The potential of digitalisation in agricultural supply chains

Digital technologies and applications make it possible to connect the rural population to global markets, innovations, services, knowledge and education. After all, far more than half of the world's population is online - and the trend is rising. The growth rate is highest in Africa. There, mobile phones in particular have a high potential. Today, about half of the African population owns a mobile phone.

Digitalisation can make a decisive contribution to improving the sustainability of global agricultural supply chains and promoting living conditions in rural areas. Information services on mobile devices give smallholder farmers access to modern farming methods, weather data and world market prices, which can lead to a resource-efficient increase in their crop yields, improved product quality and higher incomes.

INATrace in Rwanda

Angelique's Finest: Coffee made by women with blockchain technology

Since 2020, INA has been working in Rwanda to digitise the supply chain of a speciality coffee grown solely by Rwandan women. To ensure transparency along the entire supply chain, the INA project has developed a transferable, open-source blockchain-based traceability solution that documents the coffee cherry's journey from cultivation to finished product.

Deforestation-free supply chains

More on our core theme of deforestation-free supply chains

Today, it is clear that deforestation can only be minimised through collective efforts and that policy must create framework conditions to stop deforestation by expanding agricultural land. At the same time, we need economic incentives for the population and companies in current deforestation hotspots to refrain from further clearing. In order to preserve forests, we need to create an alternative livelihood for local people, including through living wages and incomes.

Traceability systems

Due to new legal requirements, such as the LKsG or the EU regulation on deforestation-free products, which is being drafted, the issue of traceability and transparency in agricultural supply chains is becoming increasingly important. Digital traceability systems such as INATrace enable actors in agricultural supply chains to transparently display the flow of goods as well as data on production, quality, further processing and prices paid. By using these systems, information about the products can also be made available to consumers. In the case of INATrace, consumers can gain insight into the supply chain of the product thanks to a QR code on the packaging and trace the entire journey of the product from the country of production to the point of sale, as well as gain transparent insight into the payment of producers.  

Through digital marketplaces, producers and their cooperatives can be connected to global markets, enabling them to market their products directly and achieve better sales prices. In this way, digitalisation can contribute to generating livelihood incomes. One example of a digital marketplace is the Beyco coffee sales platform, where producers can offer their coffee and establish direct trading relationships with buyers. There is now an interface between INATrace and beyco so that coffee digitally recorded in INATrace can be offered directly on the online marketplace.


INATrace as a digital solution

With the aim of improving the economic situation of smallholder farmers, INATrace focuses on the transparency of global supply chains. Fair payment is guaranteed through complete traceability. In the currently very fragmented market for traceability solutions, INATrace consistently builds on the requirements of the people at the beginning of the supply chains.


Despite an ever-growing number of traceability solutions on the market, the different systems are often unable to communicate with each other because the data is not compatible. This lack of interoperability of digital solutions means that farms and other supply chain actors have to collect, store and convert data multiple times, resulting in increased effort and costs. As a global multi-actor partnership, the Digital Integration of Agricultural Supply Chain Alliance (DIASCA) has made it its mission to develop common data standards for traceability, forest monitoring and farm income. The aim is to optimise the flow of data between farm management apps, traceability tools, retailers' and brands' ERP systems, and enterprise resource planning systems, thereby enabling improved operations and more transparency in agricultural supply chains. DIASCA works to ensure that all actors in agricultural supply chains can benefit from the advantages of common standards and thus from improved processes and increased transparency.

DIASCA: Digital Integration of Agricultural Supply Chains Alliance

The interoperability of traceability systems from producer to consumer benefits all actors in the supply chain to address issues such as transparency, avoiding deforestation and ensuring a living wage for farmers.

What is important in all of this is that farmers have access to these technologies and can also use them sustainably. In order to make digitisation fair and sustainable, the associated risks and challenges must be taken into account and counteracted. For this, the infrastructure must be expanded, access to hardware must be made possible and, above all, digital skills must be promoted in rural regions. Women in particular must be taken into account in order to reduce the risk of being left behind by digitalisation.