Last time I saw my parents, I had to answer a lot of questions about Bitcoin (I know nothing about Bitcoin) and listen to a story about how their friends had just purchased some Bitcoins "for their home." (Except, no, their friends had actually purchased an Amazon Echo). Now, I guess I’d better figure out how to explain Bananacoin.
To use the developers’ language, Bananacoin is a “utility token based on Ethereum, pegged to the export price of one kilogram of bananas.” So yeah, it’s another cryptocurrency that your most annoying friend can casually mention at brunch. But it’s also more than that: As Financial Express explains, each Bananacoin is a digital token that take the “form of a contract for the purchase of goods to be produced in the future.” Every Bananacoin really does represent just over two pounds of bananas that will be grown on an ever-expanding plantation in Laos.
The team behind Bananacoin includes two Russian entrepreneurs and a Thai agronomist who have been producing bananas in the Vientiane province in Laos for the past three years. They hope to use the investments in Bananacoin to expand their land from its current size, 100 hectares, to 360 hectares over the course of the next 18 months. It’s cryptocurrency and crowdfunding, combined with about 9 percent of your recommended daily potassium intake.
Bananacoin HQ feels good about the project because YES, there’s always money in the banana stand, and also because they grow the Lady Finger banana—the world’s most profitable banana varietal—and export them to China, where they’re always in-demand. “Bananas, surprisingly, are a good investment,” one cryptocurrency analyst wrote. “Over the past 7 years, the international price of one kilogram of bananas has increased by between 4 percent and 10 percent every year, making bananas a relatively stable investment.”
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The Lady Finger banana is special, even without this Initial Coin Offering (ICO), largely because it isn’t the Cavendish banana. The Cavendish is the kind that we’re all peeling and eating right now over in America (some estimates say that the Cavendish makes up 99 percent of banana imports “to the Western world”), but it’s increasingly under attack by a fungus called Panama Disease, which is threatening to end the banana as we know it.
If that sounds fatalistic, it’s because it happened before. In the early 1900s, the entire banana industry was built on the bright yellow skins of the Gros Michel, or “Big Mike” banana. “Banana growers utterly embraced Big Mike, growing it as a monoculture on massive plantations to take advantage of the heightened efficiency that homogenous production brings,” Discover explained. “In the process, they lost the resiliency that diversity imparts.”
By the mid-20th Century, Big Mike had essentially been wiped out by an earlier strain of Panama Disease. Super-exporter the United Fruit Company (now known as Chiquita Brands International) turned its attention to the Cavendish, which was supposedly resistant to Panama Disease. Spoiler Alert: It’s not.
The Bananacoiners insist that their plantation is isolated from other farms, in an effort to prevent any contamination from Panama Disease or other pathogens. (Last November, the Laotian Times reported that some Cavendish bananas grown in Vientiane had been infected with Panama Disease).
ANYWAY, back to Bananacoin. The developers say that, in addition to being a good investment, it’s also easy enough for our parents to understand. “Bananacoin [...] does not require specialised knowledge in cryptography or blockchain technology,” they wrote in Bananacoin’s white paper.
As of Wednesday morning, roughly 3.4 million bananacoin tokens had been sold, at a current price of USD $0.50.
Alexa, buy me a bunch of Bananacoins or whatever.