Description of why this would be an interesting post
As part of the next stage of research for the AIoT Blockchain project, we would like to propose a paper that was co-authored by @Sean1992076 and myself.
The background of this paper is that in current agriculture 4.0, large companies have successfully applied blockchain solutions and ecosystems for tracking and tracing agricultural produce, achieving transparency, traceability, and digitalization. However, these blockchain solutions are not comprehensive.
Problem 1) The upstream nodes that these large companies serve are all large-scale production suppliers, and smallholders are not taken into consideration.
Problem 1 solution) We use a multi-layer architecture that serves three purposes: facilitating smallholders in joining the agricultural blockchain as equal-opportunity nodes, uploading of production activity data, and reducing costs (ex. Ethereum gas fee). We also design a blockchain management framework using smart contracts to facilitate the financing of upstream producers.
Problem 2) Most IoT blockchains adopt an ID-based signature scheme in IoT devices, which frequently has low efficiency.
Problem 2 solution) We use aggregate verification, effectively increasing ID-based verification efficiency while processing large clusters of data transferred by IoT devices.
Essentially, we design a framework called Multi-Layer Aggregate Verification (MLAV) in order to improve Agriculture 4.0 supply chain management with IoT Blockchain devices.
Could please you give us more details about the potential use of blockchains in agriculture? Is it all supply lines verification or are there IoT uses like sensor networks? What other applications could MLAV have? Be sure to create a post in GitHub if you haven’t already.
In the agricultural supply chain, we need data transparency. Agriculture 4.0, which is also referred to as digital farming, has allowed for the widespread adoption of technologies such as AI, IoT, cloud computing, and, similar to what you were mentioning, remote sensing. IoT is one of the principle factors as to why agriculture can produce such a wide variety of data. These technologies have allowed for increasing both precision and practicality in a wide variety of farming operations, and AIoT Blockchain technology can provide transparency as well as consistency of information.
Hang Xiong et. al  detail four different types of applications for blockchain in agriculture:
Agricultural insurance: There are many points in which information asymmetry can arise between the insurer and the farmer. The blockchain may allow for payout of insurance based on weather data using smart contracts. The data can be collected in a safe way through an oracle. Some companies that work on smart crop agricultural insurance are Etherisc, WorldCover, and as you were mentioning in our Discord #general chat, Arbol.
Smart farming: Just as we find in our own research, the authors point out that the majority of environmental data is overseen by centralized governments that may control the way decisions are made related to the data. Again, we need data transparency and immutability for our data. The authors find that IoT and blockchain are frequently combined in an agricultural context, such as with Patit et. al’s proposal of an IoT sensor-based blockchain managed by the owner, and with Lin et. al who propose a general-use IoT blockchain framework that allows for establishing trust among actors. With this being said and despite providing many benefits, the addition of blockchain in farming raises technical requirements of farming, thus creating an even larger discrepancy between smallholders and large farmers. This is what we see with current blockchain implementations in agriculture, and it’s also the issue that’s at the center of attention for our MLAV work.
Food supply chain: Basically we need to have things like ensurance of food quality, food safety, and traceability of the origin of different products. Blockchain may allow for a producer to increase their products’ reputation with individual product information. At the same time, it makes it more difficult for producers of low-quality or fraud-based products to stay in the market. Transparency provided by the blockchain may also allow for regulatory bodies to have efficient oversight of informed regulations. Finally, the blockchain can provide a singular place to store all information regarding a product from place of production to retail store. This may allow for easier tracing of contamination and generally placing restriction on poor-quality produce. For some corporate examples, JD.com, Walmart, and Alibaba are each developing blockchain food traceability frameworks.
Transactions of agricultural products: Blockchain can provide information security and link planting and harvesting data immutably. Furthermore, the blockchain provides a digital payment platform that may charge zero rates, which is a massive breakthrough for especially e-commerce. The blockchain may reincorporate smallholders into the e-commerce supply chain. With that said, one major issue that is faced by agricultural blockchain is how to verify the legitimacy of the data uploaded to the blockchain.
Our paper in particular is focused on reconceptualizing the agricultural supply chain by providing smart contract technology to farmers.
This is the supply chain management framework we design, which considers three main roles: distribution channel (supermarket or hypermarket), the financial institution (loaning institution), and the smallholder (loan applicant). By registering an IoT device designed by our lab, the smallholder may join the IoT blockchain network and a smart contract may then be initiated between the financial institution and the smallholder. If the smallholder may prove themself by producing a sufficient quantity of produce and meet the crop yield required, then the balance of the loan is paid and this transaction is recorded on the blockchain. Our paper also gives a novel batch verification application that I may also preview.
: Xiong, H., Dalhaus, T., Wang, P., & Huang, J. (2020). Blockchain Technology for Agriculture: Applications and Rationale. Frontiers in Genetics .
Elaborating a bit more on this post - I guess I’ll design this comment similar to a mini research summary. The paper has now been published and can be viewed on IEEExplore.
This paper proposes Multi-Layer Aggregate Verification (MLAV), a solution designed to improve supply chain management in Agriculture 4.0 via IoT Blockchain devices.
A new supply chain management process is designed to define the relation between smallholders and financial institutions.
The supply chain process is defined along with its associated 3-layer blockchain structure and API relationship, and its smart contract.
Aggregate verification for IoT Blockchain is proposed as it is faster and more power-efficient than traditional signature verification.
In current Agriculture 4.0, large companies have successfully applied blockchain solutions and ecosystems for tracking and tracing agricultural produce, achieving transparency, traceability, and digitalization.
The authors argue that existing blockchain solutions in Agriculture 4.0 are not comprehensive.
Problem 1: Upstream nodes served by these large companies are all large-scale production suppliers while smallholders are essentially ignored.
Problem 2: Most IoT blockchains adopt an ID-based signature scheme for IoT devices. This may have lower efficiency than batch verification.
Core Research Question
What processes, methods, and technologies may we use to benefit both the smallholder and the financial institution equally in the Agriculture 4.0 supply chain?
Related Works & Short Summary
Distributed Ledger Technology: facilitates flow of information among nodes, provides solution to information asymmetry in the supply chain
The proposed platform uses Ethereum for smart contract processing.
IoT Blockchain: in the context of Agriculture 4.0, this technology may enhance product traceability, authenticity, and legality
All supply chain members have access to all information on a blockchain-powered food tracking system.
Blockchain cuts down both verification and transaction costs by eliminating an intermediary and also eliminates the need for full reliance on a database. It also provides a fast payment system to increase cash flow and reduce transaction risks.
Aggregate Verification may allow batch firmware updating as well as quick verification of many signatures at once.
The proposed verification method works well even in cases of high network traffic.
Multi-layer blockchain: a three-layer blockchain system is proposed
Layer 3: data from either IoT device or from designed Android app stores data in a database
Layer 2: smallholder nodes hash data to the chain; aggregator nodes’ smart contract performs batch verification from IoT devices
Layer 1: Ethereum smart contract batch converts Layer 2 data to Merkle tree format, uploading Merkle root
Data transparency is what is needed in the agricultural supply chain.
AIoT blockchain allows for transparency and consistency of information.
Blockchain has numerous applications in the agricultural industry. Besides what is mentioned in this paper regarding smallholders and financial institutions, we also have more broad applications including smart farming (as we mention in the full version of this paper), agricultural insurance, and food supply chain optimization.