Made in Heerlen: a talking chocolate barnovember 23, 2019
Talking to your bar of chocolate? Believe it or not, you can! Thanks to artificial intelligence, the honest Right Origins bars can tell you their story. A story that is 100% accurate, from start to finish. After all, blockchain technology makes it impossible to embellish or make the story seem better than it is. Not that this is necessary, incidentally; it’s a beautiful story in its own right. Empowerment in a foil wrapper!
If you scan the QR code on the back of the Right Origins bars, you automatically start a conversation with your snack. It will take you to Idukki, the region where the cocoa beans for the bars are grown, organically and with respect for the farmers who are co-owners of the cooperative. Akash Mathew and Sudeesh Narayanan, the initiators of Right Origins and owners of the CIED Group, originally come from Kerala in South India. They are helping the cooperative build their brand, scaling up and generating better income. Akash: “The average fair-trade bar generates about 7% of the value at the end of the chain for the farmer. This figure is 40% for a Right Origins bar. We make this possible by keeping the chain as short as possible. In addition, blockchain helps us guarantee that our bars can really be trusted.”
Blockchain and artificial intelligence are ultimately what brought Akash and Sudeesh to the Netherlands. They were in Heerlen barely three days after Akash got married. Akash: “We had the opportunity to participate in an incubation program at the Brightlands Smart Services Campus, which was exactly what we needed to make Right Origins, our dream, come true. It quickly turned out to be a great decision. We got an incredible amount of support; we found someone through the campus who wanted to act as guarantor for our stay in the Netherlands. It's heartwarming when someone who is essentially a stranger believes in and trusts you.
FOTO: Akash (front), his wife Riya Alex, a designer who designed the packaging, and Sudeesh. The fourth person is Boris Zinzen, a friendly relationship.
Now located on the campus in Geleen, the Brightlands Innovation Factory also believed in us. We received a start-up loan and were given access to space and facilities on campus. Through Brightlands, we later came in contact with LIOF and Rabobank's Business Innovation Team Limburg. The combination of this and the Brightlands Innovation Factory incubation program really helped us get a running start.”
Akash and Sudeesh have divided their roles; Akash is the business developer, Sudeesh the techie. Sudeesh: “Developing blockchain solutions is the foundation for our company, CIED. This will allow us to further expand the Right Origins Foundation.” Akash: “Ownership for the farmers and transparency for the consumer is what it’s all about at Right Origins. We want to radically change the chain, be disruptive. Thanks to blockchain technology, we are 100% transparent. We guarantee farmers an income that is up to five times higher than that of fair-trade programs and our products are certified organic.”
Right Origins chocolate bars are their first product. Akash: “We received our first chocolate shipment in October, which was a really festive occasion after two years of hard work. We had so much to arrange, from maintaining contacts with the cocoa farmers’ cooperative to production in Switzerland. The farmers had to contend with heavy rainfall and landslides, which caused the expected hold-ups. We’ve now started selling products via our webshop, and it’s all going very well. Orders have been rushing in, ever since the first post on social media.”
Not just all talk
Sudeesh: “Right Origins is a platform that anyone interested in producing and trading in a fair, transparent manner can use. We want to become a marketplace for reliable products. I believe that blockchain is very suitable for food products and fair-trade manufacturing of clothes, for example. In principle, you can use our software for many kinds of products.” Akash: “We work with large companies through various partner organizations. One of these is Fair Food, which promotes fair income for farmers. They are working on a pilot with Verstegen spices that we are also participating in. We use blockchain technology to offer accountability for the chain of supply of nutmeg they source from Indonesia. They are now entitled to claim the origin and sustainability of their nutmeg. The nutmeg pilot will probably be expanded to their other supply chains. Another one of our partners is the Swiss organization Easy Cert Services, an institute where you can check the origin of products, their labels and certificates. It is also interesting for other producers to set themselves apart this way. The market for fair products is growing. With our technology, you can prove that you’re not just all talk.”