Dimitra Technology AMA#1
Our CEO Jon Trask answered some great questions from our community for our first ever #AMA! Check out the entire audio here or keep reading for a summary of the key questions and answers.
Dimitra AMA #1
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Q: Can you provide a brief overview of Dimitra Technology?
A: Dimitra is an Agriculture Technology corporation that we have been working on for a couple years. We were founded in Calgary, yet most of our work is in nations around the world dealing with smallholder farmers. We do a lot of work in Africa, Asia, South America among other countries, and we are currently operating in about 60 countries. We have millions of users signed up for our system and we are very excited to be working in this space. We think there is a great fit being one of the newer blockchain crypto projects in the agriculture industry. The agriculture industry is very large; everybody eats. Essentially, agriculture feeds that supply chain and our platform works right from the farm through shipment, to export, to plate from a consumption perspective.
Q:In what ways is this crypto actually helping real world farmers? In what ways can Blockchain change the Agriculture Industry?
A: There is a relationship between crypto and blockchain, certainly it is making a difference around the world. Crypto as a whole is “new” to agriculture as there have been a few projects but not a ton as of yet in the crypto space, yet agriculture is one of the largest industries in the world. Crypto can play a huge role in the agriculture space. If you look at extended agriculture in the agriculture community, ag businesses represent over 3 billion people in the world, representing a 5 trillion dollar market just based on food we move around the world.
There are a number of ways that farmers are being served by crypto companies right now. One way is many farmers are using crypto based banking services; microloans and insurance as well as track-and-trace supply chain style applications. If you extend to the greater blockchain which is built around the technology we are looking at banking the unbanked and decentralization. Decentralization is playing a role in making changes to the agriculture industry through changing the nature of trust and increasing transparency. As we look at our food and agriculture, we all have interest to know what is in our food. There is a big movement globally about sustainable agriculture and using sustainable practices within farming, sourcing organic products, reducing pesticide. Blockchain is being used very well from a track and trace perspective. To track from an organic farm and take those products and track them through the supply chain, it is becoming more and more important to the world. As regulations continue to grow, blockchain is playing a key role in managing the delivery of those safety components in the food chain.
Q: Are we expecting that DMTR token would be listed on most Crypto exchanges?
A: Actually no, we will have a few global exchanges and then supplement with some regional exchanges. We are actively negotiating with several exchanges, over the next few months and years we will select and list on several exchanges.
Q:Given that you target small holder farmers at Dimitra,how do you engage or reach out to communal farmers who are illiterate and in the remotest parts of the countryside in various countries?
A: Scaling globally and reaching every corner of the world presents an interesting challenge, this coupled with literacy, language and access issues compounds the difficulty. Luckily farming has almost always been a community based endeavor. Word travels quickly.
Smallholder farmers are our main user but we do not sell directly to farmers. We work with not-for-profits, NGOs, governments, agricultural associations. Typically those organizations have been working with the community for years and bridge the face-to-face or local communication gap. From a technology perspective we are building a mechanism for voice to text and are also building multiple languages. Another thing to consider is working through partnerships. There is an organization in Africa that focuses on farmers who have literacy issues and they have call centers that can provide support.
Q: Since Dimitra’s global vision is to empower Communal farmers, in what practical ways should the communal farmers expect to benefit from this initiative and that from a communal person’s simple understanding?
A: Farmers are looking for ways to improve and are looking for ways to reduce their costs, increase their output and reduce their risks and challenges they face throughout the year. Dimitra is really built around those three deliverables. That is the outcome that a communal farmer should expect, and how do they practically get there? With our platform, we start with how you register your farm and set your goals. If your goal is to grow more corn and you can provide information about your farm, the input you use; we can evaluate the data and your goals to figure out what is reasonable from an output perspective.
From there we can add information as you plant your seed, prep your soil, make fertilizer decisions, manage weeds and pests, and prepare to harvest that will help you maximize your output capability. This can come in different forms, one is from our Knowledge Garden which provides best practices and research specific to your crops. You can get reports within the system that provide advice based on weather, topographical information in your area, as well as inputs that you are providing to the system. We have a lot of ways to impart information to help farmers make better decisions.
