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Virginia business brings blockchain to the farm

A Smart Grow Agritech weather machine stands above a Shenandoah Valley farm.
Glenn Rodes
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Smart Grow Agritech's Instagram account
A Smart Grow Agritech weather machine stands above a Shenandoah Valley farm.

Blockchain advocates argue the technology offers a unique and safe way to store data, and one Virginia company is hoping to see that technology used on farms across the state.

Brix and Columns Vineyards is a McGaheysville-based, award winning vineyard nestled just west of Shenandoah National Park. They opened in 2017 and like any other Virginia winery, they’ve struggled with the Commonwealth's less-than-predictable weather. But when they were approached by Alexander Mann with Smart Grow Agritech, they were intrigued at the idea of using Mann’s blockchain integrated weather stations to monitor the climate on their two farms.

“Just constantly monitoring, knowing how much rain we’re having, the wind, the wind is important for sprays,” Stephanie Pence who owns Brix and Columns along with her husband Steve, told Radio IQ. So far, they’ve been impressed with the data and the visual tools that allow them to share that information with visitors.

Alexander Mann is a Virginia native. He’d been looking for ways to expand the use of the blockchain outside of more traditional areas like finance. That led to the creation of Smart Grow Agritech after realizing how important data is to farmers and how well the blockchain can store it.

“Because the data is being streamed directly to the chain from the device itself at the end of the season we are looking at ‘okay, what can we do with this historical data set,” Mann said.

The tech has also attracted the attention of Virginia legislators. Senator Saddam Azlan Salim is a member of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources committee. He’s met with Mann and plans to bring him in to speak with other elected officials about the tech and its use on farms.

“That’s where I see the blockchain happening and that’s where I think it’s headed," Salim said. "And him and I are going to work on some of the policies next year on how we apply that to agriculture.”

In the meantime, the Pences say they’re looking to make each varietal’s blockchain data available via a QR code, making each bottle of wine all the more detailed and unique.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Brad Kutner is Radio IQ's reporter in Richmond.