Agriculture has always been a major mainstay in Africa. From the early times when individuals practiced sole subsistence farming to the times when markets were built for the sale of agricultural produce, and of course, modern times when we desperately need farmers to plant and rear a vast majority of the food we eat. In recent times, however, agriculture in Africa has not been able to adequately plug the gaping holes that our growing population needs, hence, we have to resort to importing both agricultural produce and processed food. The implication of this is a massive reduction in the GDP of African countries and a general loss of revenue, both to the government and individuals involved in the overall process of food production.
Successive governments have tried to combat this problem by using various schemes to incentivize farming and making attractive enough for more people to come in. Ultimately, this will yield results, but one vital part is constantly left out: The link between the farmers and their markets. And this is the heart of what Agrocenta, a Ghanaian technology startup, is working actively on.
Agrocenta is a technology company focused on solving market linkage and financial inclusion problems in the agricultural value chain. It was founded by Francis Obirikorang (CEO) and Michael K. Ocansey (CTO) in 2015. Their aim was to tackle two critical areas of importance to the farmers: access to a viable and profitable market, and access to finance and credit facilities. They decided to solve these problems by leveraging on technology through three outlets which they developed: AgroInfo, AgroTrade, AgroPay, and the Truckr app.
This is how these technologies work individually and in synergy: Imagine a small farmer in rural Ghana, for example. We’ll call him Sam. Let’s say Sam has a small farm that grows beans. An Agrocenta agent approaches Sam and signs him on to the Agrocenta platforms. Within the process of farming – planting crops and tending before harvest – Sam gets updates on the weather, how the micro-climate might affect his crops or turn out and more through Agrocenta’s AgroInfo platform. Based on the information he has obtained from AgroInfo, Sam plants his crops and takes precautions and safeguards that eventually make him have a great harvest.
Before his contact with Agrocenta’s agent, Sam would usually sell his products to one middle man – who had little or no competition – from one of the major urban centers. But now, all Sam has to do is notify the agent that he has produce in stock, and his information is updated on the AgroTrade platform, which is a virtual marketplace that links farmers to potential buyers. All of a sudden, Sam has different people calling him to buy his products. He eventually sells to the highest bidder.
Agrocenta, through the Truckr app, also helps farmers get their goods to their intended destinations in a very short time. Agrocenta partnered with the Ghana Private Road Transport Union, who has a horde of commercial drivers that can help to transport farmers’ products on short notice. Sam quickly calls a transporter on the Truckr platform and in very little time, his goods are on their way to the paying customer.
If Sam needs to expand his farm, or boost productivity in a particular stage of production, by obtaining a loan from the bank, then AgroPay is the answer. Because banks would usually need to know that the farmer can pay back his loan in due time, they usually require a paper trail of the transactions that he has made through his business – the farm. Sam’s former transactions with middlemen were mostly cash-for-produce, and there was no established paper trail, except, perhaps, whenever he went to put money in the bank. With AgroPay, however, all his transactions can be re-traced and used as a verifiable history of transactions to be presented to the banks.
Agrocenta’s work is cut out for them, and they’re doing it well. Currently, over 12,000 farmers are registered on the platform and the number is growing. More than ever, Agrocenta is giving more autonomy to the African farmer – a move that helps him to make a better decision as to where, how and at what price his produce is sold. The exploitative middleman is one less problem to worry about now, which ultimately means more money in his pockets.
To find out more, you can visit the Agrocenta website at Agrocenta.com .