Interviews · 11min read
Interview with Katharina Elisa Davids from Seedtrace
Learn how this visionary platform promotes transparency and communication to make sustainable consumption the norm.
seedtrace is a Berlin-based digital platform for impact-driven products designed to help businesses manage and communicate the transparency of their products while empowering consumers to make positive choices. seedtrace’s team is guided by the vision of making it possible to trace every product back to its roots.
As such, seedtrace was built on the belief that brands can work towards a reality where all actors along the supply chain can work and scale together while maintaining a positive social and ecological impact along the way.
About Katharina Elisa Davids
Katharina Elisa Davids has several years of experience building tech ventures as a Consultant at Deloitte Digital Ventures under her belt. Before founding seedtrace, she gained invaluable experience as a social entrepreneur at Smarthouse Africa.
On a personal level, Katharina Elisa Davids is deeply passionate about exploring the intersection between people and sustainable projects, an interest that continues to guide her work to this very day. Katharina Elisa Davids holds a B.Sc. in Psychology and an M.A. in Management.
Tell us about your path to founding seedtrace. What idea(s) did you initially start with? And how has your business evolved since then?
We work with farms in Africa— mainly female cooperatives in rural areas— to build fair and direct trade opportunities. I realised how complex yet unique every supply chain of a product is. There is so much more to it than what we see as a customer in the supermarket. From wild-growing practices to schemes and cooperatives on a large scale, the locals I met are doing an incredible job at uplifting their communities and creating quality products.
On the other hand, we as consumers increasingly care but usually know nothing about products' social and ecological impact— be it textiles or things we eat. Seedtrace aims to establish supply chain transparency as the norm by creating a platform that makes products’ social and ecological impact both provable and visible. This is why we support companies in bridging the gap between CSR and marketing by tracing products back to their roots.
How does seedtrace combine in-depth value chain mapping technology with experiential product journeys?
Supply chains can be extremely complex. Thus it's important to allow businesses to map and visualise their supply chains from seed to shelf. However, not all businesses are ready to understand all sourcing practices fully and transparently communicate about their sustainability practices. This is why we decided to enable our clients to get started mapping their supply chains and communicating their supply chains externally. But, step by step, our platform also wants to support transformation towards more transparent processes, thereby taking sustainability to the next level.
How does this connect to the experiential product journey on the consumer side? Consumers can see an overview of the whole supply chain in the form of a product journey via mobile or desktop and decide to explore areas they’re interested in, in more depth, such as details about a specific supplier or farmer’s efforts in terms of social and ecological impact. From day one, we figured out that we wanted to focus on the end-consumer in order to allow our clients to differentiate themselves and create a competitive advantage. Only when the whole supply chain circle is closed does this make sense.
Which different types of data does seedtrace help customers collect? And in what ways can customers harness this data to optimise their businesses strategically?
We collect different types of data— company, product and supplier data as well as consumer-facing data. When it comes to company, product and supplier data, we collect all relevant info and allow our clients to manage their own suppliers, documents and certificates (e.g. Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance). If they decide to trace their individual products, we also help by gathering real-time data, which is then stored on an open blockchain. All critical data points regarding proof of impact and tracing are then stored on this open blockchain to ensure maximum transparency on an open system as well as prevent data manipulation afterwards.
We track consumer data in terms of general analytics, for example, how many people scan from which devices in which cities, as well as behavioural analytics. Businesses are able to adapt their marketing strategies accordingly and better understand whether their consumers actually grasp their sustainability and communication efforts. They also learn what their consumers are most interested in, such as the origin of a product, which allows them to learn and adapt over time.
Briefly outline a case study of a brand in your portfolio. In what ways is this customer using seedtrace to transform their business?
Jumping into a particular case of ours: Unfair labour conditions and exportation along our favourite products’ supply chains still pose major challenges in global trade. Let's take the chocolate industry as an example. How do you ensure that the farmers at the source of your product earn a fair share?
Back in 1980, farmers in Ghana could still pocket 16% of the price of a chocolate bar. Today, their share has plummeted to 6%, and this trend is actually still continuing downwards further. Together with Koa, a cocoa fruit juice producer from Ghana, so not the cacao beans but the pulp around the bean, we trace their products back to their roots by storing them on the blockchain. Koa thereby allows consumers to see how much has been paid to every farmer in Ghana for the chocolate bar they are holding in their hands, providing full transparency of its journey from seed to shelf. The goal is to show that informed consumers can take a huge step towards a truly credible impact. So far, Koa has paid more than €13,000 to more than 1,500 smallholder farmers in Ghana.
What are the biggest challenges the food industry needs to tackle to become significantly more sustainable in upcoming years? And how is seedtrace working to provide solutions to these challenges?
Yes, there are quite some challenges. Let’s focus on the three main ones we’re trying to tackle with seedtrace.
Firstly, supply chains are highly complex, and many different actors are involved until we are able to hold the final product in our hands. It’s crucial to strengthen the collaboration between downstream and upstream actors along the supply chain. We believe that this is the only way things like fair working conditions, fair payments and carbon neutrality along the chain can be ensured. This is why we support and enable supplier management and collaboration.
Secondly, we believe in leveraging innovative technologies to analyse and improve complex supply chain processes, especially their social and ecological impact. This is why we have developed, and continue to develop, an impact framework to prove social and ecological claims.
Lastly, we really have to bridge the gap between origin and consumers understand of their products and their products’ impact. As I mentioned earlier, only if the loop closes will we be able to scale sustainable change. This is why we focused on communication towards the consumer from day one.