The Yellow Seed Model

Yellow Seed was founded in the belief that we could create a supply chain that worked for everyone impacted by that chain. Our platform allows for Collaborative Trade so that all actors in the chain are valued and can participate. We are engaging new actors and forging new relationships. We hope to literally “make the pie bigger.”

The Yellow Seed model is based on extensive interviews with farmers, buyers, and service intermediaries to better understand motivations, needs, and breakdowns for each. (You can read more about the challenges of our current market system here). Yellow Seed is focusing on cacao first, because there is an eager market of buyers — specifically craft chocolate makers — who will pay fair prices for excellent supply.

Finding cacao farms is a challenge, and trading relationships and trust are key to meeting and maintaining standards of quality that craft makers depend on in order to market a distinctive flavor and story with their beautiful end products.

Meanwhile, cacao is a vitally important crop that supports the livelihoods of over 5 million farmers and 12 million workers in the global tropics. These farms provide 90% of the world’s cacao, but the farmers face an unfair choice: sell high-quality, traditionally-farmed beans for a fraction of their value or receive higher yields from a monoculture, industrial operation.

Whether today’s markets require more water, land, or human talent than appear to be available, the fact is most systems find themselves operating based on old models in a world of new limitations. Cacao is a commodity in a unique position: it is the engine for a rapidly growing chocolate market; there are many producers who are currently invisible to the market; and it is grown in parts of the world under threat from deforestation, mining, and climate change. Cacao also requires a web of strong human relationships, grounded in trust, in order to make its way from where it is grown, harvested, and processed to consumers waiting to be delighted by the alchemy of the craft maker’s creation. That’s why we chose to pilot Collaborative Trade and our Yellow Seed model with cacao, before considering how we might serve other industries facing similar challenges, like coffee, tea, and spices.



Let’s track how Information flows in the Yellow Seed model [purple]: 

Our goal is to make information available to everyone in the system, and we provide the infrastructure for this exchange. Farmers and producers can share stories about their origin and product with buyers. User reviews provide transparency about the exchange — from the reliability of transport, to the quality of the beans delivered, to the environmental practices used. As we continue building our platform we will transparently show the path of cacao, from farm to delighted consumer, and offer details about each moment in the cacao’s journey, including tracking the reliability and quality of actors along the way.


Now let’s turn to the Financial Story in the Yellow Seed model [green]:

First and foremost, we are connecting farmers and buyers currently invisible to one another. By engaging more people in Collaborative Trade we are growing the cacao market, and literally “making the pie bigger.” Our goal is to maximize financial opportunities by distributing risk factors, and simultaneously increase access to resources and information that facilitate exchange. Yellow Seed also improves financial flow by providing a system to estimate demand and aggregate orders, and billing and payment features will be clear and transparent for all involved.


And now, let’s trace the journey of cacao in the Product Story


Yellow Seed creates space for new markets and optimizes channels for trade. Buyers can discover products at origin and link with services to simplify trade.  Buyers with extra beans to share or “Product Hosts” can sell directly traded beans by uploading product and origin profiles. With each profile on our platform, we allow trust and business relationships to form between buyers, who are actively seeking high quality, distinctive cacao, and farmers, true artists who produce these beans and cannot be found except on foot in some of the more remote places on earth, until now.


What’s Next   

Over the next few years, we’ll be improving user profiles as well as feedback and review tools. Buyers and service intermediaries will also soon have profiles, and features will be added to enable more collaborative and efficient trade. We also plan to expand to secondary processed cacao products like liquor, paste, cocoa powder, and cocoa butter, and then after to other products such as coffee, tea, and spices as we scale.

Together our community is exploring and designing new ways of exchanging value. We are committed to improving trading relationships and supply chain transparency so that more farmers and products can come online and more buyers can access products of their choice. As voices are heard and value is shared, we believe that through this participation we will find the next steps towards creating a more generative system for all.


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