It goes without saying that the role of technology in the modern world continues to grow. The COVID-19 pandemic seems to accelerate this growth even further. While traditional businesses like Oil & Gas companies struggle with profitability, businesses in telecommunications are beating previous revenue results. For instance, MTN recorded a 16.6% increase in its Q3 2020 results. That is impressive given the challenging circumstances.
At Farmz2U, we are leveraging technology to accelerate growth in agriculture. Our vision is to empower the next generation of Sub Saharan African farmers. And we seek to achieve this with our mission to build a data-centric product that automates the farming process to increase yield and profit.
In the context of “Five Elements of Digital Transformation”, the elements that support Farmz2U with implementation are data, financial inclusion, research & development, a skilled workforce and technology infrastructure.
Data is the core of our business. For instance, data on farm location, buyer demand and farmer experience support us in optimising the produce the farmer grows. While location is used to identify the crops most suitable for the soil type, buyer demand is an indication of what the market is demanding, and farmer experience determines the skills required to grow produce.
Farmz2U’s proprietary software products are driven by data, for instance, the start.farmz2u product estimates how much a farmer can earn growing a range of products, this helps an aspiring or existing user assess the financial viability of growing a particular produce.
This is important in providing farmers with the capital required to fund farming operations. The lending process to smallholder farmers is challenging with often insufficient data to assess a farmers’ risk and thus ability to repay a loan. With a digital oversight of farmers’ activities tracked from pre-farming to post-harvest, Farmz2U de-risks the lending process.
Also, there are a number of unbanked smallholder farmers and Farmz2U provides an opportunity to increase financial inclusion. We currently have a Non-Disclosure Agreement with two local banks to explore new financial products that can enhance farming activity. The amount of capital currently accessible in the agricultural industry is disproportionate to the level of activity and participants in the industry.
Research & Development
R&D is essential in staying at the forefront of innovation. Ensuring the quality of data we use and expertise provided to farmers requires regular interface with academia and research institutions. We currently have relationships with local institutions like the University of Uyo and LAUTECH University. Furthermore, we work with experts in international institutions like Wageningen University, Netherlands. They support the quality of expertise and information provided to farmers ensuring that they are accurate and fit for purpose.
For instance, if sugar beets crop is a good cover crop to restore soil nutrients. Similarly, organisations like the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) support the quality of our data. We are currently working with the latter on the Cultivate Project to expand operations in Kenya.
A Skilled Workforce
A Skilled Workforce is just as important as the product itself. Our team is made up of data scientists, software developers, agronomists and other experts in their field. More important than job titles is the culture we are building. We have an ownership model where every employee has equity ownership in the business. This builds on our establishment of a social contract that goes beyond just earning a monthly salary.
For instance, creating an enabling environment that encourages freedom of expression and collaboration across the team irrespective of job titles. Creating mutual trust and fairness, and establishing healthy culture norms built on shared values. Our values at Farmz2U are Innovation, Transparency, Integrity and Community Development and our Culture Deck fairly encapsulates the “vibe” we seek to create.
Technology Infrastructure supports product development. Just like the foundation and pillars of a building are essential for its longevity and resilience, robust technology infrastructure is necessary for a viable product. We employ technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain and data analytics in the product of design. And our continuous integration/continuous development (CI/CD) approach helps us move quickly.
The beauty of technology is its ability to achieve exponential growth. And data plays a key role in optimising behaviour through technology. This is what we seek to achieve at Farmz2U, helping farmers farm better using technology.
Aisha Raheem is the Co-founder of Farmz2U, an agritech enterprise based in Nigeria and serving Sub-Saharan African markets. Farmz2U was recognized as a leading startup by the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2020, and was Nigeria’s National Nominee for the World Summit Awards in 2019. Farmz2U is currently working with the United Nations Development Program on the Cultivate project, exploring innovation in agriculture using data.