The increase in interest in organic materials in fashion is growing, and the global market for just organic cotton alone has risen to $15 billion. The growth in production has grown in the double digits each year, but companies are having a hard time keeping up with the demand from consumers. The current supply chain has even made it difficult for manufacturers to determine if the materials they acquire are truly organic or a cheap imitation, according to a recent article in Forbes.
Bext360, an agricultural blockchain startup, has decided to partner with multiple tech companies, especially nonprofits and fashion-based platforms. This partnership is all part of a pilot test to see if blockchain technology can find a use case in the sourcing of organic cotton on the supply chain. The founder and CEO of Bext360, Dan Jones, said that the systems were created “at the farm level.” Essentially, the pilot will include marking the bags of organic cotton when they are harvested, ensuring that the source is recorded.
The pilot, which is being called the Organic Cotton Traceability Pilot, is a partnership between the C&A Foundation, the Organic Cotton Accelerator and Fashion for Good. Supported by C&A, Zalando, PVH Corp and the Kering Group as well, the cotton is traced from the farm to the processing gin. During the second phase of the pilot, the cotton is then traced from gin to the consumer. At the final stage, the stage will be connecting organic farmers, textile producers, and fashion companies.
Organic cotton only accounts for under 1% of the total global production of cotton, based on statistics from Textile Exchange. However, that percentage still accounts for over a $15 billion market, since it costs so much to produce and purchase.
Between the demand from consumers and the high price premium, the rising up of imposters in the industry was almost inevitable. The incentive for fake organic cotton was what created the problem in the first place, and Jones pointed out that the amount of allegedly organic cotton circulating in the market is much higher than what is actually possible. The only explanation is that the supply is inaccurate and that counterfeiters are influencing that number.
The pilot is only one part of the work by Bext360, as the cotton sources are “tagged” to ensure that the authenticity of the cotton is logged, giving it a “fingerprint” in the supply chain. After recording this data, the blockchain software product from the platform creates a “token,” thanks to the support of the Stellar network. The cotton can be traced with the use of the token, ensuring that consumers can see every part of the path of the cotton.
Farmers stand to greatly gain from the software of Bext360 as well. Each cotton source is attached to the blockchain individually, which means that the farm can be identified. With this log, farmers can be adequately paid for their work through a digitized payment. Furthermore, companies can identify the cotton traders that aren’t actually supplying the level of quality that they claim.
Hopefully, through this pilot project, a solution could arise to give customers the quality that they are paying for in the first place.