Nigeria’s Agri-Tech Startup Farmcrowdy Creating Farmers Without Farms
Remember the popular maxim that defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. This aptly captures the trajectory of Agriculture, a once upon a time mainstay of Nigeria’s economy before Crude Oil.
Incidentally, many now agree that Nigeria’s chronic dependence on crude oil wasn’t in the best interest, and return to agriculture would be the right choice if the country was to become an economic force again. Successive administrations have made the investment and increased participation in farming into a mantra. In all fairness, it hasn’t been all talk and no action from the government, however, what remains desired is the infusion of decisiveness that attracts private sector partnership. Infuse that with technology; it hits an extra gear like what Nigeria’s first digital agricultural platform FarmCrowdy shows.
Oxford business group records the agricultural sector as the most significant single contributor to the country’s economic output in the fourth quarter of 2016 by contributing 26% to Nigeria’s real GDP. While real GDP contracted by 1.3% year in 2016, agriculture grew at a rate of 4% in the second, third and fourth quarters. The sector practically helped Nigeria come through its economic recession relatively unscathed
Incidentally, Framcrowdy was launched in November 2016 by Onyeka Akumah along with his other Co-Founders – Temitope Omotolani, Ifeanyi Anazodo, Jimoh Maiyegun and Akindele Philips, just when Nigeria was in the thick of a recession.
The Agric tech platform transforms Nigerians to farmers-even though remotely- while at it, generate funds for local farmers to increase their capacity and yield. The platform operates as a bridge linking rural to urban Nigeria. With it, farmers can now contribute to food security in Nigeria by efficiently ending food importation while offering a healthy means of engaging people with Agriculture from a profit-driven perspective.
“Farmcrowdy being Nigeria’s first digital agriculture platform is leading a new category of ‘farmers without farms’ who are utilizing the power of the shared economy to empower small-scale farming,” said Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, FarmCrowdy Onyeka Akumah. With a first class degree in Applied Information Technology at the Sikkim Manipal University India, Onyeka, who is also an entrepreneur has worked with some of Nigeria’s leading businesses such as Jumia.com, GTBank, and Deloitte.
To participate on the platform, after signing up one gets an option to select the kind of farms they want to sponsor. The company then uses the sponsor’s funds to engage the farmers by helping them to secure the land, plant the seeds, and insurance of the farm produce. At the completion of the farming cycle, it sells the harvest and then pays the farm sponsor a return on their investment. The sponsor receives their original sponsorship +40% of the profit from the crop, the farmer gets 40% of the profit and Farmcrowdy receives 20% of the profit. Farm sponsors can get between 6-15% returns after the harvest depending on the farm type they sponsor.
While this farm process is ongoing, the farm sponsors can keep track of the full-cycle by getting updates in text, pictures, and videos.
A unique community engagement initiative helps them to engage community leaders, who identify arable farmlands and farmers for FarmCrowdy.
Onyeka’s initiative opens a new vista for agriculture. Farmers no longer have to wait endlessly and sometimes fruitlessly, for agricultural loans from banks and those who have disposal income can invest. Being that part of its incentives to farmers covers training exercises, mentoring and market access to sell their farm produce, Framcrowdy becomes more than a facilitator in this value chain.
Statistics from the company shows that From November 2016 till date, Farmcrowdy which operates out of 9 states, including Lagos, Kaduna, Ogun, Oyo, Plateau, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Osun and Kwara states has empowered over 7000 rural farmers. It has enabled them to expand their farm operations with necessary inputs including seeds, day-old-chicks, feeds, fertilizers, etc. Currently, the platform hosts over 1300 farm sponsors.
No internet or education? No challenge.
A technical team from FarmCrowdy is saddled with ensuring that the project is not hampered by the insufficient level of literacy and internet penetration in rural areas. The ever-present teams are at their various farm locations continually informing and educating the farmers on trends in the agriculture space, innovations in farming techniques and best practices in their farm processes.
EXPANSION PLANS AND FUNDING
Onyeka and his team still plan to secure additional 10,000 hectares around the eastern parts of Nigeria and the Lakaji Corridor to make use of Dams and Irrigation facilities in this region. It also plans to board 4,000 additional small-scale farmers and engage a combined 20,000 new farm followers, and farm sponsors on its platform to learn about the opportunities in Agriculture and partner with farmers.
In 2018, FarmCrowdy wants to expand operations to 18 states in Nigeria. It also has Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and, any country where the necessary structure to support small-scale farming is lacking, in its crosshairs.
To accelerate its expansion plans, the group recently launched its mobile app “Farm in your pocket” on its first anniversary on November 14, 2017, and so far it has over 60,000 downloads on Google Play Store. It was launched to make it easier for users to sponsor and monitor their farms.
Recently, Farmcrowdy secured its new office space situated at 2nd Floor, Plot 5A, Block 114, Akiogun Street (Oniru Market Road), Oniru, Lekki Phase1, Lagos, Nigeria. All these have been made possible by a USD 1 Mn dollar seed fund from Techstar, including an additional sum of USD 325 K being part of GSMA 2018 winners.
As beautiful as this business is, it has its risk factors. A point that has not been overlooked by the organization. A premium insurance plan covered by the likes of Leadway Assurance and AXA Mansard is in place to secure its farms from a mishap. Beyond this, Onyeka attests that its rigorous screening methods ensure that only conscientious farmers form part of the pool. “The way we source for our farmers is key to holding them accountable to deliver on the promise of what we require from them.”
“However, we don’t neglect our farmers. Our farms are coordinated by our technical specialist and farm coordinators who mentor the farmers throughout the farming cycle – right there on the farm. All of these are done from our end at Farmcrowdy to ensure we never get a season when there is no return after harvest,” he said.
The key to success, according to Onyeka rests on four things: staying positive, dream big, start small and stay on it and judging by the three awards it has clinched in one year, the company is on track.
This article first appeared on March 26, 2018, and was updated at the request of the Farmcrowdy team on May 25, 2018.