Freshmarte is an Agri-tech company based in Lagos, Nigeria, with a mission to leverage mobile technology solutions in addressing supply chain and sustainability challenges in the African agriculture industry. The founder, Joe Oyebisi, says his passion for agriculture stemmed from a desire to improve food production in small-scale farmer communities where food insecurity is a challenge.
1. Project Background
The agriculture ministry contracted agro-dealers to distribute farm input, seed, and fertilizer in Nigeria. Due to bureaucratic inefficiencies, the program was unsuccessful, negatively impacting small-scale farmers. Farm Corps aimed to provide a transparent farm input and financing distribution system that cut off the middleman to address these challenges. They organized farmers into groups and linked them to food/agro-processing companies. However, the initiative did not yield much because there was insufficient capital, and the project faced several technical challenges.
After these unsuccessful solutions, Job Oyebisi - Co-founder and CEO, Farm Corps, believed that a web application connected to WhatsApp would work. Job and his team submitted a proposal to the 2018 Social Innovation Challenge as Freshmarte Global Services LTD. The organization realized that most smallholder farmers had no mobile phones. However, farmers could share mobile phones based on location, so the smallholder farmers were grouped into corps. Freshmarte Global Services LTD rebranded into Farm Corps with this grouping in mind.
2. Social Innovation Challenge
In 2018, I4C-Africa Hub hosted the Social Innovation Challenge (SIC) under three thematic areas: transparency, accountability, and Natural Resources Management. I4C-Africa Hub was looking for five organizations using innovation to bring about social impact in their communities across Africa’s sub-regions (East, South, North, and West, and Central Africa). The SIC also aimed to encourage these organizations to work together and develop innovative ways to bring about change through research, community activities, new technologies, apps, and training tools aligning with the thematic areas.
Farm Corps participated in the SIC by identifying and sharing knowledge on innovative solutions, tools, and responses from civil society organizations to a social issue (agricultural sustainability) addressing the SIC’s three key thematic areas. Additionally, solutions addressed issues that:
- had a negative social impact
- affected a large number of people across the region
- affected marginalized groups of people; and
- were either technology, research, or advocacy-related and policy-relevant.
The organisation was one of the winners of the 2018 Social Innovation Challenge and received a USD10,000 grant to facilitate scaling up their platform that connects farmers to quality inputs finance and premium markets.
Achievements in Phase 1
- FarmCorps created an android application connected to WhatsApp Business. “Going forward, our focus is to use our decentralized distribution platform to address the inefficient and transparent input distribution that is cost-saving and profitable for all stakeholders,” said Job.
- FarmCorps connected forty-eight farmers and supported their production with this application. Thus, they helped farmers access basic financial services such as mobile accounts, insurance, and loans. These farmers received a loan of up to 100% to support their supply of raw materials (seed and fertilizer) and meet the company’s demand for raw materials (maize, millet, cassava).
- On average, farmers increased agricultural yield per hectare cultivated by 200% - 300%. Farmers also doubled income from USD 400 to USD 800 per hectare.
- The FarmCorps application facilitated farmers to connect with other farmers and food processing companies. This enabled them to develop a sense of transparency and accountability as they could follow through every stage of the supply chain. Communities were connected with online buyers and could locate where to get seeds for different crops. They could also match demand to supply by identifying the type of food needed at marketplaces and where to sell it. Additionally, they had access to information on other farms and other actors in the sector. Through this application, the market price of food lowered.
- With the intervention of FarmCorps, Patrick, a young smallholder farmer, was able to increase his harvest from four bags of maize to twenty-one bags of maize in one season.
- In 2018, FarmCorps entered into a partnership with a Microsoft Cloud program which offered them about USD 50,000 for hosting space on the cloud. This hosting space allows communities access to production tools.
SIC 2018 SCALE-UP
FarmCorp’s goal as an agri-tech start-up is to build and deploy technologies and systems that facilitate easy access to finance for smallholder farmers. This will enable them access to inputs purchase and improvement of farm operations to boost food production, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, where farm yield is lower compared to other regions of the world. In three years, the organization hopes to scale across the West-African region, with a proven decentralized distribution platform for farm input and data-driven advisory services to reach over 5 million smallholder farmers with this intervention.
- Developed a prototype of the platform with the proposed improvement features.
- Launched and Marketing of Platform.
- Online Training for Farmers, Farmers Cohorts-Head and Field Agents.