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TheoryMesh, CubicFarm to tackle traceable beef, dairy sustainability

IMAGE: TheoryMesh's four co-founders
TheoryMesh's four co-founders from left to right: Anne Kirk, vice president of agronomy; Chris Bunio, CEO (back); Stephanie Westdal, COO (centre); and Paul Westdal, president.

Winnipeg-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) developer TheoryMesh has partnered with CubicFarm Systems Corp. and EcoDairy to create a visible thread of sustainable data for beef and dairy products using its blockchain-based platform.

In January, the partnership received $1,287,025 in funding from the Canadian Food Innovation Network (CFIN) via its Food Innovation Challenge. Founded in 2021, CFIN is a national non-profit headquartered in Guelph, Ont. focused on stimulating Canada's food sector. To date, it has approved approximately $6.9 million of funding to 27 projects.

TheoryMesh’s SaaS platform offers consumers a QR code for grocery products allowing them to see information regarding sustainability and emissions at every step of its production. The CubicFarm (CUB-T) and EcoDairy partnership marks TheoryMesh’s entry into the beef and dairy space.

EcoDairy is a farm in Abbotsford, B.C. founded in 2010 that offers public tours showcasing its sustainable techniques and technologies, such as the anaerobic digester it uses to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cow manure.

“We'll work directly to look at information coming from the farm environment. How is feed grown? How are cattle raised (and) all those different pieces of it to pull that together? Where we can, we go back to capturing farm data,” said Chris Bunio, TheoryMesh’s co-founder and CEO.

CFIN’s funding is meant to support the project until 2025.

TheoryMesh’s SaaS platform

TheoryMesh was founded in 2019 but didn’t begin operations until March 2021. Along with three other co-founders, TheoryMesh has three full-time employees and students that work with it throughout the year.

There are multiple components to the platform.

“There's a farm component, which today is focused primarily on records management. So what fertilizer did you apply? Where did you apply it? How does that all work?” Bunio said.

“We're in the process of integrating more satellite imagery and machine data from providers like John Deere. So we're enhancing what we do at that farm level to capture data to make sure that we can have the sustainability impact.”

Then, farmers using TheoryMesh can submit information directly to food processors on the supply chain – information which is then carried to consumers via QR code.

TheoryMesh provides a “standard pricing model,” although Bunio noted it scales with the customer’s size and complexity. It can also be paired with the creation of a digital twin of a company’s operations.

Bunio did not discuss specific customers outside of the partnership, but TheoryMesh has a demographic it focuses on.

“Today we're working firstly with what I would call direct-sourcing companies who are actually concerned about sustainability. So companies who have their own supply chain, they have their own relationships with farms and farmers, and they directly buy from those farms,” he explained. 

“The reason for that is that that's where there's the most potential to have a truly sustainable production environment.”

This involves lots of work with grain-based supply chains. Oats, canola and peas were provided as examples.

Bunio began looking into blockchain technology in 2018. He said it's important for having data that’s verifiable and permanent.

One example he gave would be blockchain-based health records for cows or the genetic histories of pigs. The company is also looking into creating tokenized assets of different products on the blockchain, “then having external actors interact with them.”

“I think we're in the early days of seeing how blockchain and different types of assets like that will, or could be, used,” he said, “but it's an exciting space to start exploring.”

TheoryMesh-CubicFarm-EcoDairy partnership

The partnership had its origins in Bunio’s previous 17 years at Microsoft. Not long before he left Microsoft, he met Edoardo De Martin, who would also soon leave Microsoft to become CubicFarm's chief technology officer. In March 2022, De Martin was appointed president of CubicFarm.

A CubicFarm release states the data captured will track GHG emissions and other farm data along with the transport, energy consumption and food waste at the processing stage.

The specific products or volumes that will utilize TheoryMesh’s technology haven’t been finalized, although Bunio mentioned “technical and software integration” work with CubicFarm’s systems.

Langley, B.C.-based CubicFarm has an indoor vertical growing system it states uses 54 to 62 per cent less energy than similar systems in use around the world. The company also states its FreshHub system, which takes up one acre of land, can replace 100 acres of farming production. 

CubicFarm’s subsidiary, Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based HydroGreen Global Inc. also has its own indoor growing system, Automated Vertical Pastures – which it states can replace up to 500 acres of farmland. EcoDairy also utilizes HydroGreen technology.

“One of the great things about working with CubicFarm, and their HydroGreen product specifically, is they've already done research that shows methane reduction and other benefits of using their micro greens in the livestock industry,” Bunio said. 

“There's a body of knowledge already there about the sustainable impact, and we're looking to make sure that that gets transmitted all the way through the supply chain.”

TheoryMesh is geographically agnostic when it comes to future partnerships, with Bunio mentioning opportunities to work with companies in Europe and Asia in the future.

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