jones, bext360 COO Dean Kingston, and bext360 VP of Engineering Vijit Jain (from left to right).

Amy Au: What is bext360?
Daniel Jones: “bext360 is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform that provides technologies to ensure things are traced throughout the supply chain from the point of origin, with a focus on critical supply chains such as coffee, cotton, palm oil, and minerals.

Before I started bext360, I worked for years with conflict-free minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo exporting conflict-free minerals. Seeing the lack of transparency and efficiency in supply chains, I moved on to other commodities, and coffee is one of them.

Right now coffee is about 80% of our business. We have developed the world’s first blockchain coffee, traced all the way from Uganda to the United States, and we’re also working with partners in Ethiopia, Colombia and more”

A.A. : What happens when farmers bring in their coffee cherries?
D.J. : “When farmers deposit their harvest at the coffee washing station, we use a bextmachine (which leverages machine vision, A.I., IoT and blockchain technology) to analyze coffee cherries and parchments. It is the kind of standard machine vision developed for autonomous cars, with the capacity to analyze about 167 coffee cherries per second.

Based on how ripe and how big the coffee cherries are, the machine generates a quality profile for every bag, which is then tokenized so that each transaction related to that bag of coffee is recorded and tracked on the blockchain, from the farmer all the way to the coffee roaster.

With a mobile phone, farmers can immediately view the proposed payment to their harvest, and can decide to accept it or not, giving them more bargaining powering for higher quality harvest.

Blockchain is not the only technology used for traceability throughout the supply chain, A.I. is also used to give a feedback loop, feeding back what consumers think about the quality of the coffee into the initial algorithms, thereby improving the algorithms to meet consumers’ needs”

bext360 COO and VP of Engineering run the bextmachine at Chesiya washingon station in Mt. Elgon, Uganda.

A.A. : How did you make bext360 financially viable and scalable?
D.J. : “We are a for-profit enterprise. Our business model is SaaS, so we act as a service provider in the whole supply chain, delivering traceability as a service, while taking a percentage of the value that we trace, or the value that we increased. As we help eliminate cost in the supply chain, we expand sources of revenue that we can take a small cut of as a profitable company.”

A.A. : What obstacles did you have to resolve?
D.J. : “Technology itself is always one of the biggest obstacles. When we run into obstacles in terms of technology, we just try to partner with good technical providers. For example, we collaborate with for our blockchain solutions, enabling us do smart contracts and crypto at a very low cost.

As for financial obstacles, venture capitalists are always hesitant to invest in first-mile production in countries like Uganda or Colombia. Our solution is to work with vertically integrated companies, so that we can test and prove our systems right from that first mile of production.”

A.A. : What has been bext360’s social impact so far?
D.J. : “Our machines inform farmers of the quality of their harvest, enabling them to proof higher-quality harvests, while giving them the incentive to harvest at the right time, more carefully.

Instead of letting the supply chain exploit the farmers, farmers can now use that information to sell high quality harvests at higher prices, and to engage in a more direct relationship with their buyers.

We estimate that farmers’ revenue can be increased by about 40% using this process in a typical coffee washing station.”

A.A : How can businesses tap into the potential of digital technology?
D.J. : “I think businesses have to go completely vertical – to really look at their whole supply chain and apply technology throughout, not just at their inventory, warehouse, RFID tagging, but from the first-mile producers to consumers. You cannot fix just one horizontal part of the supply chain.”

A.A. : What is your next goal?
D.J. : “Our next goal is to turn our platform into one that can be applied to various products and industries (such as cotton and moleskin, which is why I’m here at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit).

We are also looking into providing loans for small-scale farmers and producers with the blockchain. We’re working with Rabobank in the Netherlands to provide these types of loans directly to our partners in the coffee industry.”

This interview is part of the series “Meet the New Digital Leaders.”