CoinJar Stories: Chris McLoughlin, Earth & Sky Organics

What started as a simple plan to sell organic produce for bitcoin has turned into a movement to provide security for farmers. And that’s just the beginning.

As we walk around the winding tracks of Hollyburton Farm, it becomes clear that this is where Chris feels at home. He picks up chickens like puppies, inspects crops with a trained eye and breathes the air with discernible relish. Chris is the general manager of Earth and Sky Organics – a company that delivers organic produce to your door. Ordering organic food on your phone was a pipe dream when he started, and now it’s something he helps people do every day.

Chris first discovered bitcoin after listening to a technology podcast. After doing further research he decided that Earth and Sky Organics should accept it as a form of payment.“My first experience with bitcoin was really simple. We decided we wanted to accept it on the website. We found a plugin and asked the developer to install it. Within 24 hours we accepted payment from our first bitcoin customer.” That plugin allowed them to accept with CoinJar.

“I read somewhere that Bitcoin wouldn’t be a real currency until people could purchase food with it. We sell food, so we sell food with bitcoin.”

We asked Chris why he started accepting bitcoin for Earth and Sky Organics. “I read somewhere that bitcoin wouldn’t be a real currency until people could purchase food with it. We sell food, so we sell food with bitcoin.” Accepting bitcoin also opened up a new community of customers.“They’re a bunch of people who almost definitely wouldn’t have found out about our company, but did so because we started accepting bitcoin.”Accepting this new form of payment also helped lower Chris’ costs.“It was more cost effective, the fees were cheaper so we prefer to do that.”

CoinJar lets Chris accept bitcoin without exposing him to the changing price. He gets an order in bitcoin which converts to Australian dollars at the original amount. Using CoinJar means he has the money in his bank account the next day. At no point is he exposed to the potential volatility of the digital currency.

“We sell organic fresh produce and we can’t afford any risks with our payment system. We need a really simple and clean mechanism to get Australian dollars in our bank account the day after we’ve been paid for them.”

Chris is passionate about farms and meets regularly with his suppliers. He knows every trail of Hollyburton Farm and navigates them on the four-wheeler with ease. It worries him that the current systems makes it difficult for farmers like Hollyburton to access finance when it’s needed most.

“Food production is a critical part of our economy and going to be more so in the future. So we’re working with a group of farmers and CoinJar to create a peer-to-peer farm finance platform. We want anyone to be able to take 500 dollars worth of bitcoin and give a dollar each to 500 growers around the country.”

This idea sounds simple, but it’s big. Regular Australians will be able to invest small amounts in different farms around the country and get it straight into the hands of the farmers. No middlemen, no limits. In the old models, these kind of distributed micro-transactions weren’t possible. But with the power of bitcoin suddenly networks like this become possible.

“Food production is a critical part of our economy and going to be more so in the future.”

One farmer Chris has been working with is Madelaine, a farmer at Hollyburton Farms. Madeline has been selling organic eggs since she was 8 when she bought her first 20 chickens. At 19 her business has grown to over 900 free-range chickens. The problem is she spends 28 hours a week cleaning and grading eggs. With Chris, Madeline launched a campaign on crowd-funding platform Pozible to buy equipment that would make her business significantly more efficient. Her campaign successfully raised funds to buy a machine that can clean more eggs in one hour than she can in 28.

Because she crowd-funded with Pozible, she was able to accept bitcoin as well as Australian Dollars. Her campaign and efforts are an exciting example of Earth & Sky’s vision. This is farmers using bitcoin and crowd-funding to make their jobs easier and help raise capital. We think that’s pretty cool.

We sit back drinking tea on the balcony, exhausted after a long day on the farm. It’s eye-opening seeing what goes into ethically getting food onto our table. The thought that we can use bitcoin to help makes us very excited.

“Organic farming is critical to our economy. We’re working with CoinJar to support the future of our farmers.”