zenGate Global, with offices in Osaka Japan, is building the first physically settled, tokenized commodity marketplace – called the Palmyra ComDEX (or Palmyra) – which is powered by blockchain and helps emerging but ultimately technology-underserved markets, such as the tea industry.
zenGate will debut its online platform – which will connect wholesale tea buyers and sellers – at the upcoming World Tea Conference + Expo, March 27-29 in Las Vegas at the Las Vegas Convention Center. While it recently entered a pilot stage with the Sri Lankan tea industry, the platform will officially launch next year.
“Palmyra’s mission is opportunity inclusion to technologically underserved users within global commodity markets,” said Daniel Friedman, CEO of zenGate Global. “We do this by building innovative infrastructure solutions and tools for businesses to compete globally and leapfrog into the future.”
Recently, zenGate’s Palmyra received significant attention in Sri Lanka, as the company cemented its pilot program by signing an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the country’s tea factory owners association. It also received ministerial level attention and considerable local press coverage.
“The response on the ground, working with the Sri Lanka Tea Factory Owners Association, has been amazing,” noted Friedman. “We have a common goal that we are all trying to solve, and it’s been an amazing feeling for us. We feel more confident in our purpose and mission – we really need to deliver and continue to add value for these businesses.”
Sri Lanka is the first tea-producing region that zenGate is working with, and they plan to work with other tea origin countries in the future, as well as other commodity markets.
Anura Athukorala, managing director of Athukorala Tea Factory in Pitigala, Sri Lanka – a member of the Sri Lanka Tea Factory Owners Association – is excited about the potential business growth, increased productivity, the positive use of technology for the tea industry, and the added-value benefits the platform will deliver to tea producers and factories.
“Yes, this is a good opportunity to improve our exports worldwide,” said Athukorala. “Recently, our tea exports have been limited to a few countries, but this will be good opportunity to find new buyers, new market segments, and to identify the current market trends to deal with many countries through that. I think it will be a good opportunity increase our exports and economic growth.”
The Tea Industry: Benefiting from Important New Technologies
Nicholas Despopoulos, senior strategist at zenGate Global, explained that the world of commodity markets has rapidly evolved and digitized over time. However, the rate of digital transformation has not occurred at the same speed and scale for some sectors. This means that certain industries are benefiting from important new technologies, while others, like tea, are just now experiencing the digital transformation wave or haven’t experienced it yet.
“We see the Sri Lankan tea sector as falling into the latter category, where certain actors are already adopting innovative technologies, and others have not made that transition yet,” revealed Despopoulos. “The fact that some actors have started on this journey suggests that the appetite is there, and our ‘boots on the ground’ approach and collaboration with the tea factories will ensure that the leap is easier than a more hands off, less personal approach. We want to build something that stays and ultimately adds tremendous value to the spectrum of businesses in the Sri Lankan tea industry.”
Despopoulos noted that given the various size of producers and factories, there have been limited service-providers with enterprise-grade solutions for this segment of the market. “This presents an opportunity to provide tooling for micro, small and medium sized enterprises that have the appetite to adopt these technologies,” he said.
Callum Sheehan, regional director for zenGate Global, said the amount of interest they’re getting from the tea industry has been overwhelming. “Beyond the tea producers and factories, many different agencies, businesses and organizations have been extending their hands of friendship to come and work with us. Everyone is just extremely excited by the opportunity to grow.”
zenGate’s COO Samuel Lambert said that while the Palmyra ComDEX is currently in its pilot stage in Sri Lanka, the company also intends to spend 2023 building features for users and testing the platform ahead of the official launch in 2024.
“We believe that the platform will add enormous value to other tea-producing regions and will continue to build these connections,” said Lambert. “We are getting lots of interest from other non-tea markets as well.”
More Than an Online Wholesale Marketplace
According to Friedman, Palmyra is meant to be much more than a tech-fueled solution for wholesale buyers and sellers. The marketplace also features several benefits for stakeholders – both tea producers and wholesale buyers – in different ways.
“Firstly, tea producers will benefit from increased access to global markets, transparency across the supply chain and digitized financial tools, moving away from at times paper-based processes,” shared Friedman. “On the other hand, wholesale buyers benefit from the greater quality assurances via embedded certifications and end-to-end traceability of the tea – stored immutably on the blockchain – and greater direct access to producers.”
Palmyra also provides key support for commodity sellers in other areas, from financial tools to manage risks, to access to new markets. “We believe that the user-experience and the value-add for businesses will be enormous and game-changing,” Friedman said.
Of course, zenGate’s goal is not to disrupt the tea industry. Instead, they’re striving to augment and improve. “Our goal is to add value to businesses, such that they have the necessary digital tools to leapfrog into the modern age,” said Friedman. “The future is extremely exciting and holds greater opportunity inclusion and access, less administrative overhead, greater transparency and higher autonomy for businesses.”
How Does zenGate’s Palmyra ComDEX Work?
Malcolm Bloom, CPO at zenGate, said, “Palmyra is leveraging decentralized-ledger technology [which is tied into blockchain technology] – this will allow for increased security assumptions, transparency and settlement times for users on the platform. However, our primary goal is to create a seamless user experience whereby the underlying technology is deployed in the background.”
Notably, the use of blockchain technology for the platform will improve a number of existing industry pain-points, such as embedding certifications, traceability of the supply chain, digital identities for producers, access to global capital markets for financing, and improved quality assurance assumptions.
To make it all happen, zenGate’s Palmyra team has collective experience working in more than 20 startups with a a broad range of backgrounds in financial services, data science, commodity trading, risk management, software development, cyber security and academia. They also have a Sri Lankan team with expertise in the tea industry, customer relationship management and logistics industries, and they plan to grow their Sri Lankan presence over the next 12 months as they dive deeper into the pilot program.
Premiering to the Global Tea Industry at World Tea Expo 2023
Friedman said the zenGate team is excited and humbled to be participating in the World Tea Conference + Expo this year.
“As a company it is a must for us to be here in person,” he shared. “It is our first major tea industry event we are attending in-person, and we are looking forward to meeting experts in this industry. We hope to connect with leaders and world-experts in the tea industry to learn more about the sector. We believe that this is crucial for us in order to build and design better products to fit the needs of the tea industry.”
For tea producers and tea factories that want to get involved with the platform at some point, they can reach out to zenGate to learn more. For buyers looking to get involved, they can join the zenGate Palmyra pilot program or stay up to date by joining their mailing list for updates.
To learn more about zenGate Global and the Palmyra ComDEX, visit zenGate.global, or visit their booth at the 2023 World Tea Conference + Expo.
Plan to Attend or Participate in the
World Tea Conference + Expo, March 27-29, 2023
To learn about other key developments, trends, issues, hot topics and products within the global tea community, plan to attend the World Tea Conference + Expo, March 27-29, 2023 in Las Vegas, co-located with Bar & Restaurant Expo. Visit WorldTeaExpo.com.
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