Our goal as we continue developing the platform is to focus on keeping it simple and practical while using technology that may be quite sophisticated. We may use AI, Machine Learning or IoT devices but a farmer does not need to know how those systems work, they just need to know what may help improve their farming activities.
Q: Most low to medium income countries have intermediate-level mobile and internet penetration with even lower digital accessibility in rural areas which also varies greatly according to age, gender and income. How appropriate as a technology is the Dimitra “Connected Farmer” platform capable of operating in different connectivity scenarios (nascent, transitional and advanced) within a country to make sure no farmer irrespective of connectivity band, age, gender or income is left behind?
A: This is a great question. There are about 608 million farms in the world, about 570 million of those farms are smallholder farms. Those 570 million farms probably represent about 3 billion people. About 1 billion of those people have access to cell phones, and in some countries there is as much as 70% penetration rate in the farmers. It is amazing the rate of digital adoption in many countries. Some areas in Africa are seeing 10% or more increases in digital adoption. Today, we do not have the ability to reach 100% of those farms but we do have the ability to reach a very large number.
What we are also seeing is organizations and governments focus on increasing digital penetration in rural areas of the world. Some countries have done a great job of developing mobile networks and are continuing to work on that front. As we start garnering adoption to those who are digitally capable we will continue to add to that number every year based on the increased adoption of digital technologies.
What we are seeing in some areas is shared mobile services. One community leader may have a phone and 4 to 5 families may have access to utilizing that phone. Many villages are setting up internet hotspots where you can access a computer and start using computers at government offices or libraries or schools. I would love to say today that we can make sure no farmer irrespective of connectivity band, age, gender or income is left behind but that is one of the challenges we are trying to solve. I think with our partners we are working with to implement the platform, we are making strides in those areas and we can continue to identify the gaps and work on improving accessibility to make sure in the long run no one is left behind.
Q: What devices are the Dimitra platform compatible with? From a technical perspective, have you planned to have it work on low end devices given the fact that not all farmers have high end devices to use?
A: Our platform is designed on web and mobile, there are no compatibility issues with web or any smartphone. We are currently building an SMS (text) system for our “my crops” platform with an East African country. Once tested this will be replicated throughout our modules where it makes sense. We also are researching a partnership with a company that provides call center type data entry services to enhance natural language processing. We are straddling the fence from the perspective of we are very designed for smart technology, but at the same time we are sticking with tried and true technologies that are not as data intensive to maintain communication. We have plans to continue to improve accessibility and we aim to continue focusing our attention on enhancing accessibility.
Q: Can you tell us how Dimitra was created? What was your inspiration in making Dimitra?
A: couple years ago I was working on a project and a customer asked me if I could track cattle. I started thinking about how I can track cattle. I have worked all of my life in supply chain technologies and a lot of my effort has been in using technology in order to manufacture goods and ship goods. How do we track them and get them to the right destination, get them to the destination on time and how do we make decisions around running large commercial businesses that provide food and consumer goods. While doing that I executed hundreds of projects focused in food, supply chain and agriculture and what I saw was a gap. You look at the 608 million farms in the world serving the food chain, and we have 570 million small farms that are underserved. They do not have access to technology and may not be able to afford that technology. I looked at that gap and questioned what we can do about this issue. A number of our team members got together and looked at the alternatives to see what we could do that serve one of the largest verticals in the world (570 million farms, 3 billion people) but to find a way to do so inexpensively so that smallholder farms can gain that access.
As I started it brought me back to my childhood and working on my grandfather’s farm. I get up every day inspired to make this work, to improve the platform and to get it out to more customers, to build up those relationships, expand around the world and to build that community that is necessary. Farming and agtech is a team sport and Dimitra is one of the team players. We are looking to form the right team, and that may include farmers, farming associations, input suppliers, manufacturers and markets. The more I thought about the greater ecosystem, the more inspired I was to develop Dimitra. We are now over 100 people, everyone gets up every day to move Dimitra ahead as it is such a perfect opportunity that is well needed by the world. Farming impacts so many important aspects of life. This is all very exciting to me and my team and we all look forward to that every day of our lives and how we can make an impact.
