In brief

  • Overstock’s Medici Ventures announced a global expansion for GrainChain, a blockchain for farmers.
  • More than 14,000 member farmers use GrainChain smart contracts for payments.
  • Overstock's CEO said the company is looking to introduce blockchain tech into other industries.

There’s a blockchain for everything these days...including grains. But this one is less about verifying the provenance of your morning oatmeal and more about distributing those whole grains efficiently. 

Medici Ventures, a blockchain accelerator owned by internet retail company Overstock.com, announced a global expansion of agritech blockchain company GrainChain through a partnership with Symbiont’s enterprise blockchain network. Earlier this month, Medici Ventures announced it had purchased over $5 million in equity from GrainChain as part of an $8.2 funding round for the project. 

GrainChain, which has been around since 2013, says that 1,284 farmers in the US, 870 in Mexico, and 12,000 in Honduras currently use its smart contracts. The blockchain aims to allow farmers and buyers to streamline payments and exchange commodities with minimal friction. 

“The seller or farmer is able to receive immediate payment to the commodity they delivered, a process that used to take weeks,'' CEO Luis Macias told Decrypt. “Any third-party participant, such as lenders, can also be added to the smart contact to receive direct payments for loans. Finally, the buyer attains a clear title to the delivered commodity as soon as the payment is complete.”

Medici Venture's investment can help scale that up. The outfit said with Symbiont’s enterprise blockchain, GrainChain will be able to “increase the number of farmers, buyers, and grain elevators using its products.” Macias pointed to a need for GrainChain across Central and South America, and said the company plans for further expansion in Mexico, Honduras, Peru, and Brazil.

This isn’t the first time Overstock and Medici have backed a food product blockchain. In 2018, they promoted Vin X (now Vinsent), a “wine futures” blockchain trying to disrupt the “middlemen-heavy” wine industry.

Overstock delved into blockchain projects under the leadership of former CEO Patrick Byrne, a Bitcoin evangelist.

But even after Byrne's departure last year, they’re not stopping. Current Overstock CEO and Medici Ventures President Jonathan Johnson told Decrypt, “Our keiretsu [interlocked] companies are introducing blockchain technologies to industries such as identity, land governance, money and banking, capital markets, supply chain, and voting.”

And, if it puts more commodities and food products on a blockchain, it's not hard to imagine your butcher being next. Oh, wait, there’s a blockchain for that too.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misattributed a quote about GrainChain's expansion to Johnson.