“Taking blockchain to the real world”:
Tokenizing food with Agrotoken
Argentina-based start-up Agrotoken is the first global tokenization infrastructure for agrocommodities, currently converting crops to commodity-backed stablecoin. Here, the Agotoken team reflects on how they achieved success, and the advice they’d give to individuals looking to take a similar path.
Agrotoken brings together technology, finance, cryptoeconomics, and agribusiness. They transform grains into a digital asset (one Agrotoken equals one ton of grain) to store or exchange for inputs, services, and other assets - seeds, vehicles, machinery, fuel, services, and much more.
It is the first global platform for tokenization of agricultural commodities and empowers farmers by removing intermediaries (which saves money and reduces friction). It allows farmers to save, invest, and transact with their own grain production.
Originally explored as a proof-of-concept built on Ethereum, unsustainable gas prices and transaction costs meant a trial move to Polygon to test integrations. The team finally found the perfect platform with Algorand, and have since moved all new tokenizations over. While a multi-chain approach is still maintained for convenience (for instance, some of their bigger partners are only familiar with Ethereum at present), Agrotoken are firm believers that Algorand is the blockchain of the present and the future.
“We are taking blockchain to the real world. We are tokenizing food.”
How an unusual background can become a core strength
CEO and co-founder Eduardo Novillo Astrada came to crypto via an unusual route. After studying Business Administration, he was a professional athlete for 20 years. The skills he gained in this time, and the network he built, led him to his future co-founder, CTO Ariel Scaliter, who then introduced him to Silvio Micali and Algorand. Argentina, where Agrotoken is based, has a huge crypto community; one of the biggest in the world. In addition to this, the wider continent of Latin America has a lot of agribusiness. Combining all these separate threads, Eduardo and Ariel built an incredible and game-changing company - and it’s the unusual aspects in their design that have become their strengths.
Agrotoken is a world first, being the global experts on tokenizing real world assets and natural resources. As first movers, they have a lot of options and opportunities available to them - one of the many benefits of being innovators in a space with no previous blockchain adoption. It’s an incredibly exciting time. Right now, Agrotoken offers three tokens: soybeans, corn, and wheat. 70% of the production of these three crops happens in Argentina, Brazil, and the US.
In the near future, they’ll also be tokenizing productive land - so anyone with, let’s say, $10 could buy part of a farm. Other products on their horizon include a cattle token, so the butcher can hedge on kilograms of meat, and a solar energy token. They’re also in development with VISA, Microsoft, and Banco do Brasil. Recently, their very first deployment with VISA on Algorand went through: paying with VISA at a Starbucks… with grain! A coffee bought for 0.021 tons of corn, in just a couple of seconds. Agrotoken is bringing the future of agricommerce to us, one tokenized grain at a time.
From zero to one: How to get started on Algorand
…From a developer who’s been there. Diego Grasso, senior blockchain architect at Agrotoken, knows the Algorand learning curve well. He’s been developing for 25 years and working specifically in blockchain since 2017. When Agrotoken migrated from Etheruem to Polygon, and then to Algorand in 2021, he was able to observe the adoption process of his team, and has since been involved while Algorand built out its developer toolset and improved developer experience.
A key piece of insight is that new developers - those who are totally new to blockchain - will have a little bit of an advantage! Diego saw that developers with years of Ethereum experience had to almost unlearn certain architecture foundations so that Algorand made sense. Once this happens, though, your experience on the platform totally skyrockets. The Agrotoken team made an initial learning investment by all switching to learning Algorand, and they couldn’t be more pleased with the current and future dividends. Something you’ll spot quickly when you move from Ethereum to Algorand is the speed. No longer will you have to wait 15 minutes from sending a transaction to seeing the result! A matter of seconds - quite literally three or four seconds - is all it takes on Algorand.
“Algorand is perfect for developers who are new to blockchain - you don’t have to know Ethereum or Polygon to start, and the support is exceptional.”
If you’re new to blockchain, Diego says, start with some classes on blockchain, and try not to get overwhelmed. It’s a big and very exciting field, so begin with the basic concepts: Decentralization, contracts, transactions. Approach blockchain from your own frame of reference - if you’re a frontend developer, look into frontend aspects of blockchain first, and get a feel for how it works. Then, you can expand your knowledge. You’ll learn that blockchain projects are 80% exploration, 10% interfacing with the blockchain, and 10% contracts. You’re not going to get a job immediately writing smart contracts (someone with more experience will, which is a good thing), but you’ll continue to grow your experience and understanding.
Lastly, Diego and Agrotoken’s lightbulb moment came when they started to leverage the Algorand community and Discord. Asking the specific questions you need, and getting knowledgeable, tailored help has empowered the team like nothing else.
Algorand’s focus on building communities
The community doesn’t stop at helpful Discord replies, though. There are a ton of videos on YouTube, extensive documentation, a developer site, workshops, and meetups. On top of that, Agrotoken received a $300,000 grant from the Algorand Foundation to support them to build the right technology to deploy their recent VISA program on Algorand.
Algorand first entered Agrotoken’s orbit thanks to Agrotoken’s CTO, Ariel Scaliter. Ariel had been a fan of Silvio and Algorand for a long time before they eventually joined forces, and Agrotoken couldn’t be happier to have found the perfect platform. Eduardo’s particular relief is that Algorand has continued to develop in line with its roadmap and deliver on its promises (no small feat for a technology company) where all other blockchains have had problems.
The real MVP: One piece of advice from Agrotoken’s CEO
Imagine you’re an alien, visiting Earth for the first time. It’s 2058. Blockchain is everywhere. There is not a single company in the world that doesn’t use blockchain technology to some degree. While that’s impressive, the real difference here is that blockchain has improved our societies, changed our institutions, improved peoples’ lives. Concepts like decentralization, transparency, and security have been incorporated into everything - right down to being able to buy lettuce and tomatoes direct from the farmer, with no middleperson, at fair prices, with high specificity on requirements.
“It's fascinating, and I think the most important thing: All the advantages blockchain brings, not only to institutions, but to people.”
Ariel always reminds the team: You don’t need to invent problems to try and solve with blockchain. There are already situations, problems, opportunities existing in the real and physical world, and all you need to do is get out there and start solving one.
With that in mind, advises Eduardo, stay inspired by the immense power of tangible positive social change, and build using the technology and foundations that will get you there: Sustainably, supportively, successfully.