Q: Digital money is the new way of investing. What is your current strategy to convince new farmers, especially small scale farmers in developing countries that Dimitra tokens are the current trend in Agriculture investment given the fact that these farmers are the least informed and less educated?
A: Our strategy is to work with farmers in order to have them increase yield, reduce cost and mitigate risk. I think while we do that, we put a system in their hands. We need to provide incentive to the farmers to use the system and use it correctly. We incentivize the farmer by awarding points that have a value for using the system correctly. These points can be converted to DMTR tokens which they can spend on discounted digital services that can improve what is going on the farm from other ecosystem members. If a farmer has never tried a soil sensor, a local service provider that is part of the Dimitra ecosystem can provide those sensors. We can look at the data and if the data tells us we need a soil reading, we can connect that farmer to the service provider to take the reading, load it into the system and in turn see an increase in yield or a reduction in cost. Some farmers will see the tokens as a means to an investment, they may save their tokens for services or convert to other tokens. In doing that, we monetize the effective use of the system as well.
Q: The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the global food system, disrupting regional agricultural value chains, and posing risks to household food security. With Dimitra as a leading Agricultural Technology company, how does your technology and innovations have solutions for the world now and after the pandemic? With special reference to small-scale farmers, how sustainable and relevant are these technologies and innovations in the new world after the pandemic?
A: The pandemic has changed the global supply chain. From a relationship perspective to a farmer we look at it from a couple of fronts. One is food safety and food security regulations. We are seeing more and more regulations and in order to comply farmers are required to have more records about their sustainability practices, their growing practices, any outputs that they may be using.
It does generate a need for farmers to have a tool to capture those requirements, being able to digitally assure the government or whoever the regulating body is when they are sending their products to market or export. Certification of these requirements are becoming more important and are affecting pricing. If they can’t certify, they may not get the best dollar for their products. Dimitra fits in as a tool to allow them to track and export the appropriate documentation. All of this is immutable and transparent on a blockchain.
The pandemic is driving more and more digitization in the world, not only in food safety and regulation but a separation perspective. People are more likely to work from home, there is less face to face contact in the world. New safety and security protocols and different levels of acceptance. Some cities may see little impact when it comes to social distancing while others see a huge impact. For those who are pressed to adopt more social distancing, that is one of the key drivers of digital practices.
Q: For those of us who are being introduced to the Crypto currency platform through Dimitra, could you help us understand what determines the value of crypto currencies with special emphasis on the Dimitra Token and what guarantees that the value will keep rising?
A: That is an interesting question and I think it is a bit of a magic question for people. When you are investing in a token, how do you make sure that token keeps going up? I look at cryptocurrencies from two perspectives. One is what are the fundamental rules about the business that the token is representing? The second is what is the utility of the token.
For the first part we would say we are running a strong business. We have paying customers, we have contracts around the world, we have proven pieces of software that we continue to expand. We are expanding our global reach, expanding our number of customers. As all of these things improve, we are going to add value from a corporate perspective. I look at Dimitra and say “how are we different from much of the market?” We are probably more along from a business development perspective, as we have paying customers and functioning software. That is one step in our favor. The second piece is we have built elements of utility into the way the token is working. We have staking, liquidity pools, validator nodes, farmers point program, value of data as we collect data. We compensate a farmer with points but we take that data and find ways to monetize it working with Universities and governments returning some of that revenue to the token network.
We have a need for agri-services that we have not seen before. Many farmers have not seen a need for token, or genetic testing, but there is an increase in demand for that now. We have designed our agri services network so that new service providers who may work with sensors, drones or satellites are compensated in Dimitra tokens for their services, increasing demand. We use this as a multiplier where a farmer may need a service, the service provider comes out and provides that service, that service provider needs a sensor that was $1000 dollars and can then purchase that with Dimitra tokens at a discounted rate. We have reinforced that Utility.
The other piece is we have some agri-finance components to not only our ecosystem but to the platform. Those elements are multipliers to token value by increasing demand in tokens. As governments get involved in programs, they may or may not immediately adopt cryptocurrency. Many governments are very open to it now while others are not, but all governments do look at how we can provide incentives to farmers to participate in growing programs and they can add inputs that help farmers and this can be delivered directly through the Dimitra Ecosystem.
