By mid-2022, the group expects to create 1,000 farmers across the platform’s Mariba-Damboula Water Supply Scheme, which is designed to show real-time water prices from authorized vendors. The total water entitlement in the region is 204,424 megalitres.
The partnership also includes FNQ Growers, which represents growers, and advisory firm Inclusive Growth Partners.
As it stands, water markets are currently run by multiple operators with different rules and hard-to-access data, and farmers are rarely shown the actual price they are paying for water.
An intermediary industry of water brokers, trying to connect buyers and sellers, has sprung up, inflating costs for drought-stricken farmers with few avenues to negotiate.
The partnership is following a pilot program in 2020 aimed at determining whether blockchain technology, which powers a distributed ledger, is the right tool to improve transparency in Australian water markets.
“We are removing double spending on these real-world assets so we can calculate how much water we have, how much water we share and how much we use,” said Ms Donaghy.
Atherton Tablelands irrigation devices tested the new Water Ledger platform throughout 2020, and the company claims it has reduced trade times from months to days.
Previously, it could take months to obtain approval for a trade from a market operator, while trades on the blockchain take seconds and the last traded price is published in real time.
Blockchain is an emerging way for industries and governments to conduct and verify transactions, streamline processes and reduce the potential for error and fraud.
Using smart contracts, the Water Ledger can capture metadata about water licenses – who owns them and assign them – and then automates tracking of licenses, deals, order books, and historical transactions.
Ann Stonzner, chief executive of the Center for Cooperative Research, noted the need for investment security and certainty across northern Australia, which has been undermined by the opaque water trade amid a prolonged drought.
“Our goal is water markets that implement transparent governance frameworks and support the sustainable economic development of Northern Australia,” she said.
“CRCNA and Civic Ledger are working together to roll out the Water Ledger in [Mareeba-Dimbulah irrigation area] As a “strategic research test bed” that can be applied across northern Australia to account for real-time continuous water and farm-led trade. “
Cassian Drew, Managing Partner, Inclusive Growth Partners, said: “We expect to develop new economic opportunities in northern Australia by strengthening water market governance and participation.
“Our investment and governance platform will support farmers, Indigenous Australians and investors to create and share new opportunities in Water Ledger and the work of FNQ Growers and CRCNA.”
The transfer of the Mribah Damboula water supply scheme to the ledger is expected to be completed during the second quarter of 2022, and the results of the project are due to be published at the end of the year.