Alex Knapp, Forbes
Blockchain SaaS startup Bext360, which provides traceability for coffee products with a Coinstar-like device for farmers, announced Friday that it has completed its $3.35 million seed round. Investors in the startup include SKS Ventures and Plug and Play Ventures.
Bext360’s software keeps track of commodities by identifying and making an electronic token for each one using the Stellar Network. This unique ID provided to each coffee bean produced enables the company to trace it through the entire supply chain, from the farmer all the way to the cup you drink at a coffee shop. By tokenizing the coffee beans, the company is also able to provide payment to farmers upfront, so they aren’t left waiting for weeks or sometimes even months to be paid for their products.
For coffee, the company is able to do this with its Bextmachine – a Coinstar-like device that uses machine vision to grade and track coffee beans. Bext360 has successfully partnered with both farmers’ co-ops and coffee companies such as Coda Coffee and Great Lakes Coffee.
Now that the company has proven its technology with coffee, it’s using part of this seed money to expand into other verticals. According to its CEO Dan Jones, the company will be partnering with Fashion For Good to do a pilot program with cotton later this year, as well as a pilot for palm oil. Future expansion will include nuts, seafood and potentially even minerals and timber.
“We had to pick verticals in line with current mission and verticals that had huge impact on environment,” Jones said.
Cotton is of particular interest to the fashion industry because of market pressures for clothing companies to have both fair trading practices and to use organic cotton. The problem is that it’s not always easy for fashion companies to tell if they’re getting the goods they paid for.
“There’s more ‘organic’ cotton going into fashion than is actually produced,” laughed Jones.
Moving into these new verticals will provide new challenges for Bext360. Cotton, for example, can’t be as easily sorted as coffee beans, so the company is working on alternate ways to trace it. According to Jones, the company is working with biomarker companies as well as developing its own markers in-house. These technologies include possible ways to track cotton such as synthetic DNA strands or fluorescent tags.
“I’m excited about the way the tech is shaping up,” he said. “I’m glad to not only provide transparency to consumers but to also have transparency in value of goods that flow through supply chains.”