We also have investment leverage that we look at. We may invest in a project knowing that it takes a year or two to become sustainable. We may also partner with other crypto finance providers to help leverage the investment creating a multiplier effect.
One of our team members Mike Meurin wrote an article titled “Why Dimitra?” that provides a really good outline in that article around the 15 multiplier strategies we deploy within the ecosystem and the token network in order to increase utility within the token.
Q: After an analysis, small scale farmers are failing to estimate the time of planting, harvesting, mating, heat, they are caught unprepared for disasters e.g. long dry spells, mating time. Isn’t it possible for Dimitra to develop precision technology that would ease the work of farmers such as advanced electronic calendar of events per every enterprise thereof. For instance, a calendar that will monitor a piglet from birth, weaning and breeding cycle. In that way we can increase yields through proper management and accuracy avoiding misinterpreting of events.
A: Absolutely that is a great question and this is very indicative of some things the system already does. We are working on a contract right now in East Africa and this contract is focused completely around livestock genetics and breeding, and what are the factors that we can introduce? What information can we introduce to a farmer if they provide specific information to the platform. It is a great use of technology particularly in a farming world where farmers may miss some of these key events.
On the crop side we look at changing climate and global warming and disaster events. One of the challenges with farming in general is we do not adapt quickly enough to all of these changes. We use Machine Learning to evaluate weather patterns, satellites to evaluate what is going on in the ground, we use sensors and farmer observations. If we take all of this information and we put it together for Machine Learning to look at it, we can make recommendations based on science that can help solve some of these challenges, or at least help farmers better prepare and make more informed decisions around crop rotation and changes from year to year. Having a simple tool to help farmers work through these issues can certainly allow them to make more informed decisions.
Q: Do you plan to have your mobile application available on the app store for farmers?
A: Today we sell directly to associations, NGO’s, governments and agencies. We are developing an app that can be sold at the app store, it will not be out until 2022. We have a lot of projects going on right now that are better served directly through associations and governments. There are a number of changes we would need to make to the system today in order to have it better served on the app store.
Q: What’s the biggest achievement Dimitra has gotten so far and what are the goals from now on?
A: I think we have lots of wins, and we have lots of things we are learning as we go. The biggest achievement to me is helping farmers improve yield, reduce costs and mitigate risks. Every farmer we can help is something personal, where we are helping a person improve their livelihood or solve a challenge that they were not able to solve. At an overarching level this is the greatest win that we have.
A number of other achievements are the contracts that we have won in many nations around the world. We had success with preliminary modules of the platform that we have put out. We have found some great partners around the world who help us with crypto, and different components to technology, help us with access to government and farms and information. I would say I am very grateful for all of the achievements, but I would put those achievements up on the shoulders of all of our partners and employees who have all made it possible. The second part is what our goals are: We have some big goals. Over the next 5 years we want to have 100 million users utilizing our platform. We want to be working in 100 countries, we want to continue expanding the capabilities of the technology to deliver more value to farmers. We want to build an ecosystem that is a community. Community is the key to farming which makes it the key to our success, and we need a broad community that can bring different expertise that can help us meet different deliverables.
Q: With regards to the Dimitra Connected Farmer Platform, how do farmers connect to the platform? Is it VIA a link and what is the requirement?
A: A farmer today, until we have the SaaS model, cannot access the platform on their own. The only farmers who can access the platform are those farmers that are associated with the agriculture departments that we work with. If you are a farmer in one of the nations we are doing business with, and you are growing the crop they are working on, or are within the region, you should have received a correspondence from the government or agency about how to download the platform. It is limited currently from a global perspective as we are only operating in 5 countries, but we have 60 countries that we are now working with and we expect to add more countries each year. In 2022 we will have the Saas model that farmers can download the base functionality of the platform.
This concludes our first AMA, we look forward to seeing more amazing questions for our next session. Keep an eye out for that announcement, and to learn more about Dimitra please visit https://dimitra.io/.
If you are interested in participating in our token sale, please visit https://dimitra.io/token to learn more.